Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.
Sometime ago a youth coach wrote to contest the use of the block as a useful tackling technique to win the ball off of a dribbler. Here’s what he had to say.
I can't believe that the USSF actually teaches the inside of the foot block tackle. This is the most dangerous way to enter into the tackle. Please watch some pro games to see if there is ever an inside of the foot tackle. Although some think that it is an illegal tackle, we must teach the sole tackle as the first choice to win the ball and to avoid injury. Stop spreading this injury prone info to our young athletes. I have been to many countries watching the youth train and never seen an inside of the foot tackle; always the sole first. …if you ever played a high level men's match, you would remember never going in with the inside of your foot. Your knee would be in ruins or your ankle would be broke. Again, please stop teaching this!
So fair enough, a different point of view on how to make a fundamental tackle to win possession of the ball in a soccer match. Besides my own thoughts on the matter, I asked some former professional players who have played in MLS and other professional leagues in the world for their thoughts on the topic. So here are some of their thoughts and mine.
As to the use of the block tackle in high level soccer, such as the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program, professional soccer and international matches, it is a technique used. You are correct that some adult players at high levels of competition use a sole of the foot tackle from time to time, although it is a less prevalently used technique. I hope this will clear up the matter. We will continue to teach the most fundamental of tackling techniques, the block tackle, to our youth players. Here are a few quotes from former professional and national team players who are now in the coaching ranks within MLS and US Youth Soccer:
“At the professional level players will use every tool available to them and different types of tackles will be used through out the course of a game. There are different views and attitudes towards tackling and diverse levels of tolerance in leagues throughout the world, however the skill of tackling like any other soccer skill has to be practiced and the mechanics understood, as a poorly executed tackle can have severe consequences.
While the bottom of the foot tackle studs showing is often used it would fall in the category of a tackle which endangers the safety of an opponent and be guilty of serious foul play, it is certainly used in professional play and left for the referee to deal with.”
“I think we are all in agreement that tackling with the sole of the foot happens, perhaps inadvertently on the youth end but, clearly more deliberate in nature at the professional level as mentioned. I think the key word is "predominately" and that would not apply to tackling with the sole of the foot as the block tackle would still be the most often used method...especially on the youth end.”
“I think it's absurd to profess that pro players never use the block tackle. It is used as much or more than any other method of tackling at the higher levels. Even though I have spent very little time on teaching or reviewing this defensive technique to professional players, since they usually prefer to use the technique that they have grown accustomed to as they developed, I would say that a majority of players resort to the "block" method when given their choice or natural playing instincts.”
“I have never tackled with the sole of my foot; that could be dangerous. Block tackling was something we practiced quite regularly. It was all about learning how to lock the ankle and knee on impact and adding the "lift” action to lift the ball over the opponent’s foot. Leaning forward in the process and leaning into the opponent with the upper body to come away with the ball.”
“I feel that the block tackle is used and should be taught. The sole of the foot tackle is a border line foul depending on the force used, and the showing of the studs. This is used primarily when having to reach at the last possible moment but is less effective. I believe both are used during the game but the sole seems to be used more when a player can’t get there, almost as an act of last resort.”