With the risk of concussions and brain damage in football, Lamar School head football coach Mac Barnes wants to make sure the local youth are as safe as possible.

Coaches of Lamar and the Meridian Public School District will take part in a certification seminar next Wednesday morning at Lamar taught by a representative from Atavus, a Seattle-based company that has worked with the Seahawks and provides proper instruction on tackling and techniques in coaching. 

Mac Barnes

Mac Barnes

The visit was organized by Barnes, who found the group from an online advertisement around four months ago.   

“It teaches coaches how to teach their players not just to tackle safely, but more efficiently,” he said. “You can read. You can watch videos. There’s nothing like actually being able to demonstrate it and do it there with someone who knows what they’re doing.”

As the concern over brain injuries in the sport has grown, Barnes was researching the effects on the brain that repeated hits to the head, as well as drugs and alcohol, can have in a person’s childhood and in their early 20s, before their brain has fully developed. 

As he searched for possible solutions, he came across Atavus.   

“As you start learning and trying to figure out which direction to go, this company sprang up,” Barnes said. “I talked with this representative and we developed a relationship, and he really wants to come and teach us.”

Barnes said approximately two dozen coaches from Lamar School, Meridian High School, and the city’s junior high schools will take part in the 2 1/2-hour seminar. After it is over and football season begins, coaches will be able to send videos of their own instruction to Atavus for evaluation. 

Barnes said he hopes that the old, outdated methods of coaching that have been passed down for years will be eliminated and that proper coaching will start as early as possible.   

“The younger you can teach this, the better,” Barnes said. 

“If we get a kid that comes through youth football and they’re taught to lead with their head, and they’re going through drills that are not the right drills to do, before we can teach the kid what to do we have to teach them what not to do. It’s a whole lot easier to teach it right the first time.” 

Barnes said that with proper tackling and fewer injuries, the game improves for the players.

“When the game is safer, the kids enjoy it more,” Barnes said.

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