by Ashley Cooper
Tackling is an essential part of quidditch. I would argue that perfecting tackling is the most important step in transitioning a team from a poor team to a good team. If you never learn to tackle, you will never progress beyond being a poor team. Knowing how to tackle gives your chasers some defensive power, but also teaches them how to avoid tackles when attacking. This is the opposite for beaters; giving them offensive power and defensive knowledge. Getting good at tackling also makes people safer players as they’re better at being tackled safely. Other teams will tackle you, so you best get good at tackling to help prevent injuries.
This article will attempt to give some basic instruction as to the aim and theory of tackling, followed by some advice on how to train it. Note, tackling is a very difficult skill to teach by written word only, so apologies if at points this article is difficult to follow. Sadly, there are very few instructive videos or photos available for quidditch. Instead, this article will make use of online images and videos to help with some explanations, but please feel free to ask any questions you wish after reading this article. Also note, to be tackling without using a mouthguard is, in my opinion, completely daft. Mouthguards do initially feel odd, but they are far less odd than missing teeth/bits of your tongue.
The Aim Of Tackling
Herein lies the greatest error of people’s beliefs regarding tackling. The aim of a tackle is NOT to bring the opposition to the ground. Bringing a player to the ground is a bonus that makes you feel good about yourself and gives you bragging rights over your downed victim. If you can bring them to the ground that’s great, as it does make their life more difficult, but it is NOT the aim of the tackle. The aim of tackling is to make the player do something; be that pass the ball (which you can intercept/beat the receiver), attempt a shot/beat (which you can block/dodge), or turtle the ball (at which point you can pile onto them and stop them doing anything). If you can force the player to make a rushed decision/choice then you take away their ability to dictate the game, and make them more likely to make a mistake that you/your team can take advantage of. Just make sure that if you’re going to make a tackle, they don’t break through your tackle. Your tackle needs to be an impassable wall.
How To Train It
- Ensure everyone is happy with how to fall safely (see below).
- Once step 1 is complete, move on to tackling practice (see below for position-specific tackling technique). Have people pair up, with brooms and balls. Practice walking through tackles to ensure all the technical aspects of the tackle are correct. Once people are happy walking, move to jogging, and then build up to sprinting.
- Swap partners and continue tackling practice. Start again at jogging pace and build upwards to sprinting.
- Repeat step 3 until the players are confident with tackling people of all shapes and sizes. Don’t feel that anyone is too big/small to tackle or be tackled. In quidditch everyone tackles each other, obviously. Get used to using your size/shape to your advantage (e.g. long arms to push tackles away, short body to get low and overbalance their centre of gravity).
- Incorporate this into a more complex drill (e.g. half-court training)
Throughout the drill, the coach should regularly move amongst the pairs and watch all them all, giving constructive criticism. Ask them what they are finding easy/difficult. Every 10-15 minutes, gather everyone in and have a quick 5-minute feedback session where players can raise those difficulties (with prompting by the coach if necessary) and the coach can explain the solutions to the group as a whole. The coach should also raise any issues they themselves noted.
How To Fall Safely
To practice this, have people initially standing up in some space. On the blow of a whistle have the players “collapse” to the ground. This involves having their feet together and collapsing sideways onto the side of their bent knees, then their hips and then their shoulders (see image below from www.betterrugbycoaching.com)
When people are happy with this sideways falling (and are suitably muddy already) have them pair up. Take in turns to have one person kneeling up and then the other pushing them over to allow them practice falling safely. This can be very cathartic. Once the pairs are happy with kneeling, move to being pushed over from standing. Then move on to tackling.
- Click here for a good video for the basics on how to fall.
- DO NOT try to break your fall with outstretched arms.
- Tuck your arms and head in (easier when holding a broom and a ball).
- Land on your soft bits (shoulders, buttocks, etc).
- Roll with the momentum.
- Practice getting up as quickly as possible; good habits.
- Practice with brooms and balls.
Chasers tackles and beater tackles are not the same. Due to the difference in the situations a beater or chaser tackle are used, the dynamics of the tackle are different, and so the technique is also crucially different. Note, beater tackles are more important than chaser tackles. Beaters MUST know how to tackle if your team is to succeed. The opposition chasers will run into your chasers anyway, and so your chasers will be forced to learn to tackle regardless. However, your beaters will need to initiate the tackles on the opposition beaters themselves, and so they must know how to do this. Don’t let your beaters shy away from contact. Teach them the joys of contact sports, and the euphoria of tackling someone successfully. Again, a tackle does not have to bring someone to the ground for it to be successful. Bringing someone to the ground is an extra perk.
We’ll now go through the theoretical and practical differences of chaser and beater tackles.
- Chaser tackles focus on someone running at you, so the key is on how to hit them hard, keep hold, and use their momentum against them. This work especially well for small players tackling big players.
- Here’s a good video for the basics of tackling technique (there are some alterations as detailed below): Rugby Smart – Tackling Technique Tips
Key differences to video:
- Positioning: Instead of being positioned directly in front of the target (as in rugby) the defending chaser should be slightly to the side of the attacker, so that their tackling arm/shoulder is directly in front of the attacker. That way the attacker has a choice: either they can run through your strong tackling side, or attempt to run the long way around your weak (broom-holding) side. If they run through the strong side: excellent, you can tackle them. If they try to run around you, step to the side again to get your strong side in front of them again. If need be, keep doing this until they are at the edge of the pitch; they haven’t got around you, perfect.
- Arms: Obviously, we can only tackle with one arm. After you’ve planted your lead foot (the opposite foot as the arm you’re tackling with) then you need to hit hard with the shoulder into the soft bit of the tummy (less painful for both of you). The important bit now is the wrap. You need to wrap very tightly with the tackling arm. Once you’ve got a tight hold of the attacker they’re finished; either you can fall backwards/to the side and bring them down, or you can just keep hold of them. They can’t run whilst you have hold of them.
- Bringing the attacker down: The best way to bring an attacker down is to fall backwards/sideways with them. Use their momentum against them. Once you have a firm wrap, lean to the side/backwards and pull the attacker with you whilst they try to run. With your weight added to their forward momentum they should fall to the ground. The key to this is a strong wrap. Don’t let go! Remember though, the aim is to make them do something, not just to bring them down.
- Watch the attackers stomach, not their head, arms or legs.
- Position with your strong side in front of the attacker. If they try to run around your weak side, then move with them so your strong side is always in front of them.
- Stay on your toes until the last second.
- Once they are within “striking distance” (one step away), step forward and plant your leading foot (the opposite side as your tackling arm) between their feet to disrupt their centre of gravity.
- Keep your head and broom out of the way to your weak (non-tackling) side. Keeping your back and rear leg straight, hit with your shoulder into the soft part of their stomach.
- Wrap tightly with your arm and squeeze hard.
- Fall with their momentum to bring them down.
These images are not ideal for this purpose, but do give a good idea of the stages of a chaser tackle.
- This is more difficult than chaser tackles. Beaters tackle on offence as opposed to defence, and so need to generate their own momentum.
Key differences to chaser tackles:
- Momentum: Instead of waiting for the opposition to run into you, you need to sprint into them and generate your own force.
- Impact: With beaters tackles, you’re not aiming to hit them from the front. Instead, initiate contact from the front by placing your hand on their stomach. Then step around behind the opposition, keeping your hand in place and so forming a wrap. You should end up stood behind the opposition effectively doing a one-handed hug from behind.
- Feet: In order to step behind them, your leading foot should be planted to the side of their feet, not between their feet. For example, if I want to beater tackle with my right arm, I would run up, plant my right foot to the outside of their right foot (assuming we’re facing each other), initiate contact from the front with my hand, and then swing around so we’re facing the same direction and plant my left foot behind them so I end up hugging them from behind.
- Watch the attackers stomach, not their head, arms or legs.
- Sprint up towards them; don’t lose speed, don’t chicken out. Be prepared to try to catch their attempted beat though. Lots of beaters will panic and try to beat you as you run up to tackle them.
- Once they are within “striking distance” (one step away), plant your leading foot (the same side as your tackling arm) to the outside of their equivalent foot (eg your right foot outside their right foot).
- Keeping contact with your hand on their stomach, swing your other foot around behind them so you end up stood behind them with your tackling arm wrapping them from the back (you initiated contact at the front, don’t worry).
- Wrap tightly with your arm and squeeze hard.
- Throw yourself backwards using your own momentum to bring them down.
Again, this image is not ideal as a clear display of a beater tackle, but I hope it gives a good impression of the explanation above.
As with everything in quidditch, there are always adaptations and variations of every tactic and technique. That’s what makes the game exciting. There are also variations of these tackles described above, and don’t be afraid to explore those variations. Just always remember the basics of how to fall safely, and be clear what the aim of your tackle is.
Hopefully this article has been useful in covering the basics of tackling for beaters and chasers. Always be aware that many people have many different experiences and skills. Be prepared to adapt your tackling in response to what works/doesn’t work, and in response to tips from players with other sporting backgrounds. Finally, confidence is the key to tackling. The more confident you are going in to a tackle, the less likely you are to get injured, and the more successful it’s likely to be. As such lots of encouragement and praise is often needed during early tackling drills. Remember, in a tackle it is almost always the least practised players who gets injured. Other teams will tackle you, so you need to learn now. Very quickly though, players should begin to realise how much fun tackling is. As soon as people feel they are safe in the tackle (due to them having practised) then they begin to enjoy the tackles and relish the challenge it brings.
As ever, comments are welcome, especially regarding an article covering a difficult concept to express in words, such as the very physical skill of tackling. Also, as mentioned, there are still almost no instructive videos or photos available for quidditch teaching. It would be great if we could get this going. So, if you are interested in possibly forming part of a team working on photos and videos like this then please let us know!