This section examines the techniques of the three basic tackles in soccer: the block tackle, the side block tackle, and the sliding tackle.
Coaching the block tackle first introduces the idea of hard but safe body contact, which can help some beginners overcome a natural aversion to that feature of defensive play. Take great care when coaching this tackle; a player who becomes overcompetitive can cause an accident. For this reason, we recommend strict discipline and matching players for weight, as well as for height and ability, whenever possible.
This tackle is very effective when the attacker comes directly toward the defender, especially when space is limited as in a crowded penalty area. This tackle is a powerful movement, and when done well, not only stops the attacker but gives the defender a reasonable chance of winning possession. To generate sufficient force to overcome the momentum of the attacker, the defender’s body has to be crouched to lower the center of gravity, the instep of the striking foot has to move as if to go through the ball rather than stop it, and the leading shoulder has to move powerfully forward as the foot strikes the ball (see figure 11.15a). A player whose body position is similar to that shown in figure 11.15b will never win a tackle because he is pulling away from the situation and is off balance.
Side Block Tackle
Using the front block tackle is one way to deal with an attacker who brings the ball directly toward a defender. To stop the player who is moving past the defender diagonally or who is already past, there are two main techniques—the sliding tackle, which will be discussed in the next section, and the side block tackle. Teaching the side block tackle first allows the defender to stay upright and also provides a very useful introduction to the sliding tackle.
The side block tackle is best considered in four stages. First, the defender runs hard, possibly on a recovery run to move to a position alongside the attacker (see figure 11.16a). Next, the defender turns inward toward the attacker using the foot nearer the attacker and turning the hips and shoulders in that direction (see figure 11.16b). The defender then crouches down and hooks the inside of the tackling foot around the ball (see figure 11.16c) and completes the turn while hooking the ball until it breaks clear from the attacker’s foot (see figure 11.16d). Ideally, the defender gains possession of the ball; in reality, the defender often stops the attacker while the ball bounces free. With beginners, it is important that the defender be still standing upright after the tackle and can attempt to continue to pressure the attacker.
A good defender stays on his feet as long as possible and only uses the sliding tackle as a last resort. If it fails, that defender is temporarily out of the game. Nevertheless, on many occasions the sliding tackle is the only way to stop an attacker who has broken through; for this reason it is an essential skill for every player. Moreover, because this tackle is a spectacular and exciting achievement when executed successfully, all players enjoy practicing it, provided the ground is soft and the players wear protective clothing. Never allow your players to practice sliding tackles on hard, dry ground without protection; more harm than good will result.
The sliding tackle contains three stages: the chase, the slide, and the sweep. The tackling player chases the ball (see figure 11.17a) until confident that his lead foot will overtake the ball. The near leg (which is the left leg in figure 11.17a) leads, allowing the player to sink down onto the left leg, which curls beneath the seat of the defender. The far leg (the right leg in the figure) swings around in a wide sweep, with the foot hooked, toward the ball (see figure 11.17b). The tackling leg sweeps through the ball and either traps it with the hooked foot or, more usually, plays the ball away (see figure 11.17c). Most defenders love the sliding tackle, especially when the surface is soft and they come out with the ball!