Tackling – How are you coaching it? Are you?
With the increasing fear of concussion and injury now becoming more apparent with the increase in medical knowledge, the fear of parents to place their children at risk and the rise in popularity of other sports without such issues – not to mention the now almost enforced strategy of deploying a press or zone defence at the top levels – tackling is becoming more and more a lost art and taboo topic. So how are you coaching it?
If you are training your team to “Zone Off” on the player are you doing your players and your team a disservice or do you think this technique – most blatantly borrowed from Basketball but evident in many other non-contact sports as well – is a better and more effective way to put your opposition under pressure and cause a turnover?
One of the greatest frustrations for all coaches is watching our players being decoyed with “candy” instead of following what – in the past was obviously coached to tackle the hips and body and ignore the hands and showmanship being displayed to distract you. Zoning Off obviously puts your player at far less risk of being exposed to such candy – but isn’t the problem the player got sold the candy in the first place? Was your job as coach to train and create a mindset to attack the hips and tackle the body not done at all or... are you coaching a different style?
How about “types” of tackling?
Are football players smart enough to employ more than two types of tackling? Can they tackle for the holding the ball? Can they tackle for spilling the ball? Should they be attempting different types of tackles in different areas of the grounds – for different score lines?
Would you be able to encourage your team to tackle in different areas to encourage other aspects of your game plan based on other areas of the ground? Should you? Perhaps with very advanced game plans and skills such a thing could be considered... but why replace the power of a tackle with a deflection anyway?
Whats the Swooper Coach verdict?
It’s old school values here – we hate zoning off – not only does it look ridiculous it fails to achieve the end result more often than not. We hate players being tricked by candy. We love our players selling candy though. It happens.
Your players minds must be tuned to tackle, the player, not the ball. Zoning off whilst it may feel effective for your press and your zone because you read that in your NBA coaching manual – in the AFL it will ultimately lead to lazy players, lack of aggression and reduced fear in decision making by your opposition.
Train your players to attack the opposition hips and body, ignore the eye candy and attack the hips, lock the arms or arm if possible and bring the player to ground with a modicum of respect but with the knowledge that every time your opposition hits the ground it becomes a little harder for them to get up again next time.. and next time and next time.
A good tackle can lift your team, it can restore confidence in your team. It is the best way to fly the flag for any contentious behaviour.
If your team is not tackling, you are not winning.
Encourage your players to enjoy the days of contact, of being a gladiator before they all become witches hats “ZONING OFF” on your opposition or waiting back for somebody else to do it. AFL is a contact sport, don’t forget about that – tackling hasn’t been banned yet – you can still safely crush your opponent without causing a concussion – and you should.
- Ensure your body and chest is in front of the opposition when laying the tackle – do not throw out your arms.
- Focus on the torso, ignore the ball.
- Work as a team – two tacklers are better than one, three tacklers is even better. The heaviest player on the field is also a great assist tackler. Work together.
- Lock an arm
- Tackle at training – reduce the fear of being tackled and making tackles in all players.
- Reward tacklers – they should be credited higher than goal kickers and a key indicator.
- Don’t be fooled with non-contact sport tactics and zoning off. Yes they are valuable – but if those sports could tackle – they would tackle.
- Remember, it's your idea