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July 24, 2019

THSCA Coaching School 2019 Recap

A recap of what we learned at the 2019 Coaching School in Houston
ATAVUS Tackle System video instruction

John Gallagher, Jul. 24th 2019

Wow. What a great couple of days.

Another THSCA Coaching School is now at an end, and it’s a great time to reflect on what was learned, heard, and seen during the past few days. In short, the experience was overwhelmingly positive and another powerful reminder that the best use of time for everyone at Atavus is listening to football coaches talk about their craft, pain points, and motivations.

Atavus sent nine of our staff to Houston, and I’ve summarized my observations and theirs into the following categories:

Coach commitment to doing it right

One of the things we’ve heard from some outside of Texas about the mandate by UIL and THSCA in Texas is that coaches are only going through the motions on certification; they’re doing it because they are required to do so.

I’ve never really believed it, and it’s clear from speaking with dozens of coaches this year (and many more over the past year) that high school and middle school coaches in Texas are firmly on board with making the game safer for students. The dominant reason for doing so is simply a moral one: as coaches we have an obligation to ensure our players are as safe as possible. Clearly that is enough reason to increase safety.

However, coaches told me about additional advantages. A coach from Waco spoke about having only 25 on the roster and playing 11-man football. Just a few player injuries can devastate a team, ruining a season not just for those injured but for the entire team trying to cover with a thin roster. Another coach spoke about the improvement from fall to spring in tackling effectiveness, getting excited about the potential for his improved defense this fall.

Mart High School assistant coach Mark Honeycutt has won four state championships with the school, including the past two seasons. Coach Honeycutt told me his team is using the shoulder-led technique, and after seeing good results the past season has embraced it.

Coaches begin taking the tackling certification assessment in Houston 2019

It’s also clear from participating in the certification sessions that coaches are taking it seriously. The body language in the room is positive and engaged, and the questions asked after indicate a desire to learn more. When a thousand coaches arrive on time for a 7:30am session on the final day of the conference, well, that in itself says a lot.

Far from just going through the motions, these coaches spoke to us about improvements in player safety and performance that could make meaningful differences in their programs.

Great coaches, great stories

Getting coaches talking is not a hard thing.

It is, however, a wonderful thing.

Catallen's Phil Danaher with Ron Jenkins of Atavus

My conversations with coaches went something like this: hiya coach, you certified yet? You are, great, how did it go? And then the stories came.

Every coach has a story about practices and games using what they learned, and those lead to other stories, and pretty soon I’d heard amazing and entertaining anecdotes about single plays, game-deciding tackles, and season-turning results. When Catallen High School’s Phil Danaher—only the winningest coach in the history of Texas football--stopped by the booth to share his story of becoming certified, he managed to keep our entire booth staff entranced for 30 minutes with tales from the state’s football past.

From “What’s this?” to “What’s next?”

In San Antonio last July the most frequently asked questions of us was “who are you and what do you do?” What a difference a year makes. This year one of the most common questions we heard, especially from coaches who certified at last year’s coaching school, was how they could take the next steps with what they learned during certification.

The answer to this question is very easy.

Coaches who complete certification in Texas receive access to the Digital Tackling Academy that includes 30 drill videos, drill sheets, and other resources. For coaches who want to get the most out of their certification, the place to start is with those drills. We heard from some coaches who said those drills made a huge difference in their ability to teach and develop their players, but also heard from coaches who were not aware the drills where there.

So, coach, if you’re not using those drills, start there.

Next steps for those already using the drills is our new Tacklytics™ Core product. Core provides game and practice film analysis, tackling practice plans, and video cut ups.To learn more about that, visit Atavus.com or give us a call at 1-877-4ATAVUS.

Final Thoughts

Atavus is dedicated to helping coaches improve player performance and safety, but we also know that we cannot do that if we don’t stop to listen and understand the coaches on the front lines with players and parents.

Attending an event like Coaching School is a tremendous opportunity for the Atavus team. Spending time with coaches is always useful, and we are grateful for the chance.

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