Designing Tackling Systems – Case 6: Implementing the Rugby Style Tackling System

Aug 10, 2017 | Tackling, Defense, Fundamentals

By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikekKuchar



Back in 2014 the Seattle Seahawk Rugby tackling video went viral sending hundreds of coaches to reconsider how they were teaching tackling. One of these coaches was Chris Ash, the former Ohio State University co-defensive coordinator who is now the head coach at Rutgers University. According to Coach Ash, when he first viewed the Seahawk tackling video, he simply took he drills he viewed (along with googling ‘rugby tacking’ on the internet) and directly implemented these drills. It was all he knew how to do.

But now two years later, Atavus ( the Seattle based company that was behind that Seahawk drill tape- has put together a system on how you can design and implement the rugby tackling system in your program. spent a weekend in Philadelphia with the Atavus crew as they clinicked us on how they are developing their system to suit the needs of football coaches. Below is a sneak peek on some of the newer progressions they are designing this off-season as it pertains to transitioning rugby style tackling to the game of football.

Two-Step Process

In Atavus’ teaching progression, tackling takes a form of a two-step process: a tracking zone and a tackling zone. The definition of these two are below:

Tracking Zone- Pre-contact phase used to maximize potential contact. It’s defined as a controlled movement phase.

Tackling Zone- Contact phase where the goal is to maximize power and control over the ball carrier.

According to Rex Norris, head of football development at Atavus, when these two measures are combined it creates a positive tackling situation.

Tracking Phase

In the tracking zone, the goal is to close space on the ball carrier and limit his options. “This is about identifying the target and starting the correct pursuit angles by being continuously under control,” said Coach Norris. According to Coach Norris, there are three phases to the pre-contact zone: