The Lost Art of The Tackle

Tackling is a lost art. Actually, I take that back and offer an amendment: teaching tackling is a lost art. People make a whole host of assumptions about what it takes to bring a ball carrier to the ground. Let me assure you: 1) it is markedly harder than it appears; 2) much of the hard work is done before contact is even made; 3) there are very few who tackle effectively and efficiently on a consistent basis.

Tackling is a lost art. Actually, I take that back and offer an amendment: teaching tackling is a lost art. People make a whole host of assumptions about what it takes to bring a ball carrier to the ground. Let me assure you: 1) it is markedly harder than it appears; 2) much of the hard work is done before contact is even made; 3) there are very few who tackle effectively and efficiently on a consistent basis.

At all levels of football, tackling has become a point of emphasis. The media has zeroed in on the rise of concussions due to hits to the head and the long-term effects of CTE, while the NCAA and others have focused more on lower leg injuries resulting from low tackles. In response, rules have been altered and innovators have entered the market to design better helmets, sensor-enabled mouth guards, and other equipment.

Here at Atavus, while we applaud rule changes and technological innovation, we strongly believe that the true path to more effective and responsible tackling lies further upstream in proper tackle technique and in better tackle training. Behavior modification is the most effective and permanent solution if the goal is effective tackling and risk minimization.

The Atavus system emphasizes a highly-efficient, head out, shoulder-led, rugby-style tackle. We strongly believe that a good tackle begins way before contact is actually made. For that reason, our methodology and training include two primary components of a proper tackle:

  • The Track - Everything up to the point of contact. This is the part most people overlook.
    • Close Space - Continuously gain ground towards the ball carrier.
    • Maintain Leverage - Maintain near hip leverage with a focus on being inside and in front of your target.
    • Execute Proper Footwork - Starts with a good base. Near foot, power step to ensure foot is loaded to transfer your weight into power.

  • The Tackle - Everything from the point of contact to the whistle.
    • Maintain Proper Body Position - Maintain good pad level with a focus on getting to the strike zone (bottom of chest plate to the top of the knee)
    • Strike and Punch - Near shoulder strike keeps the head behind tackler. Violent punch through the near hip to establish control.
    • Finish - Wrap and squeeze, running your feet through contact.

We've had a team developing and perfecting that technique for five years now. We're literally thousands of hours in on developing drill progressions; analyzing practice and game film; creating in-depth reports at the player, position, and total defense levels; and developing multi-media online tools. Why? Because coaches asked us to teach them the rugby tackle and to do so while improving effectiveness. Knowing how to carry out a proper tackle is one thing—teaching and measuring it is another. So, we accepted the challenge and believe that our results speak for themselves! You need only look at three of our D1 college clients for validation: Ohio State University, University of Washington, and University of Nebraska are all currently ranked in the top 10 overall, along with national defensive ranks of 4, 7 and 15 respectively.

We're proud of what we've built and excited for what it means for the quality of football we're watching! If you'd like to know more about how to take your program to the next level, reach out or come to see us at an upcoming conference. We're excited to share.