How to Tackle Like a Pro

by AoM Team on November 27, 2013 · 18 Comments

in Health & Sports, Sports, Visual Guides

1. It’s 95% mental. You have to always think, “Get the guy down no matter what.” Don’t let anything keep you from getting him down.  2. Always watch the hips of the players you’re trying to tackle. The head, shoulders, and legs can fool and juke you, but the hips never lie.  3. Your strength comes from your foundations: core, hips, legs. Don’t tackle with just your arms unless you’re being outrun and have to dive.  4. To tackle, aim for your opponent’s waist and explode with your hips. Wrap your arms around your opponent’s waist with your shoulder firmly planted into their body. Keep your head up. Drive them to the ground by keeping your legs always moving. Momentum is crucial.  5. Always keep safety in mind. Never aim for the head.  6. You’re a gentleman. Give the fellow a hand up after you’ve hurled him into the ground.

Michael Kendricks at Eagles v. Patriots - Aug 2012, courtesy of Philadelphia Eagles

Thanks for the tips, Mychal! Photo Credit: Philadelphia Eagles

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. For many men in America, Thanksgiving Day not only means eating turkey and stuffing, it also means playing a pick-up game of football in the morning with friends and family. Last year, we covered how to throw a perfect football spiral. This year we look at how to tackle. Sure, most Turkey Bowl games start out as touch-football matches, but if your buddies are like mine, those friendly games quickly morph into full-contact showdowns. To help you with your D-Fence!, we put together this illustrated guide on how to tackle like a pro with advice from NFL player Mychal Kendricks. He’s a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles and took some time out of his busy schedule to share these tips with us. Enjoy!

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Luke F November 27, 2013 at 6:39 pm

“Hips don’t lie.” Shakira knows what she’s talking about, guys.

2 Jacob November 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm

The mentality is definitely necessary. In high school I played D-End for my school team and I didn’t weigh more than 150 until my senior year. I kept this mentality and hopped right back up whenever I was taken down and almost always made sure they went down with me if I did. I started every year from freshman on. When we were in a pinch I got stuck in at noseguard. I got two tackles there that game. It’s the mentality all the way.

3 Daniel November 27, 2013 at 9:31 pm

If they are bigger than you, take out the legs!

4 Rob November 27, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Great advice. The only thing I would add is get your head in front. You might get a knee in the face, but they’re not going to run through your arms.

5 ben November 27, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Its the same in rugby. I’ve played since I was 5 all the way through school and to international level. All of my coaches have always said go for the hips/ top of the thighs. Any higher and their mass will give them the advantage, any lower and you’re aiming for too small/ quick of a target.

6 Brian November 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm

I’ve coached ball for 5 years on the HS & JUCO level.

The key to protecting the neck and head is keep your eyes at ball level and always bend at your knees and not your hips.

When you make contact you want to really initiate the ball carrier with your nose on the ball and chest, this as you said, is where your hips come into play. Similar to doing any olympic lift, this is the point where your hips that were coiled, uncoil and you always keep your feet moving. And NEVER let go of the ball carrier, my mentor Bill Williams, calls it “The Clamp”. It is the most important part of any successful tackle.

7 Matt November 27, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I love your site, but this is just wrong. My college coach would have chased me off the team for tackling like that – heck my pee wee coach wouldn’t have even stood for it. If there is one thing every coach on every level stresses it is that you need to get your head ACROSS the ball carrier’s body and in his path. The photo shows the tackler’s head BEHIND the ball carrier, essentially trying to stop the runner with just his right arm. This would be referred to as an “arm tackle”. As in, “The running back easily broke through your arm tackle and scored a touchdown because you never learned how to tackle correctly.”

8 Doug November 27, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Luke beat me to the punch lol…

9 Dutch Dastard November 28, 2013 at 3:43 am

And always tackle THROUGH the other guy, just like with punching. Following through always makes for a better anyting.

10 Mike November 28, 2013 at 10:57 am

When I was coming up in football from peewee through high school, every coach I every had save one expressed that it was forbidden to help an opponent up after a tackle. We were there to beat them, not be their buddies.

11 Austin November 28, 2013 at 11:24 am

I find slick windbreaker pants help break up the tackles during the annual Turkey Bowl game. I take any competitive edge I can find!

12 Reid November 28, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I play rugby and we are always told to tackle as low as you possible can. We are a small team so most of us have to if we want to make the tackle, but also it makes tackling really easy and effortless if you aim for just above the knees.

13 Nate November 29, 2013 at 11:18 am

**** REMEMBER ****
this isnt highscool football, its meant for the backyard with family and friends.

Although tackling through the enemy not helping him up and aiming for the legs are great in extream High School Football, you dont want to be the guy who broke 3 of uncle Todds ribs, popped his knee out of socket and shattered his tibia. keep it friendly.

14 Nick November 30, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I have to disagree with Matt regarding tackling with the head across the runner’s body. That is correct position for a football tackle when you have substantial shoulder pads and a helmet so your neck is fairly well protected, but I have yet to see a bunch of buddies out in the back field all kitted up. For no-equipment tackles it’s better to take a page from rugby and hit with the trailing shoulder (so your head and neck end up beside the runner’s torso) rather than with the leading shoulder (so your head and neck are across the torso, taking the combined force of your momentum AND the runner’s). It’s not an “arm tackle” if you do it right and use your shoulder. Plus, you’ll likely be wrapping your arms around the runner anyway, not bouncing him like when you have pads.

That said, I think the tackle illustration doesn’t quite get it right either. It’s adequate (I guess) for tackling a runner from behind, though any ball carrier worth his spikes is going to drag that tackler until a help defender takes him down (or the tackler gets an arm down on the runner’s legs). But most tackles I’ve made are straight on. Shoulder to just below the navel; not to the sacrum. The tackler in the illustration needs to be going the other way. The right arm is in the right spot, but the rest of him isn’t.

15 Serafin Nunez December 1, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Power cleans, squats, dead lifts… these lifts are all perfect for form-tackling. Wrap, lift, drive.

16 Rugby Lad December 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Two very scary comments above, both from football players. Are you actually taught in football to tackle with your head in front of the player? That may reduce the chance of missing a tackle but drastically increases the odds of a head injury (now or later in life).

I’m biased of course but rugby tackling (as roughly described in the article) is the superior tackling technique.

17 Devin December 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Mychal Kendricks is a linebacker. Just a heads up.

18 John January 13, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I found that mental commitment was the biggest factor for a successful tackle, for rugby anyway. Ironically, the more timid you are going into contact, the more likely you are to get injured.

We were taught to tackle more or less as shown, but I was never very good at it until I learnt to stop thinking about technique and just trust that I’d done it in training enough for it to be instinct. In retrospect my best rugby was played while I was trying to achieve what martial artists call “Mushin” or “no mind”.

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