Devils Digest: You arrived here in Tempe a little over a week ago, how would you sum up your experience so far?
Shawn Griswold: "It's been good. This is day 9 and I have kind of hit the ground running. Came here on Sunday after (Pittsburgh's) bowl game and had one day to get the staff on the same page…the kids have done a great job learning on a short notice all the different things we are teaching: whether it's hip mobility, cleans, squats, new terminology and those kind of things. When you change a staff over, your players may already know a lot of things but the terminology can be different."
Devils Digest: Have you been surprised how easy the transition has been for the players or has the transition actually hasn't been that smooth in the first few days?
Shawn Griswold: "When you take over from someone that has done a good job, and their philosophy is a little bit different in how they set up their lifting, but they still do cleans and squats – it's a lot easier. So the transition has been ‘OK, here is what I'm looking at, here is what I'm coaching…little technique changes here and there as far as what I want to see' it's a lot easier to do. Now, if you're taking over someone who doesn't do Olympic lifts, it's a little more challenging."
Devils Digest: What kind of challenges have you faced since you got here?
Shawn Griswold: "The biggest challenge for me right now is learning the kids. Usually I would drop in and have a week to spend with the staff and go through stuff like who works hard and who doesn't? Who is a leader and who isn't? Meeting with Bill (Martin the team's trainer) to go over injuries…so still trying to deal with all of this on the fly. I'm still trying to learn all that. I‘m such a hands-on strength coach as far as my relationship with my players and I like to know exactly what they are doing. Why is a kid struggling? Is something going on at home? Does he have a big test? There are just so many things I get to know with these kids because I'm with them so much.
"So that is the biggest challenge. I'm now trying to coach seven strength coaches in addition to 100 football players, but the strength staff has been great as far as learning. To a fault I'm probably a perfectionist and I like things to be done a certain way. The kids' attitude and intensity has been very good. They give good effort and encourage one another and that part is fantastic."
Devils Digest: Like any coach, seeing the growth in a player is probably the most rewarding part of your job…
Shawn Griswold: "Especially for me and that is why I got into the strength side of coaching and not the football side of it. I get to see the players basically 365 days a year. There are obviously some breaks along the way, but for the most part the NCAA doesn't tell me I can't see the players in January/February and it's different with the football coaches.
"By the time we hit August with this new staff, they would have coached their guys for 15 (spring) practices. I'm going to have 15 (sessions) in the first three weeks of the year. Building that relationship starts with us down here and hopefully we can help the football coaches telling them ‘this kid works hard' and those types of things. The ultimate goal for my players is to win Pac-12 championships, win a national championship and obviously be NFL-ready when it's time. Obviously the growth the parents see from the time they drop them off until they pick them up will hopefully show them that their sons are better men, because our society needs better people."
Devils Digest: Coach Todd Graham has been preaching ‘High Octane' ever since he arrived at ASU. Working with coach Graham for several years now, you obviously know what he means by that saying, so how do you translate that to the weight room?
Shawn Griswold: "We do things a little different per se, than what other teams do if you were to read a book that has a scientific background. Because we go fast, you really have to be in great shape on special teams and defense. Many of our scoring drives are under two minutes. We can slow it down and do a lot of things, and it's not that we don't run the football. The years we had a big time offense we were also top-10 in rushing, but we were just able to also throw the ball well.
"So on defense you may go on a nine-play drive, stop the offense and then we go down and bang, bang, bang we score and now the defense is right back out there. So you have to be in great shape in all three phases of the game. We go a little quicker here, but when things get heavy (during spring and fall practice, for example) we will slow it down a little bit. But here we always talk about tempo, which means all the players jogging from station to station, from drill to drill…just the basics of being part of a team."
Devils Digest: Discipline is naturally another strong trait of Graham. How do you implement that aspect in the strength and conditioning workouts?
Shawn Griswold: "Kids always say ‘treat me like a man.' Well, I say ‘then act like one.' At your job if you show up late more than once, any good boss is probably going to let you go. Then you have a wife and a family to go to and say: ‘I didn't get it done.' Hopefully, through our discipline here (in strength and conditioning) we will be better on the field and also make them better young people when football is over.
"If you gave a long career in the NFL, you're still 34, 35 years old when you're done. You still have a lot of life left and you'll have to be on time for your next job. For us to be on time, we like to be five minutes early. That way at 8:10 you're dressed, you're taped and you're ready to go at 8:15. If you show up at 8:15, but your shoes are untied – we'll give you a little punishment to remind you that you need to be ready to go on time.
"As far as our uniform it's black top, grey short and sometimes we'll switch it to grey top, black short, as long as they are all together. Football is the ultimate team game and that's what we are selling them. It's 11 kids crossing that white line onto the field and if those 11 kids aren't accountable to each other and don't care about one another, then we'll win some and lose some, but will never take that step to win the big one."
Devils Digest: In all honesty, in the first few days here have you seen even the slightest resistance from some players as you enforce that discipline?
Shawn Griswold: "So far they have been pretty good. Time will tell though. As they say, a tiger will always show its stripes. There are always a couple of kids that are resistant but right now this is Day 5 of training and everybody is still very excited and jacked up because we are not very far into it.
"Now, when we get eight weeks deep then let's see who's still here everyday and on time. But they won't break me, I'll break them first but hopefully that doesn't happen. We want to be a positive environment here."
Devils Digest: In your experience, doesn't it sometimes seem like a delicate balancing act having just the right amount of discipline so you don't seem too lax or too strict?
Shawn Griswold: "No, because I have been blessed having great athletes and great kids. We don't have a lot of rules. You can't have gum in your mouth so you don't swallow it or drop it. We don't wear earrings, we don't wear bandanas, so we don't have no head gear on. And we wear the same clothes.
"We say that you control your attitude and effort every day. All I want you to do is work hard. You're are going to mess up and slip during an agility drill, but I want you to get up and finish it. There are about five to ten plays that really decide a game. So, if you were covering a guy and you slip and fall, I would hope you get up and chase him down. Even though he caught the ball and he's running down the field, you may be able to pop the ball from behind and prevent a big play"