Tackling Drills (Part 2)

We have four drills in our tackling circuit:

    • Angle Tackling Drills
    • Head On Football Tackling Drills
    • Open Field Tackling Drills
    • 2-on-1 Tackling Drills

In “Tackling Drills (Part 1)” we discussed our angle tackling drill.  In today’s post, I will go over our second tackling drill, Heads Up Football Tackling.

Station 2: Head On Football Tackling Drill

Form Tackle

A great form tackle in a heads up position is safe, effective and sets the tone.

The goal of this drill is to learn how to tackle a ball carrier when he is directly in front of you (not on an angle).

*NOTE:  We never make kids run straight at each other at practice.  That is dangerous and stupid. Sorry, I call em how I see em. Yes it happens in the game from time to time.  However, if you closely analyze almost any tackle, 90% of them have some kind of angle to them, however slight.

Practice what your kids will see coach, don’t defend what they don’t do.

Don’t get your kids hurt.  Don’t cause stingers and broke shoulders.  You can teach straight ahead tackling in a safe way without bashing your kids skulls into pulp.

Tackling Drills

Station 2: Heads Up Tackling Drills



  • Lay down three long bags one yard apart, half moons work the best.  If you don’t have bags, spray paint three lines on the grass about one yard apart and two yards long each.
  • The coach will stand behind the defender and give the ball carrier a direction.
  • The ball carrier will hold the ball with two hands, directly in front of him, right in front of his belly button.
  • The coach will give a visual signal for the ball carrier.  Fake a cadence, but do everything on a visual signal to prepare your defense to ignore the snap count in games and react on movement.
  • When the ball carrier gets his signal, he will tuck the ball in the arm to the side he is running.  Tell him to take a LATERAL step with the foot to the side he is running and then run STRAIGHT through the gap between the pads/line.

* The lateral step triggers the reaction for the defender.  By making ball carrier step slightly to the left or right and THEN go straight, we have put the defender on an ever so slight angle but have kept the flavor of a straight ahead tackle in play.  We’ve also slowed him down a step to take a bit off the blow.

This is 100 times safer than telling your kids to run straight at each other.  Your kids will understand how to tackle head on without having to break their neck in the learning process.

  • When the defender sees movement, he takes a 45-degree step into the gap between the bags and advances on the ball carrier.
  • Have the defender approach the ball carrier at full speed, chest and head up, arms slightly cocked and out wide.
  • The defender should make first contact with his chest/shoulder.  Have him aim his facemask right through the football.  Tell him to knock the ball out with his facemask.
  • Once contact hits, the defender should throw his arms, wrap up and GRAB CLOTH – the back of the ball carrier’s jersey. (this prevents a spin off).
  • After the wrap, throw your hips forwards and drive your feet.  Run the ball carrier back through the gap he attacked, lift him off his feet and put him on his back.


Coaching Points

  • Tell the defenders to “Bite the Football.”  This is a great visual cue that helps them understand to bull their neck back, keep their head up and drive their facemask through the ball.

*Preach turnovers in all tackling drills.  The goal is to get the ball back, not just tackle the guy.  Hit him hard, knock it loose!

  • Make them hit with their pads.  Never, Ever let them arm tackle.
  • When they make the wrap, tell them to throw their hips just like Power Clean.  Make them understand their power is from their waist down, not the waist up!
  • Coach their feet…you have to make them run their feet.  Even if they don’t always get the guy on the ground, if they drive him backwards, they are doing a good job.  Let them know it.  “Don’t Stop On Contact!”
  • Coach the ball carriers to be physical.  We want this to be a confidence builder for our defense, but we don’t want soft ball carriers either.  Make them run hard or don’t give them reps.
  • Make it competitive.  Put some “Up-Downs” on each rep.  If the ball carrier makes it through the bags, defense does them.  If the defender sticks the ball carrier, the offense pays the fine.  Victory and Defeat are powerful motivators.


We have now taught our players how to tackle on an angle, and tackle straight ahead.

We keep our drills simple. We don’t need to do anything fancy or high tech man…we just need to learn how to get the ball on the ground.  Period.

We want our tackling drills to cover general situations (angles, head on, open field, multiple defenders on one ball carrier).  If you teach those fundamental skills, then the players will have a good base no matter what situation they find themselves in.


In my next article, I will discuss Tackling Station 3 – Open Field Tackling.

What is your favorite tackling drill?  Leave a comment and share below!





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