During this blog post, we’re going to talk about several non-contact tackling and pursuit drills that are perfect for your youth football players.

youth football tackling drill
Angle Tackle Drill

Angle Tackle Drill

The first drill we’re looking at is angle tackle. The cones should be set up two yards by two yards. The inside cones are two yards apart, which makes the cones that the players are at, facing each other, four yards apart.

Now they’re going to step toward a cone, in the same direction. You have an offensive player and a defensive player. The defensive player takes a step and freezes. That’s a very important coaching point–that both of them take the big step and freeze. That’s why the cones are so close. The purpose is to get into tackling position and then tackle.

Coach up the stance: holster the hands, get your elbows close to you, then shoot up, grab some cloth, and shoot through. The eyes are at the numbers, actually a little bit lower.

A variation of this youth football drill is having the players take a couple of steps.

Most running backs aren’t going to run to the defender. They’re going to run away from. This is part of the pursuit aspect of it. If you’re head up on a running back, he’s got two directions he can go. If you take away the inside, he only has one way to go, which is the outside. Push him to the boundary while everyone is pursuing.

Get to the cone. Freeze. Get in hit position. The offensive player holds up the bags, waits to be tackled.

youth football tackling drill
Popsicle Drill

Popsicle Drill

Depending on how many coaches you’ve got, how many guys you’ve got, you want to keep your groups under 10 as often as possible so you can get the maximum number of reps. The repetitions will equal muscle memory, which will make tackling much easier for your guys. It makes it less of a toughness skill and more of a technique skill.

This drill is pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t have a popsicle, you need to get one. Most programs I’ve seen have at least a popsicle. These things have been around a long time; if you don’t tackle it correctly, it’s not going to go down. It forces your guys to keep low, shoot the hips through, use their hands, squeeze with their head in the direction that they’re trying to tackle it.

The popsicle is like a mirror. It will show you how you look as a tackler.

Takeaway Drill

A takeaway drill needs to be in every leverage circuit, every tackle circuit. If you’ve got five drills, you need four leverage drills and a takeaway drill. If it’s a tackle circuit and it’s five, you need four tackling drills and a takeaway drill. That way, every day, 10 minutes a day, five days straight, your kids are learning takeaways.

That’s better than spending team time for 30 minutes on a team takeaway drill. Teach it to them a little bit at a time. Let them digest it. It becomes part of their muscle memory.

This one is simply chase from behind, reach with one arm, slap/tear with the other. An important coaching point here is before you try to tear it out, you need to be close enough to get your hands on the ball.

Anytime you tackle anybody, you need to be close enough to step on his foot or smell his breath. If you’re farther than that, you’re going to be lunging. If you’re lunging, you have no power. If you have no power, you’re not tackling anybody well.

Face-to-Face Drill

This is a nice face-to-face drill where you pair up and simply work on shooting through, grabbing cloth, squeezing the elbows. This is a low-impact drill.

The offensive player has his hands up under his chin to keep himself safe. If his hands are lower and they’re away from his body, they’re just going to get smacked right into his face.

Your first tempo is a walkthrough, you demonstrate it for them, you can eliminate the opportunity for people to get hurt.

We’ve got the eyes here right at the numbers, if not a little bit lower. The elbows are right next to the body, the hands are holstered, and it’s simply shoot up.

Next step: if you’re looking for more practice ideas for defense, don’t forget to check out our complete collections of defensive linemen drills, linebacker drills, and defensive back drills.

Or, if you need something more basic, try our drills for kids football (ages 5-9).