Coaching Association of Canada

Tom Annett - Football

The Importance of Proper Drill Progressions

Effective coaches know that breaking down a skill and introducing it in a logical, step-by-step way allows the athlete to acquire it more easily and to progress more rapidly. Coach Tom Annett, a major contributor to Football Canada’s Safe Contact program, explains the progression when contact is involved.

The use of proper drill progressions is paramount for developing all sport-specific skills. This is especially true when teaching fundamental skills involving contact (like tackling) where there are inherent risks and safety concerns. Coaches should never introduce the skill of tackling with live contact drills. Not only is this dangerous, but it could also instill bad habits that can reduce a player’s confidence in their ability to make tackles.

At the beginning of each season, we introduce the skill of tackling with the Safe Contact drill progressions. Various tackling fundamentals like striking are coached in this sequence:

  1. On air (no actual contact being made).
  2. Against a pad / tackling dummy.
  3. Against an opponent at reduced speed and intensity levels.
  4. Live full contact drills from close quarters (1 to 4 yards distance between the tackler and ball carrier).
  5. Live tackling in game-like drills or scrimmages (e.g. half line drills, 12-on-12 scrimmage).

Introducing tackling with non-contact drills is safer and also helps build confidence in players by allowing them to be successful early on in the learning process. When a player is confident in his or her technique and assignments, he or she is more likely to play aggressively.

Below is an example of a drill progression we use to teach the act of striking the ball carrier:

Teaching tackling with proper drill progressions allows coaches to break down the skill in great detail and coach it with precision. This in turn improves a coach’s ability to identify, isolate, and correct mistakes.

To see additional information and videos on the Safe Contact drill progressions, please visit the Safe Contact website: