Football

Tackle U: Preparing Atavus Analysts for the Season

To grade film at Atavus requires extensive training and testing. Read how Atavus puts new analysts through a comprehensive program to ready them for a new football season

August is an exciting time to be a football coach. Training camp is the first time you see your team at full strength, and the first time you can implement new ideas from the offseason. Veterans are learning new wrinkles in the playbook, journeymen are poised for their breakout season, and, as always, a few new faces are still figuring out how to put on their pads.

At Atavus, this time of year means hiring and training new analysts who will support clients using our flagship Tacklytics™ product. As a key interface with our clients, the Atavus analyst is one of the most important roles in our company. This year, with our rapidly growing client list, we’re more than doubling the number of analysts on staff.

During the season, analysts watch film and collect data from games played on Friday and Saturday. This evaluation begins on Saturday night so that our clients receive their data, reports, and tackle plans all before practice on Monday.

A typical analyst played at the high school or college level, and most of our analysts are also coaches; some are veteran coaches retired from the sidelines who view Atavus as the next step in their career. We have an especially talented group this year who average three years of collegiate playing experience, five years of coaching experience, and two years of analytics experience. The combination of expertise as players, coaches, and professionals gives our analysts the ability to inform our clients with the best possible information to improve their tackling.

Preparing each new recruit to deliver the highest quality to our clients requires time, commitment, and a rigorous training program. To this end we created ‘Tackle U,’ our own training program that prepares our staff to support our high school and college programs. It takes a lot of hard work before a new analyst is can grade client film. Ultimately, an analyst will be able to evaluate film and provide in-depth data, reporting, and tackle plans, but our training starts with the basics on day one.  

Analysts start the training program by first becoming certified on the Atavus tackling technique. They go through the same certification process as our clients by viewing the presentations and passing the exams in our Atavus Edge product. By completing the same certification program as our clients, the analysts are better able to understand and translate the film they watch into accurate and effective feedback for coaches; analysts are trained to never give a grade that they could not explain to a coach. The use of a consistent and common language is crucial for coaches, and its important that our analysts communicate using that same language.

Once certification is complete, the analysts begin to learn the secret sauce that makes Tacklytics special. They will work through a training module covering all the data we collect on performance and tackling technique. In total, Tacklytics provides 88 different data points on every tackle.

Next, they grade film, looking at hundreds of tackles and building expertise in identifying key elements in both pre-contact and contact. By the end of this module our new analysts are able to describe the effectiveness of a tackle, spot areas of improvement, and highlight safety concerns.

Finally, to successfully complete their training and graduate as an Atavus analyst, they must correctly evaluate three games at or above our minimum Inter-Rater Reliability (IRR) standard.

IRR was introduced to Tacklytics by our research advisor Dr. Art Maerlender, former professor at the University of Nebraska and author of the concussion protocol guidelines. The purpose of the IRR process is to guarantee consistency and accuracy in the data collection process. Whether your film is analyzed by the newest or oldest member of the Atavus team, the data you receive will remain consistent.

In practice, analysts must maintain an IRR accuracy rating of 85% throughout training and the season. In other words, at minimum, 2,400 of the 2,800 data points collected in the average game must be correct.

(During the season, any discrepancies or questions the analyst may have get passed along to a Sr. Analyst, who will watch the game for a second time to correct any mistakes and answer any questions. Finally, an Atavus Coach will review the data, find teachable moments in the game film, and create a tackle plan for the client. This process was implemented to ensure that if the same game is analyzed by two different sets of analysts, more than 95% of the data will be the same in the two datasets. This level of accuracy and consistency adheres to the standards of academic research and allows Atavus to provide quality data for our clients.)

The purpose of Tacklytics is to help coaches better understand their teams. Using the data that our analyst team creates, Atavus can help coaches address their players’ tackling weaknesses and celebrate the player’s tackling strengths. We built our analyst team with people who are former players, current coaches, and passionate about the game of football. When Tackle U ends and the season starts in the next couple of weeks, we are excited to see our analyst team help coaches change the game of football.