SWAT Football Blog

Xs and Os won’t matter if you don’t tackle this problem.

“Defensive Coordinator” is more than a title for your resume, website, and Facebook profile. Defensive Coordinator is a life-and-death job. You are responsible for the lives of your players. The number one priority of every DC, regardless of level of football, is “ensuring the highest level of player safety.” Teaching tackling that removes the head from contact, will accomplish this goal. Preventing death and catastrophic injury from tackling impact – saving your players from broken necks, spinal injury, brain damage, or death – should be at the top of every DC’s list of responsibilities.

Xs and Os are meaningless if your players don’t master tackling. Without high-performance tackling, you are endangering your players and have no hope of winning games. Without high-performance tackling, the best Xs and Os have zero value. Tackling mastery doesn’t just happen. Nothing just happens. Believing that players will suddenly rise to the occasion on game-day and become great tacklers without investing the proper quality and quantity of reps in practice and in the weight room is delusional. Nothing happens without continuity of reps. No human is born with natural tackling talent. It has to be developed using a Tackling Curriculum.

My number one challenge in coaching football for 40 years has been teaching players to not get killed. Keeping players alive and in one piece has always been and always will be my top priority and main focus. Football is a life-and-death sport. Most coaches treat the decision to go-for-it or kick on fourth down as a life-and-death decision. It isn’t, but how your players tackle is. For that reason I banned shoulder tackling 30 years ago.

In 1984, as a 26-year-old, first-time head coach, I taught shoulder tackling, repeating exactly what I had been taught since little-league and throughout high school, and continuing for 8 years as an assistant. The 1984 season was hell – winless. Losing every game is hell – a nightmare. You have two choices when you lose – grieve like a child or study it. Nothing just happens. A series of events during the off-season between 1984 and 1985 convinced me to ban shoulder tackling and teach a new tackling style. It became a work-in-progress during the 1980’s as I developed and designed my SWAT Tackling Curriculum, one that fit my reality – football poverty – a reality of limitations that has to be experienced to be believed. It paid off with a perfect 1985 season and a championship ring and more importantly, no catastrophic injuries and zero reported concussions on Defense.

My entire SWAT Tackling curriculum has been published in video and e-book. Both will be released in the near future. It’s football season, the best time of the year. Blessings to all football players and coaches. Someone has to win, someone has to lose but no one has to lose their life playing a sport. Work hard, work strong, stay safe.


Gino Arcaro M.Ed., B.Sc., Level 3 NCCP (Nat’l Coaching Certification Program)
Head coach – Niagara X-Men Football
Owner – X Fitness Inc.
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Host of Blunt Talk Podcast

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