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Tackle Progression Model promotes fundamentals and player safety

By Steve Alic Fri, 08/26/2011 - 9:07am

USA Football, the sport’s national governing body in the United States, has developed an innovative Tackle Progression Model that provides a step-by step approach for coaches to properly teach one of football’s most important skills.

A series of 12 instructional videos within USA Football’s Tackle Progression Model divides tackling into five fundamentals – breakdown position, buzz, hit position, rip and shoot – providing drills to teach each step, beginning in a non-contact environment and progressing to player-to-player contact. The instruction is designed to improve tackling skills, increase safety and limit helmet-to-helmet contact, lessening the chance for injury, including concussion.

Each of the 12 tackle progression videos were filmed at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, the practice facility for the Indianapolis Colts, and reside on’s Film Room. The Film Room is accessible through either a Coach or Player membership.

Within the model, a USA Football-produced Levels of Contact video directs youth coaches on how they may incrementally introduce their players to contact to build their confidence and help them learn the game’s fundamentals.  Drills can be run at varying speeds, starting slow when they are first introduced and accelerated as players master skills and techniques. The video introduces contact in the following ways:




Players run a drill unopposed without contact.


Drill is run against a bag or another soft-contact surface.


Drill is run between two players until the moment of contact; one player is pre-determined the “winner” by the coach. Contact remains above the waist and players stay on their feet.


Drill is run between two players until the moment of contact; no pre-determined “winner.” Contact remains above the waist, players stay on their feet and a quick whistle ends the drill.


Drill is run in game-like conditions and is the only time that players are taken to the ground.

Approved by USA Football’s Tackle Advisory Committee that includes coaches on the youth, high school, college and NFL level along with a sport psychologist, the videos are now available at The model also will be incorporated into USA Football’s online tackle certification course and integrated into the non-profit’s training event curriculum for coaches and players in 2012. USA Football holds more than 80 football training events annually and has members who reside in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Members of USA Football Tackle Advisory Committee are former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks head coach JIM MORA, Northwestern University head coach PAT FITZGERALD, Miami Christopher Columbus High School head coach CHRIS MERRITT, former NFL running back and Fort Thomas, Ky., youth football coach MERRIL HOGE and Penn State University sport psychologist DR. DAVID YUKELSON.

“Directing youth football teams to incrementally incorporate contact into their practices lessens the amount of incidental contact that players receive through their helmets,” said DR. STANLEY HERRING of USA Football’s Football and Wellness Committee and the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee. “This is a strong step forward for player safety in youth football that any youth sport should consider emulating.”

“As a committee member, it was important to me that we emphasize body position and leverage – two components of a fundamental tackle – for youth coaches,” Mora said. “USA Football has produced a compelling and comprehensive way to help coaches teach youth players how to tackle through drill work.”

“The tackle progression model is an innovative way for youth football coaches to teach tackling fundamentals to their players,” said USA Football Executive Director SCOTT HALLENBECK. “USA Football is committed to help coaches and players perform at their best through strong fundamentals, which inherently advances player safety.”

Approximately 3 million American children age 6-14 play organized youth tackle football, placing it among the country’s most popular youth sports. More than 400,000 adults volunteer their time to teach and coach youth football.

USA Football members – players, coaches, game officials and youth league commissioners – reside in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The Indianapolis-based non-profit also is the official youth football development partner of the NFL, the NFL Players Association and each of the league’s 32 teams.

About USA Football: USA Football, the sport's national governing body in the United States, hosts more than 80 football training events annually offering education for coaches and game officials, skill development for players and resources for youth football league commissioners. The independent nonprofit is the official youth football development partner of the NFL and its 32 teams. USA Football manages U.S. national teams within the sport for international competition and awards $1 million annually in equipment grants to youth and high school football programs based on merit and need. Endowed by the NFL and NFL Players Association in 2002 through the NFL Youth Football Fund, USA Football is chaired by former NFL team executive Carl Peterson.