The proper use of the stiff arm by a runner in the open field is an acquisition which will be found well nigh invaluable to a back who is carrying the ball in a dash down the field. As the runner sees that he is about to be tackled he can suddenly shoot out his free arm, palm open, meeting the charge of the tackier with the arm stiff and rigid, often turning him aside to such an extent that he either entirely misses the tackle or is sufficiently foiled in his purpose to allow the runner to free himself without stopping and to continue on his way toward the opponents' goal. The straight arm can be directed toward the opponent's breast, if the latter is coming high, or toward his head or shoulder, if he is making his effort in a crouched position. Continual practice will develop a proficiency that will enable the runner to escape many tackles which, without the stiff arm, would certainly have brought him to earth.
Showing the use of the stiff arm to avoid being tackled. The hand can be placed on head, shoulder, or often the body. The tackier can be thrown aside or side-step ped.
In delivering the stiff arm the runner should always aim to conceal his intention as far as possible from the tackier, avoiding the habit of carrying the arm in an advanced position before the tackier gets close enough to permit its use, and shooting out the arm at exactly the moment when the opponent attempts the tackle. If the runner's purpose is divulged in advance, the tackier will be ready to ward it off and the stiff arm will be of little use.
Use of the stiff arm is confined entirely to runners in the open field. It is a hindrance, rather than an aid, in line plunging, where there are possible tacklers on all sides and the runner's purpose must be, first of all, to force his way through. When a runner, however, succeeds in getting through a line into the open field, the stiff arm may enable him to dispose of a tackier and thereby convert his effort into a touchdown, as there may then be but one tackier between him and the opponents' goal.
The tackier, in approaching a runner with the ball, should always bear in mind the possibility of a sudden stiff arm and should be on his guard against it. He should meet it with a parry like that which a boxer would employ against a straight jab from an opponent, brushing the arm aside and out of his way, generally upward, in his effort to get close to the runner and bring him down. The tackier should not wait for a hint that the stiff arm is to be used but should anticipate it on every occasion when it would be possible for the runner to employ it. He will thus be enabled to get close to his man and cannot be brushed to either side, out of the runner's path or to the ground in front of him, there to be hurdled or side-stepped. The two illustrations which accompany this chapter should be of great value in demonstrating the use of the stiff arm and the way in which a tackier should be able to avoid it.