MERIDIAN, Miss. 16 football coaches from Lamar School and Meridian Public Schools came together for a tackling clinic put on by Atavus, a company based out of Seattle that educates coaches on safer tackling techniques. Coaches were taught a shoulder-led tackling style that was designed to eliminate leading with the head when tackling.
The method takes into consideration both precontact and contact. Coaches were taught what their players should be doing as they approach a tackle as well as proper form when making the tackle. Atavus representative Scott Lawyer shared why both are equally important for increasing player safety and tackle efficiency.
“What we’re teaching is a two-step process, Lawyer said. "We really break it down to precontact and contact and it’s really a shoulder led tackling - same foot, same shoulder - used to really maximize power and control."
The shoulder-led technique is designed to keep players safer by moving their head to the side and out of the tackle. By moving their head and leading with their shoulder, the force of the tackle is absorbed by a player's body instead of their head. Lawyer emphasized how this modern style of tackling can help kids feel better about playing tackle football.
“We’ve got to change the way were taught and really get to this new way because our game is under attack with participation dropping, Lawyer said. "We've got to get to a way where we can be more effective but still be safe and really maximize the potential of our athletes."
With research on the connection between tackle football and traumatic brain injuries like CTE, groups like Atavus are working to try and save the sport by educating coaches on this safer style of tacking. Lamar Head Football Coach Mac Barnes knows that with the game evolving, changes must be made.
“For those of us who have coached for a long time, we’re realizing a lot of the things that we were taught and that we teach are not the best way to do it, Barnes said. "There are injuries in football, but the thing that can happen here is we can eliminate those injuries that can be life threatening for our players."
All levels of the game, from youth leagues to professional teams, have implemented Atavus' approach. Michigan State used Atavus during the 2017 football season and saw unnecessary head contact instances decrease by 22 percent. The company has also worked with professional teams like the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints.
Meridian Head Football Coach John Douglass knows that player safety is top priority and anything than can help decrease injuries is necessary to implement.
“Anytime we can employ or use things that are going to bring those numbers down, it’s an advantage for everybody, Douglass said. "It gets our kids to the games on Friday nights and obviously, we want all our kids to be safe when they play."