THE SLIDE TACKLE – SOCCER ADVANCED TACKLING
In a slide tackle in soccer the defender is usually first running beside a dribbler, or approaching from an angle, starting slightly behind the opponent in the direction of their own goal. The defender then anticipates the movement of the ball, leaves the ground in order to launch both legs forward, tucks one leg to slide on the ground, and reaches the foot of the other leg out ahead to then legally contact the ball. This is compared to a traditional tackle where the defender usually approaches an opponent face-on, engages them while standing, and then legally uses a foot to take the ball away.
Whereas a properly-performed slide tackle is legal, it carries with it added danger. As a result, “local rules” are often applied that restrict slide tackling at youth levels until around 14-years old. The slide tackle must be taught correctly in order to try to minimize the danger. The correct timing and technique on the part of the defender is critical to both the success and the safety of a slide tackle. The timing must be such that the defender contacts the ball out in front of the attacker. Proper technique ensures that the attacker is neither struck from behind nor kicked by a swinging leg from the defender.
From a coaching perspective, a slide tackle should be considered to be a last resort, behind proper marking, being positioned goal-side, jockeying and controlling, and then using a front-block tackle or an intermediate tackle. Otherwise, players should always be encouraged to stay on their feet. When a player leaves their feet, they give up a significant measure of control. In addition to increasing the danger involved, including the chance of injury to either party, an incorrectly performed slide tackle often results in a penalty or leaves the defender beaten.
The most significant feature of the slide tackle is the transition on the part of the tackler from the angular momentum of running forward to horizontal momentum, accomplished by taking the legs from normal foot-contact with the ground and thrusting them ahead in order to slide on the surface. It is this increase in horizontal momentum that permits the tackler to get the tackling foot in front of the dribbler and the ball.
The ultimate intent on the part of the defender making a slide tackle is to either gain possession of the ball from the attacker or to kick the ball away. In the modern game, it is much more difficult to obtain possession of the ball on a slide tackle than to send it away. Also in the modern game, slide tackles appear to be made more often nearer the sidelines than in the middle of the field. Either way, the technique is still the same.
Teaching the slide tackle can be broken down into the following component parts:
- Approach – The tackler arrives from beside or angled slightly to the side of the dribbler, usually at full speed.
- Timing – The tackler must determine where the ball is going to be and when to start their slide.
- Slide – The tackler must use proper technique to ensure that, while placing themselves on the ground, their tackling leg and foot will arrive beyond the ball.
- Tackle – When going for the ball, the tackler must first block the ball or strike it away, not swing the leg and foot into the dribbler or contact the dribbler first.
- Recover – Whether the tackler is successful in getting the ball or not, they must get up immediately and resume a proper defense according to the circumstances.
Ultimately, all of these components must be put together and performed in one, fluid motion. Coaches should discuss the concept of wearing “slide pants” or “compression shorts” for slide tackling. If players choose to wear these as part of their uniforms, they must conform to the requirements in “The Players’ Equipment – Law 4.” Before engaging in any of the demonstrations and drills below, coaches must ensure that all players are wearing proper shinguards at all times. Also, sweat pants are recommended for training.
Set up near one sideline and explain that both players are facing the goal being attacked. Using two older, serious, competent, technically-qualified, responsible, willing players – 1. Show the “clearance” slide tackle at “full” speed. The attacker/dribbler and the defender/tackler must coordinate how and when the dribbler is going to intentionally place the ball out in front for the tackle to occur. 2. Show the difference between the “hook” slide tackle (intended to capture the ball) and the “clearance” tackle (intended to send the ball away, usually out of bounds). 3. Show the component parts individually, from approach to recovery.
Using a slide tackle is a conscious decision on the part of the defender which is made and executed very quickly, based on the circumstances of play. The tackler must take into consideration where they are on the field, what they expect to accomplish with the ball, and if they are in a proper position to execute the skill properly and safely. In the middle of the field, a missed slide tackle, or one that doesn’t clear the ball, can put the defense in a rough position. Otherwise, a slide tackle along the sideline is usually more effective.
A defender making a slide tackle may actually choose between the option of trying to block and win the ball or to kick it away. This choice will determine a modification in how the tackle itself will be performed later on. Trying to obtain possession of the ball will be different from just kicking it away.
A slide tackle is most often used when an attacker has broken free of a defender and represents a serious threat. This creates a situation where the attacker and the closest defender are essentially running side-by-side, or the defender is on the same level and coming in at an angle, and the attacker is running with the ball out in front of them. The defender should try to get level with, or ahead of, the attacker and, in order to do so, must sprint as fast as possible in order to obtain maximum momentum.
The angle of the approach for the tackle is that which will increase getting the feet out in front of the ball. In order for this to happen, the attacker can rarely be more than one step ahead of the defender and the defender should not make any kind of initial contact with the attacker because it will slow the defender down. The approach of the tackler is made from the side and the feet are to be ultimately placed across the projected path of the attacker. The tackler must not come in from behind. If the defender determines that a slide tackle can not be performed safely, the attempt should be aborted. (The most common example of this is that the attacker continues to outpace the defender.)
During the approach, it is important for the tackler to focus on the ball. Whereas the attacker can still make some kind of move, focus and concentration must be maintained on the objective of getting to the ball.
Set up near one sideline facing the “attacking” goal and with players staying on their feet. 1. Have single, “defending,” players run to a stationary ball and kick it out of bounds with a “turning, chopping” instep kick appropriate for the sideline being used. 2. Repeat by rolling a ball out (“bowling” style) for the players to run down the ball and, again, kick it out of bounds with a “turning, chopping” instep kick appropriate for the sideline being used. 3. Repeat using the other sideline and the other foot.
Usually, the optimal time to attempt a slide tackle is just when the dribbler has pushed the ball forward. The added distance between the ball and the attacker increases the chance of success and reduces the possibility of a foul. If the dribbler has the ball directly at their feet, the chance of effectively contacting only the ball decreases and the chance of dangerous contact with the opponent increases. The chance of success while performing a slide tackle further increases if the dribbler has last contacted the ball with the foot closest to the tackler.
The time to start the slide is based on the momentum of the defender and the expected location of the ball. This involves almost instantaneous decision making, which is mostly performed subconsciously, and comes from experience. This also involves a decision on the part of the defender whether to try to win the ball or to kick it out of play. Either way, upon deciding to perform the tackle, the defender must be decisive and committed and stay composed while using proper form.
Proper form involves tucking and sliding on the leg closest to the attacker and using the foot of the leg farthest away from the attacker to contact the ball. In addition to momentum, the timing of the slide is based on the effective extension of the projected leg to get the foot in front of the path of the ball.
Add an “attacker” to the demonstration/drill used in the “Approach” section above, creating pairs. The attacker has the ball and, upon command of “go,” both players will “run” forward (essentially at “half-speed), side-by-side, with the attacker dribbling. The defender must be to the right shoulder of the attacker moving up the left sideline and vice-versa. Attackers are to willingly and intentionally touch the ball ahead. 1. At the instant the ball is touched ahead, the defender, still in a standing position, is to get to the ball and kick it out of bounds with a “turning, chopping” instep kick appropriate for the sideline being used. 2. Switch sidelines and the foot being used to kick the ball out. 3. Switch attackers and defenders. 4. Repeat, picking up the pace of the run. 5. Repeat, with defenders coming in from an angle and then starting one or two steps behind the dribbler.
The most common form of sliding for the slide tackle involves first leaving the ground in order to launch oneself forward with maximum momentum. While in the air at the very start of the slide, both legs are thrust out to help achieve this. Simultaneously, the leg and foot intended to make the tackle are extended farthest ahead, while the other leg is bent back at the knee and tucked underneath the extended leg to take the brunt of the slide. At the same time, the body is twisted slightly at the hips, drawing up the side farthest away from the dribbler. This also is in preparation for the slide, but further orients the tackling foot to legally contact the ball.
The tackle itself should be made with the leg and foot farthest away from the dribbler. If running on the right side of the opponent, the right leg is extended farthest out. If running on the left side of the opponent, the left leg is extended farthest out. Just as the slide starts, the tackling leg should also be slightly bent at the knee to assist in proper contact with the ball by the foot. The tackling foot and leg must be kept above the surface of the ground, high enough to keep them from getting snagged in the turf, but not so high to require stabbing downward at the ball.
The lower part of the tucked leg should be under the upper thigh of the extended leg as far as the buttock. Land on the outer-upper thigh (and possibly part of the hip and buttock) of the tucked leg. The ongoing-slide itself, on the tucked leg, should mostly be on the outer thigh of that leg. The foot of the tucked leg must be outside of the frame of the extended leg, must be positioned so that the outer surface of the shoe would slide easily on the turf, and the toe of the tucked foot should be pointed slightly toward the sky, all to keep the foot from getting snagged in the turf and to prepare for getting upright quickly.
The torso is bent at the waist. The arms are outstretched for balance. The eyes remain focused on the ball. The defender then slides in front of the path of the dribbler in order to place their foot ahead of the projected location of the ball.
This should be set up on a section of good, flat, turf with excellent grass. Ideally, the ground should be soft and the grass should be wet. Players should wear old sweat pants. 1. Demonstrate the actual slide. 2. Have players practice the slide without ball. 3. Have players slide from both sides. 4. Have single, “defending,” players run and left-side slide to a stationary ball and kick it “out of bounds” with a right-footed instep kick. 5. Repeat using a right-side slide and a left-footed kick. 6. Repeat by rolling a ball out (“bowling” style) for the players to run down the ball and, again, slide left and kick right. 6. Repeat for slide right, kick left. (Note: Do not “over-train” with too much sliding.)
To successfully execute a proper slide tackle, the tackler must make contact with the ball first. There is often incidental contact with the opponent when executing a slide tackle, however, incidental contact with the opponent after hitting the ball first usually will not be considered a foul, especially if the opponent trips over just the ball itself as a result of the tackle. In addition to being very dangerous, hitting the opponent before getting the ball is a foul, as is wiping out the opponent even after contacting the ball first.
There are essentially two types of actions that can be taken with the leading foot to perform the actual tackle, depending on the desired effect. These are the “clearance” tackle, where the defender has decided to send the ball away, and the “hook” tackle, where the defender has decided to try to capture the ball.
Tacklers must never make the tackle with their cleats up. The ankle of the extended leg needs to be down and the toes pointed forward in line with the leg. The cleats of the leading foot should face away from the opponent for a clearance, or toward the ground to capture the ball. The foot is then to be placed directly in front of the path of the ball with a controlled swing of the leg. The leg and the foot must not be swung at the attacker indiscriminately or “hatchet” style. This can result in a broken leg.
To capture the ball, trap the ball with the inside of the foot as one might with the front-block tackle. Once the ball is stopped, either keep the foot firmly in place as the defender goes past or pull the foot and ball back toward the body in order to take control. To knock the ball away, make good contact with the instep and send it out of bounds, or direct it to a teammate. Either way, the actual contact with the ball needs to firmly in the center or just above the midline.
This should be set up on a section of good, flat, turf with excellent grass. Ideally, the ground should be soft and the grass should be wet. Create pairs of attacker and defender. The attacker has the ball and, upon command of “go,” both players will “run” forward (essentially at “half-speed”), side-by-side, with the attacker dribbling. Attackers are to willingly and intentionally touch the ball ahead.
Using the clearance tackle: 1. At the instant the ball is touched ahead, the defender is to slide and kick the ball “out of bounds” with a proper instep kick appropriate for the side from which they approached. 2. Switch sides and the foot being used to kick the ball out. 3. Switch attackers and defenders. 4. Repeat, picking up the pace of the run.
Demonstrate the hook tackle. Repeat as above using the hook tackle.
Immediately following the tackle, the bent leg is used to get up to a standing position. In all likelihood, during the course of the tackle, one hand will have naturally gone to the ground for stability. Use this hand and arm to assist in standing.
Getting up as quickly as possible, no matter what the outcome of the tackle, is essential to returning immediately to ongoing play, whether it is dribbling into the attack or retreating back into defense. If the ball has been kicked out of bounds, the urgency is less. If the ball has gone into open space, the tackler should sprint to it or prepare to receive a pass.
Practice slide tackles in pairs in the middle of the defensive half of the field. 1. Defenders are to use clearance-style tackles to try to pass to a teammate on the wing. 2. Defenders are to use hook-style tackles to capture the ball and start to dribble. 3. Defenders are to intentionally miss capturing the ball, recover, and sprint to defend.
PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
The most difficult and challenging portion of teaching the slide tackle may actually be the transition to “going live” in order to practice the entirety of the skill.
All dribblers must learn how to protect themselves from a poor slide tackle. 1. Teach the Avoidance Move. All tacklers must respect the safety of the opponent. 2. Teach tacklers to withhold tackling or how to back off from executing a misjudged slide tackle if it will result in injuring an attacker. 3. Permit slide tackles in a brief small-sided game or rondo. 4. Permit slide tackles in a brief scrimmage.
Soccer Coaching Tips:
- Players must be fit and attentive. Slide tackling must not be introduced or practiced when players are tired.
- Immediately stop and correct dangerous form.
- Remember to teach that a slide tackle is essentially considered to be a move of last resort, usually if the attacker is likely to have a break-away toward goal.
- Whereas a slide tackle can be performed with the leg/foot closest to the attacker, it is not preferred. Use the phrase “right/right, left/left:” right side of attacker – tackle with the right leg/foot; left side of attacker – tackle with the left leg/foot. This optimizes both safety and the possibility of success.
- Artificial turf can be especially problematic for skin abrasions. Defenders who are prone to using slide tackles should wear slide pants.
- Skin abrasions (“strawberries”) should be treated immediately or as soon as possible after they occur. They are particularly prone to infection. Wash, rinse, pat dry, apply Nitrotan® or similar product.
© Copyright, John C. Harves