www.kiro7.com • Press Release – updated: Aug 16, 2019
Bellevue School District’s four high school football teams will have extra sets of eyes to help reduce injuries for a third straight season.
From its office in Seattle’s SODO area, analysts for sports safety startup Atavus break down tackles where players’ heads are unnecessarily put at risk.
Bellevue’s athletic director, Jeff Lowell, says they’ve seen dramatic improvements in safety.
On Friday, Atavus VP of Football Programming Rex Norris broke down one of those plays for KIRO 7 from last season.
“The first thing we do is identify the tacklers,” Norris said as he walked us through slow-motion video.
“So he should be attacking him with his left shoulder. But what happens is he gets to here and makes the decision of going head across, and the result is head-to-head contact.”
Atavus was founded in Seattle in 2011 to teach safety in Rugby tackling and expanded its shoulder-first technique to football in 2015.
Now it works with NFL teams like the Seattle Seahawks, college football programs like the University of Washington and high schools like the Bellevue School District.
“Shoulder-led tackling isn’t new,” Norris said.
“If anything, what we have done is taken that and really created a science out of it. Obviously, you can tackle effectively in all kinds of ways. But what we want to know is how you can maximize power and control. And if you can do that, you’re going to protect the player better.”
That science is brought straight to the Bellevue football coaches via advice for how they can better teach safe tackling.
The players and coaches are seeing it applied to their recent action on the field.
“What we’ve seen is when teaching is done very strategically on a daily basis, the number of incidents with the head being a part of any tackle has dropped dramatically,” Lowell said.
Bellevue School District spends $10,000 per school per year for the Atavus analysis and instruction.
KIRO 7 asked Lowell how he justifies the cost.
“For me, we’re talking about investment in teaching,” he said. “We can talk equipment, investment in equipment. We’re talking about investment in people, the people we’re putting on the field to actually work with our kids. And we want to make sure they have every skill set possible to make sure our kids are safe on a daily basis.”
Atavus as a company has its sights set on improving safety in all youth sports nationwide.
Bellevue’s four public high schools are looking for safer, more successful 2019 seasons.
“We want high-quality instruction on a daily basis,” Lowell said. “And for me, the investment has been worth it so far.”