I am a big believer in using the hand held pads throughout the entire youth football practice. These pads are perfect for teaching the proper tackling form to your youth football players.
The pads are especially effective early in the season to make sure the kids are learning the proper techniques.
Football is a game that is still all about blocking and tackling. The team the blocks and tackles better than the other team will have a clear advantage.
I believe that all kids can be taught to block and tackle with the proper techniques. These are youth football players and it doesn’t matter if they are your studs or a weaker player they all should be taught the proper way of doing things.
I have always used the line that Basketball is a contact sport but Football at all levels is a collision sport.
You need to make sure that all the players know the proper way of blocking and tackling to help avoid any potential unnecessary injuries.
I feel the best way to teach the proper technique is by using the pads. It also gives the kids a chance to be involved in both the drill and holding the pads to help their teammate.
What I like to do is split the squad in half and have them face each other. One side will be holding the pads while the other side will perform the drill.
We are talking about tackling so the tackling line of players will come out of a “ready tackle or breakdown position” or a three point stance an on the coaches whistle drive into the player holding the pad across from him.
The tacklers are supposed to make contact and wrap up the pad. By wrapping up we mean hug. That is right, try to teach the kids to get as big a hug as possible and try to clasp their hands together around the player and the pad. In reality you want them to wrap their arms around the opponent and grab onto any part of them whether it is a jersey or their legs. They are only supposed to make contact and wrap, not tackle the player holding the pad. Make it clear that you are looking for proper tackling form, not an actual tackle.
What you need to look for is a straight back, head up and arms wrapping around the pads/player.
You must make sure that they do not arch their backs or lower their helmets. This is a sure way to get hurt. I use a little saying “See what you hit”. This is where the NFL does us absolutely no good. You will see time and time again players tackling leading with their helmet down. Please make sure to advise the players how dangerous this is and when you see a player doing this blow the whistle immediately. Make sure a coach goes over and completely explains to the player and all players what was done wrong. The youth football coach then needs to show the proper technique.
There needs to be zero tolerance for lowering your helmet while tackling.
On a much lesser level, we have not wrapping up when you tackle. The NFL once again does not do us ant favors. The NFL loves to show big collisions. If I see a player try this stuff the whistle goes off and a very stern voice expresses my disapproval. It is hard enough coaching youth football players, but the NFL does us no favors.
Not wrapping up is not a safety issue but a team issue. If you do not wrap up I guarantee you will miss the majority of tackles.
A little reminder I have seen a previous coach use was to have a player who missed a tackle in practice during a drill goes and hug a tree. It was not uncommon to see the park full of youth football players hugging all the trees in the park.
While this is an extreme example it seemed to work because only a few weeks later and no body were hugging any trees. The kids got the message.
It amazes us how many youth football coaches ignore working on form and refuse to use pads. I have had many years of success with weaker players with better form outperforming more talented kids with bad form.