TACKLING – ‘THE LOST ART’

Be honest, when coaching, when was the last time you taught and practised Tackling for the ball in a training session?

The art of winning the ball cleanly in a ‘solid’ tackle without a player ending up on his backside is mainly a vision of the past. From frontal, sides or behind, tackling for the ball has become a dangerous, badly-timed and sometimes unnecessary aspect of the game. We all want to see a competitive type of game not one that lacks passion and spirit, but Football Laws involved with Tackling are somewhat obscure in their definition of correctness. The poor old, much-maligned Referee is placed in very difficult circumstances with issues relating to tackling. More than any other aspect of his job, deciding on correct and incorrect types of tackle generally makes or breaks a Referee’s performance in a match. A Referee must quickly assess a ‘faulty’ tackle made by a player and decide whether he has been simply careless, reckless, or dangerous when making the challenge for the ball. In all types of tackle from all directions directed towards an opponent with the ball the intention to cause injury is highly unusual but, on occasions in tense situations, this can occur.

I am a passionate believer in the forgotten qualities of ‘street football, one of those qualities being -Tackling. Street matches taught players to ‘stay on their feet’ when tackling for the ball, for to ‘go to ground’ when making a tackle could be extremely painful. The lush, pristine surfaces on which games are played today encourages players to ‘dive in’ when tackling, for these ‘carpet-like pitches bare no resemblance to the concrete and asphalt surface of the street. Combined with these ‘solid’ street play areas, many competitive games in the past were played on red ochre gravel which could cause severe grazes if fallen on.

The ‘lay-down tackle’, better known as the ‘sliding tackle’ was usually seen on grounds where there was a good cover of grass or soft mud. It is this type of tackle that is now so prevalent in the game that causes so many of the problems that Referees have to deal with. Players now ‘slide’ into tackles from all angles that were once made on their feet. The art of ‘jockeying, guiding and timing of tackles is too often forsaken in preference of a ‘diving in’ challenge that takes ball and opponent together. Tackles of this type are used to ‘camouflage’ poor defensive ability whilst ‘destroying’ skilful play. The ultimate ‘sliding tackle’ method was the use of a ‘block’ with the leg(s) and lower body by the tackler to the ball; the player in possession would go over the prostrate body of the tackler who would return to his feet and take the ball away. When was the last time you saw that! Defending players stretch for the ball with studs up today, the full power many of these miss-calculated challenges often impacting with the leg of an opponent causing severe injuries. Tackles of this type are used from all directions by defending players when going for the ball, all are dangerous, none more so than the tackle from behind.

The question has to be asked, should all tackles on a player who has his body between the ball and an opponent be banned? There are those situations when a pass is played up to a player who has a defender close-marking him from behind; there are situations in which an attacking player has evaded a defender, or uses his body to  screen the ball from him.  In each of these situations or similar ones a defender should be required to contain the player or, if beaten, he must desist from making any challenge from behind whilst chasing back after an attacker. By forcing a ‘no tackle from behind’ law on players, the need for them to defend far more competently would improve their overall defensive play, increase skilful play through the field and help reduce injuries.

But are we able to disengage ourselves from what we term the ‘manliness’ of the crunching tackle? I believe that poor decision-making by defenders followed by bad tackles to recover from their mistakes reduces the skilful game of football to a ‘fightball’ version of it. Solid stand-up tackles should be made by defenders when confronted by an opponent, patience, timing, judgement, interception and correct tackling ability are then properly tested along with all the other qualities generally associated with good defending.

I believe the game would be better served if there were serious discussions on tackling issues within the game. Do I believe this will ever occur? Not in my lifetime, we prefer the ‘up and at ‘em’ game and the blood that goes with it. Am I a fanciful dreamer or are there others out there who have their own ideas? Let’s hear what you have to say; – FOR OR AGAINST.

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3 thoughts on “TACKLING – ‘THE LOST ART’

  1. I heartily agree with most of what you have posted here, John. In my very limited ‘career’ I played mainly as a defender and whilst I played at a low standard, my perception now is that, in the main, the pros we see on TV are unable to tackle correctly, on a consistent basis.

    My view is that they are tackling the player when, IMHO they should be tackling the ball.
    Consequently there are more fouls than necessary. I would assume that professional clubs have ‘tackling practice’ in the same way that they have shooting, set-plays, counter-attacking or any other sort of practice. Or maybe defending practice is more organisationally based at that level. The team at which I coach have sessions on tackling and indeed I have put together a ‘mind-map’ where I look at tackling as an art form much like a cat chasing a mouse – only the ‘pounce’ (the actual tackle) being made when you are pretty sure that you will win the ball. Otherwise it’s a question of chasing down quickly, then stalking, then forcing the opponent (mouse) where you want them before finally pouncing to take the ball.

    Nothing wrong with a sliding tackle but, should be done at the correct time and, as John states, it’s about the ball not the man and, I was always taught, is an absolutely last option (last ditch, goal saving attempt to tackle), otherwise, stay on your feet !

  2. Overheard a conversation a while back from an ex-pro saying that tackling should be seen as a skill.The fans probably need to be educated that a reckless sliding challenge isnt as clever as they would like to think it is.Those kind of tackles are acceptble if the ball goes out of play or as a last ditch attempt to prevent a goal scoring opportunity.

    Even then if thta situation arises you need to ask tactically how did that situation arise.

  3. Many years ago,as a young player,the only coaching i recall receiving was in tackling.This was because then, as now, the physical element of football was emphasised the most. I don’t recall any instructions from the touchline other than “get stuck in” and “keep the ball moving”.
    However, I have to say that sharp focus was put on the ability to tackle correctly. We were instructed solely on the basic block tackle but the teacher/coach made sure that we remained on our feet as we executed the tackle and leant FORWARD into the tackle,applying every ounce of our weight.It was stressed to small,lightweight players that by so doing they could become effective tacklers.Having got into this position and the inside of our tackling foot firmly against the side of the ball we were told that the player who reacted the quickest in LIFTING THE BALL over the foot of their opponent would be the one who made the successful tackle and came away with the ball,having remained on our feet throughout the execution of the tackle. It was stressed that a player half the weight of his opponent could come away successfully with the ball by executing the skill correctly.
    In recent years i have seen many high profile examples of top international players making very poor tackles resulting in red cards and serious injuries because they actually perform the reverse procedure to what i recall being coached: that is they lean AWAY when tackling and LUNGE IN for the ball and with their tackling foot often some way off the ground if they miss the ball then they often connect with their opponent’s leg and serious fractures have often occurred.If both players stay on their feet,apply 100% force to the ball with the ball wedged between the tackling foot of each player then it is the one with the quickest reactions who lifts the ball over the foot of his opponent who will be successful and there will be no chance of injury whatsoever,even if the two players are coming together with the force of two express trains.

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