STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Four months after the UIL’s Legislative Council passed a rule requiring every Texas high school and junior high football coach become certified in teaching tackling as part of the official UIL Coaches Certification Program, the UIL and THSCA announced March 20 they found the company that will teach the coaches – Seattle-based Atavus Sports.
Atavus Sports focuses on tackling techniques and tackling data analytics. The Texas governing bodies declared that these new tackling techniques are to be taught for the 2018 season.
By partnering with Atavus Sports, Texas is the first state in the U.S. to require this type of certification.
Head football coaches across the Highland Lakes thought this move was good for the state’s public high school programs.
“We will absolutely be better for it,” Mike Birdwell of Marble Falls said. “With regards to safety, kids are being taught the right way. The UIL is taking the whole concussion (discussion) by the horns.”
“Coaches love kids,” Matt Green of Llano said. “Anything we can do to make the game safer is something we want to do.”
Atavus Sports gives tackling clinics, offers an online training program, provides consulting, and aims to use the same certification process throughout the country.
According to its website, Atavus Sports’ tackling technique emphasizes making contact with the shoulder and keeping the head out of the tackle while still having controlled movement, effective contact, and maximizing both power and control.
Birdwell noted that when he began playing, players were taught to lead “with your face. You put your (helmet) screws in their shoulder plate.”
Atavus Sports’ head of football is Rex Norris, a former Dallas Highland Park football coach who also coached in four high school rugby national championship games.
The certification process for Texas coaches begins with the annual coaches school in July 2018. Attendees will get on-site training consisting of a presentation, followed by a live assessment that must be passed to receive certification.
The second option is an online format that will be available April 1, 2019.
The certification will be valid for two years.
“There’s tremendous value having your young coaches go through it,” Green said.
Birdwell said Atavus Sports has footage of working with Rockwall, Westbrook, Waxahachie, and Brownwood high schools.
“If we want this thing to last, we’ll have to continue to teach fundamentals that keep kids safe,” he said.