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How can I overcome my son's fear of tackling?

How can I overcome my son's fear of tackling. He's 10 and shaping up to be a useful player in other areas but is very reluctant to engage other players in contact. What drills might help overcome this?

Hi Ian. It's just a question of confidence at the end of the day. Try taking it right back to tackling on knees with the  emphases on tackle technique. Engage with shoulder first, cheek to cheek, and ring of steel etc. Play bull dog on knees. This will make him think about the process of the tackle it’s self, rarther than having to tackle some one at full tilt plus its fun! Small sided games in a small area will slow the game down and again working on techneque. Also lots of praise for when he does actually make a tackle and not to push him to make tackles because it will become an issue. Players mature and grow at different rates. My son was very tall for his age group and found it hard to tackle because he had to get lower than everyone else and was always trying to get used to his centre of gravity as he was growing so fast. I don't think I saw him make one tackle in a game from U9's-U11's. He still plays and is now starting to really enjoy tackling. As long as your son is enjoying the game and can pass and catch and has tactical awareness I wouldn't worry at this stage he is only 10!  He should be practising tackling at every training session so eventually it becomes second nature. Simlpe 1v1 in a channel is a simple drill. 


1v1 tackle


On the coaches command one defending player and one attacking player enter the narrow channel from the ends.The coach passes the ball to a the attacking player.The defeders tries to tackle the ball carrier. 

Get tackling players to stay on the balls of their feet to antisipate the change of dirrection of the ball carrier. Boxer style with hands up

Introduce him to some games that involve contact but not directly tackling. Get him used to the fact that bumps and collisions don't have to hurt. If you keep ramming tackling down his throat he may dig his heels in so approach the problem indirectly. Wrestling for the ball while kneeling, trying to push each other over in a kneeling position. Anything that introduces body contact where he can dictate the terms will start him off down the right road. We use a sort of stool ball with groups of boys trying to get the ball down field without running, but allowing defenders to physically challenge for the ball. Also if you get 'non tacklers' to hold bags for ruck drills and the like they soon get to know that they need to be positive to resist the pressure and this can then be extrapolated into the tackle situation. (Without bag)

Hi Ian; I face up to this problem most days out here in Italy as tackling is an option at times. I decided to think outside the box, and looked at the main stumbling blocks to the effective tackle. Having also looked at American Football and Judo etc I realized that one of the problems wasn't the tackle but instead the fall. I decided to work on how to fall rather than how to tackle, so learning to roll and accepting the tackle became a theme for part a session. You could even ask the help of the local Judo coach. They are often flattered to cross reference skills. Short sessions spent but effective. I then thought about the contact areas and the biomechanics of the tackle, and showed the players that the only thing that can add power to a tackle are the legs, as nothing else in the body is extendable. My own thinking went back to 'O' level physics and the study of moments about a point. Using this in reverse I looked at the fact that if the contact point of the tackle moves outwards from the junction of shoulder and neck then the shock absorber effect is applied by the shoulder point and the arm. So, what did we need to do?
 We needed to find a way to encourage placement of the shoulder/neck junction on the shorts pocket etc of the ball carrier. Here's where it gets a bit silly; Under the shoulder part of the tackler's shirt a small inflated balloon. (I told you it gets silly...). Inside the pocket of the ball carrier another balloon. Or could be hung from a (Tag?) belt. The idea is that the tackler must burst the balloons! It helps if for this session all children wear an extra pair of socks over their hands to discourage the 'reel 'em in' with the hands tackle. A friend did similar with boxing gloves. If you put a balloon on each hip of the ball carrier then the tackler can reach around to burst that one as well, thus wrapping up the legs/hips. Often how we solve these sort of problems is only limited by our own imagination.

Andrew - many thanks for such an interesting response! As it happens, W has been doing judo dvery Friday for years so I might have a chat with Sensei and see if a bit of crosd training on how to fall can be arranged. Thanks again. Ian

Mate if yo want your boy to get confidence in contact get him involved in a grapple sport in his off season eg: wrestling or Judo or Bjj. I have been sugesting this to the parents of junior players for a few years now and every single child who has stepped up to take part in a martial sport in their off season has become a defensive demon come game time...

Hi Ian. I also coach p6/7 10yr olds and one of the things I use to build their confidence is to have 2 tackle bags roughly 5 feet apart. The child stands in the middle of them. And another child is holding the bags . The object is the child in middle is the tackler and has to tackle each bag alternatively as many times in a minute. The other kids pick the bag back up.This allows the tackler only time to tackle and not to think. Obviously you make sure they tackle correctly. It's amazing what a bit of competition does for their courage. I have used this many times and also use it with new starts after showing them the basics.
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