How to Coach – Tackling

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css_animation=”left-to-right”]An Excerpt from the US Youth Soccer Skills School Manual – available in full under “Player Development Resources” on the ASC website.

(The age group in maroon is the age group when you should focus on developing the skill.)


Strength, courage and skill, as well as technique, all play a part in the successful tackle. Tackling is the core skill of defending to regain the ball for one’s team.

Tackling – Possession

  • Block & hold (U5/U6)
  • Slide trap (U11/U12)

Tackling – Dispossession

  • Toe poke (U5/U6)
  • Slide tackle with far leg (U11/U12)
  • Slide tackle with near leg (U11/U12)


Tackling – Possession

Block (tackling from the side)

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: get as close to the ball as possible to get a firm pull onto the ball; eye on the ball; step in close to the ball; support foot square to the ball; weight rests on the standing leg which is slightly bent at the knee; toes of the standing foot are pointed forward; the tackling foot should be turned outward; the tackling leg is bent somewhat; the tackling foot is swung backwards as in the push pass technique although somewhat less
  2. Contact: contact the ball with the inside of the foot (arch of the foot) as opponent touches it; step into the tackle; with muscles and joints well tightened place the tackling foot in front of the ball; weight carried through the center of the ball and supported by the standing leg behind and to the side of the ball with the knee bent; push the tackling foot slightly forward at the moment of contact the upper torso is inclined slightly forward; balance is maintained by the arms
  3. Follow Through: follow through by rolling the ball over the opponent’s foot; tackler’s shoulder to opponent’s shoulder contact will help to press forward and maintain balance


Slide Tackle*

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: approach the dribbler from behind at an oblique angle; look for the moment when the dribbler has just pushed the ball forward and then spring into the tackle; the leg furthest from the dribbler is the tackling leg; lower the center of gravity by bending both knees; the last step is with the plant leg (the one nearest to the dribbler); lunge and now fully extend the tacking leg; the arm nearest the dribbler goes high (almost straight up); the arm opposite to the dribbler goes out and down; reach in front of the ball with the tackling foot; eyes on the ball
  2. Contact: the near leg collapses; the foot of the near leg now drags behind as the lower leg bends completely back with the heel going towards the buttocks; the tackling foot should contact the front of the ball at and slightly above line A; push down and back with the tackling foot and this will block the ball; as the dribbler’s momentum carries him forward and over the ball plant the tackling foot; bend the knee of the tackling leg; eyes on the ball
  3. Follow Through: pushup off the tackling foot that is now the plant leg; stand up; the ball will now be at the feet; dribble away

*Please be cautious with teaching slide tackling techniques at U12 and U14 age groups. Injury research shows injuries happen when the person initiating the tackle leaves their feet. To prevent injuries and protect the kids, players should stay on their feet. Maybe this technique should be taught at the U16 and older age groups and really elite level, but the masses need to stay on their feet. FIFA and the IFAB have given referees the authority to immediately eject players for illegal two footed, studs up slides.


Tackling – Dispossession


Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: approach from the side of the dribbler; keep the near arm down at the side; eyes on the ball; look for the moment when the dribbler has just touched the ball to time the tackle
  2. Contact: when the ball is just in front of the dribbler stretch forward the near leg; poke the ball away with the toe
  3. Follow Through: regain a normal running stride


Slide With Far Leg

Key Coaching Points

  1. Preparation: get near the opponent; time the tackle when the ball is away from the opponent
  2. Contact: use the foot furthest away from the opponent to push the ball away using the instep
  3. Follow Through: regain footing to reposition as necessary All other points are the same as with the slide tackle trap.


Slide With Near Leg

All coaching points are as with the far leg slide tackle but now the last stride is with the far leg and the near leg slides forward as the body is lowered to kick the ball away with the instep. The tackler should end up in almost a sitting position so as to not have the head too near the dribbler’s knees for the safety of both players.


Training Activity: Leave It

Every player has a ball and is inside the grid. Players dribble around and when the coach calls “leave it” players leave their ball and go get somebody else’s. After a bit, take away two balls and now there are a couple of players without a ball. When the coach says “leave it”, players leave their ball and get someone else’s, but two players will now challenge other players for possession of a ball. Tackling for possession situations are now created. Any ball that goes out of bounds for any reason is out of play and now more battles for possession will take place.

Variations: after the coach yells “leave it” and possession has been gained of each ball then the players without a ball jog backwards until the coach yells again or the challenges for possession can be constant. That is any player without a ball may challenge any player in possession of one for the ball at any time.

U5/U6: same activity concept except no ball is taken out of play, so that there is always a ball for each child

U7/U8 to U14: play the activity as described

Figure 21 Leave It