When can I start teaching tackling skills to children.?

When can I start teaching tackling skills to children.?

I coach under 8's and next season they will start contact. When am I allowed to start teaching them tackling skills? I sit january during their under 8 season or at the start of the under 9 season ?

brian millsCoach, England
Rugby CoachCoach

Hello Brian, My son started playing full contact in Sep 07 and had only turned 8 in August 07 so i would imagine that you could start tackling skills as from now, depending on the ages of the kids in your group! Cheers and good luck for the season Owen

Rugby CoachCoach

I believe the real answer to this should be Sept 1st of their U9 season and not before, if the RFU declaration last year is being enforced (but I don't think it is!). The real question is when should we be introducing contact to young rugby players. I believe that we are rushing into it at the moment and this has several consequences. Just as the kids are getting better at running and passing we start to have them knocked over, before they have really mastered handling.

There are huge differences between the physical and mental maturity of the youngsters and we risk putting large numbers off the game at a very early age by introducing tackling as early as we do. Rugby is an evasion game, not a contact game, so why not work on their evasion and handling skills for a longer period without the "threat" of contact.

Don't get me wrong, I take great satisfaction from coaching my U9 team to ruck, maul and tackle properly, but it is frustrating to see such a one dimensional game at times (often dominated by a small handful of strong players). My fear is that we as parents only consider then as "Playing rugby" once they are knocking bits out of each other, when the running game is so rewarding and often better to watch.

If anyone can confirm the RFU stance on this subject I would love to hear it, as I have asked a few of the Coaching Staff and I get fairly watery answers.

Best wishes

Rugby CoachCoach

Hello Brian, I have coached under 7's through to under 12's (rugby league.)in Australia. These ages are known as Mini/mod - and is a modified version of the game. I am not sure what your modified Rugby Union rules are, but we start to teach defensive skills right from the start. As defense is a fairly significant component to the game, they should be taught from an early age. I can see where Ian is coming from in the above comment, however part of running and handling is the ability to maintain ball control. We have just commenced under 6's this year, and they are taught basic tackle technique. The other side of the coin is, that you also then need to teach how to be tackled, with falling techniques etc. My two cents worth

Rugby CoachCoach

You need to start them through the tackle progressions. Within the English union and continuum, I would advise that you start structuring tackle progressions towards the end of February, and continue into pre-season training to prep for contact in the U9 season.

The tackle progressions are as follows:

  1. Ball carrier kneeling - tackler kneeling
  2. Ball carrier standing - Tackler kneeling
  3. Ball carrier standing - tackler squatting
  4. Ball carrier walking - tackler squatting
  5. Ball carrier walking - tackler walking
  6. Ball carrier jogging - tackler walking
  7. ball carrier jogging - tackler jogging
  8. ball carrier running - tackler running

The progressions are best used to practice side and front tackle.

In addition to the tackle progressions, spend about 5 mins warming up with parachute drops, so players get used to contact with the ground.

Look to spend 2-3 wks on each progression and spend no longer than 15mins at each session.

Coaching points

  • Coach both tackler and ball carrier
  • players practice tackling with both shoulders
  • ball carrier should have a ball and an aim
  • only do for as long as they can maintain concentration
  • be mindful of weather. If you have soft mats and space in the clubhouse, you could take the practice inside!
  • change players around, but try to match to similar size

When they begin their U9 season, introduce 'hobbit' rugby to build their confidence further. Basically, its the same rules as Rugby, only played on the knees, and the main thing is its fun and the kids love it!

Hope this helps. If you have anymore questions i'd be happy to help.


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