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In Texas, the Land of Football, It’s Rugby to the Rescue

By Ken Belson, 01/02/19, 4:15PM MST


ARLINGTON, Tex. — Raymond Kitchen had other places he would rather have been than in a big, empty football stadium at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. But there he was, three days before Christmas, with 450 other high school football coaches, attending a two-hour lecture on tackling at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

The lecture was a part of an ambitious effort to have all of the state’s 23,000 junior high and high school football coaches become familiar with, by August, a program that teaches rugby-style tackling. It emphasizes the use of the shoulder, not the head, in bringing down the player with the ball.

The program was created by Atavus, a company based in Seattle that says it can produce more effective tacklers by teaching defenders to square up before hitting a ball carrier and to use their shoulders and legs for leverage and power. Coaches like Kitchen seem receptive to the message Atavus is trying to popularize.