Saturday, May 4th was our “hit day” for spring, usually the more important hit day of the two (fall being the other) because of the amount of new blood at a school like ours. This is the time of year when the guys who plays other sports and the 8th graders all want a taste of varsity football.
I have discussed teaching proper form on this site in the past, and thus, this isn’t a post about form. This is a post about the day of, not the days prior to hit day.
After our dynamic warm-up, we put players through agility drills to really loosen up the body and get the blood flowing to avoid injuries. Then we get our players on a line, with partners, and start our form tackling routine (pervious article). Once we’re on our feet, we go to the sled and use the principles we’ve learned on a 1-man pop sled. This allows for us to examine the player before they get into real contact.
We use catch phrases on form tackling that we force the kids to recite. Phrases like “eyes to the sky” “shoot the arms” “throw your hips” and “run the feet.” We closely examine where the player’s eyes are on a tackle on the sled. We then move players to an angle tackling drill where they’re in a 3×5 box. We partner the guys up by size, experience, and ability and let them walk-through tackling, making adjustments and using our phrases. Once we feel safe we can let them “thud” in the angle drill. We attempt to still keep them off the ground until we’re sure they’re ready.
For instance, I wasn’t satisfied with our tackling so we didn’t do 2on2’s, inside run, or a team defense period on hit day. Instead we did our pursuit drill which involves no contact. I chose this method to ensure safety. I believe that next defense day we can start over with form tackling and with more work towards proper form, we can finally get “live” with our contact. It’s hard not to be disappointed when there’s very little contact on hit day, but, the focus must always be safety first.