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Slide Tackles in Youth Soccer (My article)

I recently received this email and I asked permission to use it.


There is currently a spirited discussion in our soccer club regarding restricting slide tackles at a certain age group. Currently it is not introduced before the Under 9 age group.
Some club leaders wish to prohibit slide tackles until the players reach the Under 12 level.

I believe this important defensive technique should taught to 9 and at least 10 year olds. Although I don't recall any injuries resulting from slide tackles, some feel we should prohibit this.

As in baseball, it is important to teach the players how to slide. In soccer, an illegal slide into the player instead of the ball, results in a penalty--a costly mistake! An incorrect slide tackle resulting in missing the ball, leaves the defender on his butt and out of the play--also a costly mistake. However, a proper slide tackle is an effective tool to stop a dangerous attack--especially when the attacker is swift and the full back is often a much slower athlete.

Any thoughts on this topic I could share with my soccer club?


Jim Simkalo

Hi Jim,

Thanks for asking me this question. It gives me the opportunity to develop a topic, that for a long time I’ve really wanted to talk about.

It is not easy to regulate the slide tackle with precise rules. This particular action is like an ‘aggression’ so, how can we regulate an aggression? The border between a clean attack on the ball and the possible hurting of the opponent is very thin. When is it accidental and when is it, without saying on purpose, let’s say………………………without to much care to what could happen to the ankle of the opponent?

When a player goes at a full speed on the wing or in a break through in an empty half field, maybe after 70/80 minutes in which he already has given out all his energy, just being pushed a little, makes him crumble on the ground. If, instead of being pushed a little, someone rushed on him, from behind, sliding into the foot that handles the ball, even if tacking the ball first, could be ruinous. And very often it is!

I consider the slide tackle enormously dangerous. My opinion is not only to forbid it at the youth ages but even on a professional level. More and more often, the greatest soccer players are getting injured in this situation. Just 2 months ago Totti had an ankle broken from a slide tackle and Rooney, just weeks ago, broke a bone in his foot and, probably, he will miss the World Cup.

The speed and power of modern soccer is greatly increased. In any slide tackle on the ball, running side to side, many times the foot or the ankle gets hit after having hit the ball. And here I’m talking about an ’accepted’ slide tackle. Paolo Maldini and Kakha Kaladze are famous for this. They follow their ’prey’ for 20/30 yards and at the right moment, when the ball is pushed a little too much forward, they accelerate and ZOCK, they slide on the ground in front of the opponent, hit the ball out and, here’s the important part, the opponents can jump their legs that cuts their path on the ground.

This is a correct slide tackle. But in general, players don’t care if the ball is pushed forward, they don’t accelerate to anticipate the opponent. They just slide through the legs of the opponent, with the excuse of tackling the ball. Sure for 70/80% they’ll hit the ball, but they hit the ankle or the feet of the opponents, too!

That’s why players are getting hurt even if ’apparently’ the tackle is correct. And because youth players don’t know how to fall by ‘rolling’ on the ground, and not putting their arms forward, they can easily dislocate or brake their shoulders.

Lets talk now about slide tackles from other angles, not from side to side in running together. This is even worse!

From an angle of 90 degrees, the players come in without any warning. The timing of this impact has to be perfect because, a little early is useless and, a little late, is strait on the ankles of the opponent. 50% of the time it is ball and ankle. The other 50% it is ANKLES ONLY!!! The injury is almost sure, if the opponent doesn't jump to avoid the impact.

But the ‘real masterpiece’ to be sure to hurt the opponent 90% of the time, it’s coming from in front. Possibly with the legs together and strait. This way, it is mathematic that, after having hit the ball, you will go strait on the ankles of your opponent with your cleats! If he doesn’t jump in time, the injury is 90% sure. Mission accomplished!

I hope that really soon FIFA will do something to avoid these kind of deadly impacts.

So, coming back to youth players, it's my wish that really soon the slide tackle will be eliminated.

In my life, I played at the highest level and I've seen hundreds of injuries directly, or on TV. The more time passes the more they are getting frequent for the increase of the violence in the impact, that is only a consequence of the players improved performance.

It is as if today, we kept regulating car’s circulation as if it were the same as when we were going around with horses and carts!

The only way to regulate the slide tackle, in my opinion, is to eliminate it.

The beautiful game, can only be more beautiful.

Coach Gianni
Posted on 06 Jun 2006 by coachgianni
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