Best Football Tackling Drills (Youth And High School)

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: April 21, 2024

Tackling drills are a key part of any football practice. Players need to be taught how to properly track, strike, and wrap a player to the ground for an effective tackle. Poor tackling often leads to poor defensive play.

The rules for football tackling drills have changed over the years. Coaches used to be able to do Oklahoma drills and other high-impact drills during practice, but associations have since outlawed these drills.

Coaches must now be creative in how they teach tackling drills and ensure that they directly relate to the game.

Football Tackling Drills

The best way to teach tackling is in phases. You also want to ensure you relate to the game as much as possible.

What we mean by that is that players aren’t just tackling stationary objects, such as static bags, the entire practice. This is because players need to track and tackle dynamic moving objects (humans) because in the game, that’s who they will be tackling.

In order to do this safely, there are certain drills you can do to make sure nobody gets hurt and that you’ll maximize efficiency.

Tracking Drills

80% of tackles are missed due to poor approach angles. Players often overrun ball carriers, or they get run by because they take a poor back hip angle.

These drills below are designed to help you track the ball carrier to take the proper angle and make a tackle.

Shuffle Gather Drill

The shuffle-gather drill is an open-field tracking drill that requires the player to work downhill toward the ball carrier, sprinting when they sprint and gathering when the ball carrier starts to throttle down.

This drill is effective because these situations are what your defensive backs and linebackers will see in the open field. The aiming point in this drill is the ball carrier’s near hip. We recommend finishing with a “Thud” or tap off on the hip.

This drill doesn’t need to be full contact, as you need to get your players used to tracking a moving ball carrier.

One Cut Drill

This drill is from the Holy Cross University. The defensive player will set up 7 yards away from the running back. When the whistle blows, the running back has the option to sprint directly to the cone on the 10-yard line or make 1 cut.

The defensive player must track the ball carrier and maintain their inside leverage. The point of the drill is to force the ball carrier where you want it to go, which is to the outside.

You can make this a full-contact drill, as the contact will be within 5 yards. We recommend making it a thud drill, so the players get more reps.

Restricted Tracking Drill

The next tracking drill requires players to move toward the ball carrier with a blocker in their way. This is common for defensive linemen and linebackers as they try to chase down a running back.

In this drill, the coach will point to the left or right, telling the running back which way to go. When the drill starts, the linebacker should move toward the running back and defeat the block that approaches.

In this drill, in particular, the defensive players want to work over the top of the block as if it’s a gap scheme block to get to the running back.

Wrap Tackling Drills

This section is all about wrapping defenders up and bringing them to the ground. Each drill will show you how to practice this safely and effectively.

Short Strike Drill

This drill from Cornell Univeristy can be done with or without pads. It’s one of my favorite tackling drills. It helps players learn how to use their shoulder to tackle, wrapping the players thighs, and finishing through the ground.

If you have youth or high school players who are new to tackling, this is a great drill to start them on. It also helps offensive players learn how to get tackled and fall to the ground properly.

One Leg Tackling Drill

This low-impact tackling drill will help your players learn to step with their lead foot, keep their heads out of the tackle, and keep their feet running.

We recommend using a pad for the players to land on; that way, you can do as many safe reps as possible. This drill can be done with or without pads.

Restricted Tackling Drill

This drill is used for defensive linemen and linebackers who are getting blocked but have to make a tackle. This is often the case when the ball is in the box. Players must be able to wrap and tackle the ball carrier with one arm and bring them to the ground.

This restricted tackling drill will help your players learn how to make one-arm tackles if they cannot get off the block first.

Short Stride Tackling Drill

Yes this is a rugby drill, but it’s a highly effective tackling drill. These rugby drills transfer to football so well, because you can get tons of reps and limit the amount of injuries.

In this drill, the player will simply choose to go right or left. The tackler must react to the running back and put them on the ground.

If you have young players who aren’t used to contact, this a great drill to start them in. The pad absorbs all of the contact, and they just need to brace themselves when they fall.

If you like rugby-style tackling, we have an entire library of rugby-style tackling drills that you can do here.

Team Tackling Drills

These football tackling drills are designed to be directly related to the game, that can impact your entire defense.

Vice Tackling Drill

This drill from the University Of Georgia is a vice tackling drill. When a receiver catches the ball in the open field, oftentimes you will have both defensive backs and linebackers close in on them.

The vice drill will help them adjust their angle so they own their leverage. This is a great tackling drill that will help your player focus on using their shoulder to assist on a vice tackle.

Open Field Tackling Drill

This is one of our favorite tackling drills. Not only do both players get a chance to tackle, but it also trains one of the hardest tackles in football: the open-field tackle.

Each player will go around the cone and the tackler has to put the ball carrier on the ground. Once the tackle is made, the players will switch positions, go around the cone, and repeat the process.

This drill helps coaches get as many reps as possible while tackling in a short yard, safe distance.

What’s Next?

If you liked learning about tackling drills, we recommend you check out our courses that relate directly to defense. You can find these courses in our store here.

Do you still have questions about tackling drills? Feel free to contact us directly on Twitter or through email, and we’ll be happy to help!

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.