Tag Archives: Lessons

Shoulder Tackling vs Chest Plate Tackling

The good thing about blogs is that you just get to put your opinion out there and people can deal with as they may.

When I got into coaching football back in the eighties, we taught a type of shoulder tackling. When I played high school football, I tackled with my shoulders. It just felt natural. I started researching more about all aspects of coaching about 1998. No matter where I saw it taught whether at a clinic or in an article, chest plate tackling was what was being taught. So I got on board with all of the experts and started teaching it in about 2001. Questions always arose about how a small safety was going to tackle a large fullback with this technique among other questions. I argued that at least while he was being trampled, he had his head up. What I noticed about this technique was that no matter how hard you drilled it in practice almost no one ever executed it properly in a game. I noticed that while watching college and pro games that I almost never saw it executed properly. When I did see it executed properly it stood out in stark contrast to the other tackles being made. I also noticed what developed was that my players and others we played against started trusting their helmets too much and used their facemask as a weapon to tackle and block. Now mind you that they never heard that command from a coach even one time yet they did it consistently.

During this time I watched a high school player that I had taught to tackle when he was 8 yrs old and I had coached him for many years doing this as a Senior. He got a few bad concussions and it cut his senior season short. I started re-evaluating what I was teaching at this point.

My theory is that the players are lazy about the technique so they stay high as they are coming in to tackle instead of dropping their tail so they could explode up through the ballcarrier and so they hit him with their facemask instead of their chest. Add to this the ballcarrier has followed the same process and so he stays high as well and leads with his facemask. Now we have two ball players making head to head contact when neither coach ever intended that to be the case.

I think what the real problem with chest plate tackling is that it is completely unnatural. If I told someone who has never tackled anyone to go tackle that guy over there, he is going to tackle him with his shoulder. He is not going to rip up though the pits and tackle him with his chest.

While I was pondering this question in the off-season, I was emailing some good coaches that I know around the country about what they were doing. A few of them had gone to a version of shoulder tackling because they found chest plate tackling to be ineffective. You didn’t dare bring this subject up on a message board because anything but chest plate tackling was considered to be unsafe and you would be yelled down as being a heretic and a bad coach. I just wanted to teach my kids the safest and surest method there was. Also during this time I saw the movie “Invictus” which is a movie about the South African Rugby team. It hit me like a ton of bricks “if the safest way for them to tackle in rugby is with their shoulder and they don’t have helmets then it’s surely the safest way for us to tackle with helmets”. This was surely a big aha moment for me. I was back on track to where I wanted to be. I researched rugby tackling and starting teaching a version of it to my players. I still didn’t discuss it on message boards but I did in emails with others.

I really loved it when Pete Carroll put out the Hawk tackling video in 2014. I don’t know how many years it had been since I went back to shoulder tackling before this video came out but I could now come out of the closet and be a shoulder tackling enthusiast in public without repercussion because an expert had put his stamp of approval on it. I recommend watching that video and one called “Tackling Dummies Smarter” by Bobby Vernon if you’re interested in teaching the rugby style shoulder tackle. I won’t teach it to you here as they do a much better job than I could. They’re both on Youtube.

I have since purchased a few of the tackle rings and use them in practice as part of the whole program of teaching shoulder tackling. I really encourage you to do your own research on this subject. I just wanted to share my journey through it.

Contract with Myself (for the players)

Sorry I haven’t been making many posts lately but it is football season and I’m busy coaching my team. This contract is something I’ve been mulling over for a while. It’s a new idea of mine and I have not done it in the past.  I’m going to give this out to the boys and discuss it with them. Help them understand it. They are 10-12 yrs old so it will probably be a new idea to them. I want them to fill it out and put it on the wall in their room to remind themselves of their goals and to make good decisions in life to help them live out those goals. My hope is that it will clarify a lot of choices that could lead them down the wrong path and cut that off early in the process. I just want to make them think about the consequences before they act.

Who is the man I want to be when I’m 25?

What values do I want to have?

Integrity        Character     Courage        Dependable Committed   Warrior

Honest           Responsible  Kind                Loving            Trustworthy

What education do I want?

College          High school              Dropout        Trade school

What job do I want?

Engineer       Architect       Supervisor    Plumber        Welder          Teacher         Military

Fedex Delivery man           Electrician     none              other skilled trade

Other –

Where do I want to live?

In a house I own     Renting          With Mom and Dad

Do I want to be married?   Yes   No

Do I want to have kids?    Yes      No

Do I want to be a Christian?        Yes      No

What kind of life do I want?

Drug addicted         Alcoholic       Normal

Now you know who you and what you want to be when you’re 25. These are goals you have in your life. Now you have to make plans to achieve those goals. Every time you’re faced with a choice in your life, you need to ask yourself “Which choice will help me achieve my goals and which choice to take me away from my goals?” Also to make plans, you need to get advice from people that will help you figure out how to get to your goals.


I will try to live the life that will help me achieve the goals I have chosen here.

Signature____________________________    Date____________________

The POISON lesson

This lesson started in 2008. I had a few players that had grown up very close to each other and they picked on and fought with one another like they were brothers. Their feuding also bled over into the rest of the team with detrimental results. The POISON lesson is what I came up with to teach them what they were doing to the team.


I got a large clear bottle of water and filled it two-thirds full. (An empty 2 liter bottle works well for this) I also had a smaller bottle of clear water and small bottle of green food coloring. I held up the big bottle and explained that this was the “team spirit” that we all drank from. We had no choice. I took a drink.  I hear the running back coming back to the huddle saying “nice hole line, way to go”. I poured some of the water from the smaller bottle into the larger and said that adds to the team spirit. Getting up from a tackle, one of the teammates pats the other on the back and says “nice hit”. A little more spirit goes into the bottle. “Sorry guys. I missed my block, I promise to get him next time”, a little more spirit goes in. As long as we’re complimenting each other and helping each other, we add to the positive team spirit. Now… “How come Joey got to carry the ball three times in row and I didn’t?” POISON!!…in goes a drop of the food coloring. Wait…. watch it go throughout the clear water tainting all of it. “I don’t like the running back who’s carrying the ball on this play so I’m not going to block.” POISON!!… in goes another green drop. Swish it around, watch it mix up. “Coach doesn’t like me like as much as he likes you.” POISON….in goes another drop. Swish it around. By now the water is about the color of Mountain Dew. I take a drink, reminding them that this is still the team spirit. I hold my stomach and tell them. I don’t feel so good. I decide that I’m not going to block hard on the next play because Johnny didn’t hustle on the last play so I shouldn’t have to either. Nobody else cares about this stupid team so I don’t either. Down goes the attitude on the team.


Boys, do you see how this kind of POISON spreads to the whole team? Heads nod. Do you see what I’m getting at? Heads nod. You have to ask yourself; with everything I do in a practice or in a game, am I putting more good positive spirit into the team or am I the POISON?


I shared this lesson around 2009 on the internet so it may not be new to you. Dave Cisar shares it in his newsletter.


I now extend this lesson (minus the visual effects) to my player’s parents during our parents meeting. They need to understand that they can poison the team as well by badmouthing the coaches all the way to and from practice. How is a boy going to listen to me if he doesn’t respect me? They contribute to the team spirit for good or bad but they don’t realize it.

Unconditional Love Speech

This is the first speech I give to the team. It happens at the start of the first practice and sets the tone for the kind of culture they’re going to be in for the next 3 months.

I’m going to tell you that you that I love you, each of you unconditionally. Does anybody know what unconditionally means? It means that no matter how bad you screw up, no matter how frustrated I may get, no matter how poorly you perform, I still love you. I may not be happy with you at that time but I still love you. You may have cost yourself some punishment with what you’ve done. I love you before, during and after the punishment. There’s a verse in the Bible, Hebrews 12:5-6 (the Message), My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child that he embraces, he also corrects. So we see that if I truly love you, I will correct you. I will make you get it right. I will not let you coast. We have a lot of games to prepare for. If we just came out here night after night and goofed off and had a good time, we would get killed on gameday, wouldn’t we? So by being tough on you and disciplining you and preparing you for the battles ahead, I am proving to you that I love you.

Now what I expect of you is to extend that kind of love to each other. No matter how bad your team mate messes up, you forgive him and love him. I define the word “love” as being set to do what is right for someone else. Hollywood and the music industry have given us a distorted version of the word love. That’s not what I’m talking about.

As a start to the discipline, we practice respect for your coaches. The way we will do this is to address the coaches as “Coach” or “Coach Dave” or “Sir” but never as “Hey Dave”. When you respond to one of us, it will be “yes sir” and “no sir”. If you do not, you will drop and give me 10 pushups. I will give you one night, tonight, a night of grace to learn this. You will never talk back to your coaches. Every coach has the right to deliver punishment to you. You know and understand the rules. When you break rules, you are punishing yourselves. We, as coaches, are just carrying out the punishment.