To Slide Tackle Or Not To Slide Tackle…

If you want to see a person’s face do all sorts of weird things, ask a youth soccer administrator about slide tackles! They most likely have dealt with this issue and with parents or coaches wanting to allow it too early, etc. Many youth recreational leagues simply prohibit them and leave it to travel leagues/teams. Others allow it to be taught to players as young as 10. Arriving at any of those positions if often done with much debate and discussion.

The Blue Ridge Classic League website puts it VERY well:

A slide tackle, correctly applied, is a thing of beauty and no risk to either player. A slide tackle, when incorrectly and inappropriately applied, is not only a serious foul, but also risks injury

In most cases, rightly so, the desire to prevent injury outweighs the desire to teach a certain skill to growing players. So when is the right time and place to introduce the slide tackle?


The US Youth Soccer Association rules stipulate that slide tackles should be prohibited for U10 and below. Their U12 rules do not prohibit it, thus following FIFA, they are allowed. Many advocate teaching it to travel players who have a few years of experience under their belts (which could mean as young as U10)

Most 8 and 9 year olds are not quite ready to execute a tackle correctly and avoid injury. However, once players reach 10 or 11 and have been playing for years, their coordination is improving and many may be ready to begin learning the techniques of a proper tackle.

Our rec league currently bans all tackles, even in U12. You can’t play the ball on the ground either to avoid younger kids trying to make sliding saves and hurting themselves or others who might be nearby. But we’re starting to have second thoughts when it comes to U12. As more and more of our kids start moving up to travel teams or school teams, we want to make sure they aren’t at a disadvantage skill wise.

I’m curious what other leagues have discussed when they decided to allow or disallow the slide tackle in older age groups. Do you prohibit all tackles? Can players play from the ground or make sliding saves at the touch line? If you allow tackles at U12, is it only for travel teams or rec too?

I can’t predict what we will do. I’m leaning towards keeping things the way they are for U8 (no slides and no ground play), but allowing sliding saves and possibly ground play in U10. As for U12, I’m still on the fence about slide tackles. I think a lot of our kids in U12 that don’t play on travel teams too may still benefit from the instruction. While some aren’t at a travel team level in terms of skill, some are. They just choose not to travel and stay with their rec teams. If they have a chance to play for their school at some point, I’m not sure we want to limit what we teach them. It’ll make for some interesting Rules Committee meetings!

There are a number of resources out there talking about teaching the proper technique.

It’s a tough call either way and youth soccer guidelines in the US are definitely fluid and constantly evolving. We’ll see what happens this Fall and I’m interested to hear how others have handled it.

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  1. My daughter (u-12) had a break away and was tackled from behind resulting in a concussion. No foul was called and when I went to league officials they told me that it was not intentional, so it was not a foul.The league told me that there is no such rule stating tackling from behing was a foul. I thought that any tackle from behind was prohibited and normally a red card, am I wrong? Any thoughts on this rule?

  2. If you are the parent of a child or the coach of a player who utilizes slide tackles and you’re not doing anything to stop it, I would like you to walk in my shoes for the last four months.

    I have watched hundreds of soccer games at all levels and I used to coach soccer. I have yet to see a properly executed slide tackle that doesn’t take out the opposing player.

    My 15 year old daughter was the recipient of a slide tackle this fall that broke both her tibia and fibula bones in her leg and dislocated her ankle. Her trauma orthopaedic surgeon said he never sees a fibula break like that in kids.

    They couldn’t do surgery for 3 days, because her leg was so swollen from the trauma. When they finally did surgery, she couldn’t be casted because it was still so swollen and injured. She was the “lucky” recipient of a plate and a load full of screws. The doctor said she’ll be wearing those inside of her for the rest of her life, if they don’t start coming out by themselves first.

    She had to be in a wheelchair for a while, because pain pills, a grossly swollen leg and ankle, and not being in a cast meant she couldn’t get around on crutches right away. I can’t tell you how absolutely heart wrenching it is to have to push your kid around in a wheelchair everywhere. This is the same kid who tried to stand up and get off the soccer field after she’d just had her leg smashed from a slide tackle.

    Then there were the two months of me sleeping on the floor, because there was no way she could get up to her bedroom 13 stairs up. Her leg was absolutely black and her toes tingled all night long, so I had to get up all night long to try and rub her toes to try and keep the circulation going in that leg. I can’t tell you the fear that we lived through wondering what was going to happen to our daughter, who plays 3 sports & lives for sports, because she had a leg that was having major circulation problems all because of a preventable injury—a slide tackle.

    The good news is that she was able to get herself back ready for basketball. The trauma surgeon said she was so far ahead of schedule, she was cleared to play the first game. The bad news is that leg just isn’t the same, and I sit like a worried wreck through every game hoping that leg doesn’t give out. I hope that nightmare ends soon!!!

    She also has to ice that leg every night of her life. Imagine living in Minnesota—where it’s already cold 1/2 the year anyways—and having to ice your leg every single night. That gets old.

    I know this is a long story, and there’s so much more that I could say. I didn’t even touch on the monetary cost (even if you have good insurance like we do) of covering ER bills, copays, leg braces, etc.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is DON’T LET THE KIDS DO SLIDE TACKLES. One play like that can change a family’s life forever. We’re lucky she got the circulation back in her leg and her leg is healing. In the meantime, the other player who did the slide tackle finished out her soccer season and went right on to her winter sport without missing a step. Nothing in her life had changed, but everything had changed for us in that instant.

    I know that there is always a danger with any sport that is played, but slide tackle injuries are 100% preventable. Slide tackles need to be banned and ejections and red cards need to be issued.

  3. I’m glad to hear that your daughter recovered from that injury and it is unfortunate that another player was so reckless. I think the question of allowing vs disallowing slide tackles in games is related to acceptable risk. I had a player on my travel team out for the season when she broke her leg badly in two places (both lower bones) sliding into a base during her first softball practice. The problem was she didn’t know how to slide properly, but you’ll never see sliding taken out of softball. Are slide tackles in soccer dangerous? Yes. Can they be done properly? Yes – if players are taught. And therein lies the problem. Coaches don’t make sure their players understand how to do a proper slide tackle AND don’t control it. On my team currently – two players are allowed to slide. I make it a very clear and severe rule. Until players exhibit the proper ability, it’s not worth the risk to them or other players. The problem is, not all coaches will do this.

    Another thing to consider – do we want kids growing up never learning what a slide tackle is, both doing them and avoiding them? What happens when they play soccer in college? I think the risks will be MUCH higher because they’re just learning. Kids who learn how to deal with slide tackles at a younger age (U12 through U18) are better prepared to handle it if they play beyond high school.

    One main problem is officiating that does not use the plastic enough. In many cases. Referees are often loathe to show red. But if a player tries to slide and is poorly done = dangerous play. Yellow. If it’s bad enough – red. The kids HAVE to know what fouls are just fouls and what fouls are dangerous. I’ve seen my players on numerous occasions do something that went beyond a normal ‘foul’ and wished the referee would have show yellow. But they don’t. I’ve had one player get one yellow in over 50 matches. The fact that the person who broke your daughter’s leg wasn’t ejected amazes me. That does nothing for your daughter, but it makes clear to others that whoa – not only can you really hurt someone – there is a direct impact on you riding the bench for a while. Had you been able to show any type of malice in the tackler – the state association probably would have handed down further sanctions (most states review ALL red cards for possible further action)

    I don’t think you’ll ever see slide tackles taken out of youth soccer and I think there would be unintended consequences and increased risk later if you did. BUT, we certainly do not do a good enough job issuing cards to drive home the seriousness of certain types of fouls across all ages of soccer.

    Referees – SHOW THE PLASTIC I don’t care how old they are.

  4. um excuse me, me and a friend are arguing about this and our question is, would you guy to jail, if you were playing a game and suddenly you slide tackle for the ball, but you use to much force and you hit his neck and he dies, would any rules of soccer apply to you only getting carded?

  5. Slide tackles are a crucial part of soccer and should be allowed. HOWEVER, there are many kids who slide-tackle like hockey goons, hip check and break people’s bones. A properly executed slide tackle comes in from the side (or front), cleats must be down, touch the ball first and may take down the player. The tackled player knows the fall is coming and will not sustain injury IF the tackle is done correctly. Players who tackle from behind should be given an instant red card and ejected from the game.

  6. Love the Blog. First post. I have coached competitive teams for the last 5 years. I have trained and coached kids that perform at very high levels (Region III kids). I will say this about slide tackling:
    1. Boys, at a young age, do it more than girls;
    2. Very, very few of the players I have coached under the age of 13 know ho to safely and correctly slide;
    3. MOST IMPORTANT, even if you have a kid in the younger group that can slide appropriately, the odds are the the kid with the ball does not know how to protect himself (herself). That, to me, is the real injury risk.

    So, not only does the proper technique need to be taught, but there also needs to be some training for the player with the ball. In baseball, we teach kids how to get hit with a pitch (using tennis balls). Same should be true here.

  7. My 15 year old daughter was also the victim of a slide tackle from behind (and after the ball was already out of bounds!). Clearly egregious and intentional act from a frustrated player. No red card was given. Three weeks into an ankel sprain, my daughter has had 2 xrays, 6 sessions of electro therapy, ultrasound and faces wearing an ankel support brace from now on. The dirty player….is finishing her season with no accountability. This game was wrought with dirty play and had the referee called the game clean to begin with this injury could have been avoided. The same player nearly took out two other payers with a slide tackle and pushed one of our players in the back after getting beat in a foot race to the ball and it going out of bounds. If slide tackles remain an allowable part of the game, then coaches and referees need to regulate and enforce the proper use.

  8. I could be incorrect but a slide tackle is not a automatic Yellow or Red card….. it is an automatic Direct Free Kick and if no contact with ball or player a Indirect Free Kick…. that the rule……I think

  9. Today, my daughter today got a severe ankle sprain (she will be on crutches for at least a week) from a slide tackle from a boy in PE class in school (9th grade). My dughter is an experienced and skilled player and knows how to tackle correctly, but why would they teach this is an 9th grade co-ed PE class with some people who know nothing about soccer? Mind you they don’t even have shin guards in PE.

  10. @Mitch – if they actually tried to teach that (vs some kid trying it out when he shouldn’t have), that’s crazy! But was it possibly just some kid trying to be cool doing something he’d seen and failing? Glad it was only a sprain!

  11. My son (U10) is off soccer for a 2-4 week period with a broken toe as a recipient of a slide tackle. I did not see the play as it was indoors and during a scrimmage practice game with his competitive club (u9 vs u10). I called the director of the competitive soccer team and was told he remembered the hit and it was early in the game and he was surprised my son was able to complete the game. I asked him to possibly discuss the situation with the child and his family… here was the response.. I remember that hit the kid was just late to the ball no reason to discuss anything with the parents of the child. I’m under the impression there should be no slide tackling during indoor soccer. If a player is injured during a slide tackle then it should be considered a dangerous play. Please let me know your comments.

  12. That’s a tough call. You rarely see slides in indoor because the turf can really irritate the sliders legs. Some indoor leagues ban it, others don’t.

    As for your son’s situation, if it wasn’t malicious and the player in question didn’t have a history of bad tackles – I’m not sure what the director could have done. Kids are late to the ball and if it wasn’t malicious… It sounds like an unfortunate accident.

    Dangerous play fouls and cards are not dependent on injury. If an action creates a dangerous situation, even if no injury occurs – then it can and should be called. If an action is not dangerous, but results in injury, that does not automatically make it dangerous and a foul.

    All that said – as a coach I’d likely discourage my players that young from slide tackling, especially indoors.

    I hope your son heals quickly!