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Coaching the Tackle for U9s who are 'frightened'

Some of my U9s players, who are experiencing contact for their first season, are showing reticence in tackling - how do you coach or get through the fear factor/element?


This is something that many coaches of young players find challenging.

If you have a look at the "Key Skills" section above there is a bit there on the "Side tackle" and also "Falling in the tackle" that might help you. The idea is to break down the tackle into easy stages and make it fun!

There is a "Movie" section that is numbered 1 - 4. The idea is to help players tackle safely step by step as the movies show. No 4 is when it gets to be a bit of fun.

If players are taught the basic steps one by one it becomes easy for them to make good technically correct tackles and as they feel safe they begin to enjoy making tackles.

In the IRB Rugby Ready website ( there is a section on tackling that shows good pictures breaking down the skill again.

For me, the key is to make a game of tackling practice like No 4 movie as mentioned above:

  • Two players on their knees in a small grid (Use lots of grids so all players involved)
  • One player has a ball in two hands
  • Other player is at the side of the grid
  • Can the ball carrier get to the other end of the grid to score - no hand off
  • Tackler must be technically correct
  • Swap players over each time
  • Better tacklers could help teach less able
  • How many times can you make a tackle in 2 mins etc

I hope this all helps



Hi there Gary,

I have been coaching High School level players and senior players for quite a long time now so when I was asked to coach mini (U10) players at our local club this became a new challenge for me in how to go about teaching contact.

The size factor seemed to be an issue for the kids in regards to some kids were much bigger physically. one of the ways I got around this was involveing some Senior players from the club to demonstrate ( I used a 5'6" scrumhalf and a 6'5" lock) this shows that size is not relevant if the drill is done right. It will also strengthen the Kids believe that some day they will be playing for the big team.

Safety was always the main concern here and can not be emphasied enough. We first we demonstrate and explain why BBP(basic Body Position)is important we then have them demonstarte the BBP. Once we were comfortable we advanced to the Use of Rucking shields. We taped an X on the rucking shield and taped an X on the Shoulders of the kids to show what goes where ( all the time useing an acronym for Head placement I am sure you have one you learnt as a youth) once we were happy that they were in good BBP and driving through the tackle with thier legs we moved on.

We progressed to wrapping the Tackle Bag, here we really reitterated the Tackle drive and wrap and to stay tight to the bag as possible ensureing that the player dominated the tackle to instill confidence that they could easily do this. we advanced this to to players doing side tackles on both shoulders.

You can advance to walking tackle rugby and then speed it up as you see improvement. I encourage you to have senior players out there and I guess it goes without saying that all talk should be positive when dealing with a confidence drill that effects player saftey.

I hope that this helps


Hi Gary, Children at this age have all kinds of strengths and abilities, and I think it is hard to assume they can all do the same in tackling. One way promoted by Gary Townsend ad his team at the RFU is to play a game wherein the visible "intent" or "desire" to make a tackle is seen, the tackler is rewarded. In Gary's game, if a tackler grabs and holds the shirt of the ball carrier, that ball carrier has 3 seconds (counted out by the coach) to release the ball. If the ball carrier does not do so, it is regarded as a turnover. It's a kind of half way point between tag and the full tackle, and I know a lot of purists will wail about the shirt grabbing, but from the videos I have seen, the more timid players become bolder and bolder as the game continues.

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