Your masters degree is in kinesiology. That has to do with understanding each muscle in the human body. How does having a masters in kinesiology help you as a strength and conditioning coach?
"It helps me when I'm teaching. It helps me explain why you move a weight in this direction and why you don't do it this way. A kid might ask me why can't we do this program. That will help me explain it, as opposed to saying I read it in this magazine.
"That's why I tell Kate, one of my GA's, I want her to understand why we do certain things and why we don't do certain things and not just be a robot and do what I tell her to do. I think, in the past, that probably is what has happened here. That is something that I'm trying to change a little bit, I'm trying to get some of the science involved. That's part of the reason I have a wall of articles at the top of the steps. I want people to read them so it will help educate them."
While you understand the muscles, do you continue to learn each day?
"Absolutely. And you always have to go back and re-read things and refresh your memory. I give my GA's three or four articles a week to read and we sit down and talk about different topics. They may come up with an idea that I haven't thought about."
Your first job after graduating from college was at the University of Kentucky. How did you wind up there?
"I was real lucky to be hired there. I played basketball in college. We were playing Transylvania early in November and we were kind of standing around waiting for the bus. A coach for the other team who knew my dad came up to me and asked what I planned on doing when I got of college. I told him I wanted to get into strength and conditioning. He told me he knew the guy at Kentucky and would give him a call and see if he has anything available. I thought at the time that was a nice thing to say and he was just trying to be nice. Two weeks later the coach from Kentucky called. He told me we have heard a lot of good things about you and will hold a spot for you. So, I jumped at it because I have always been a Kentucky fan. I started the summer after they won the national title by beating Syracuse."
What sports did you work with while at Kentucky?
"Men's and women's basketball, volleyball and tennis. I was an assistant, a graduate assistant, from 1996 to 1998."
Did you have total control of those sports or were you one of a few who helped with those sports?
"No, I was a (graduate assistant). Women's tennis was my sport to work with. I also assisted the head strength coach (Shaun Brown) with men's and women's basketball. He is now with the Toronto Raptors. He was my mentor and kind of got me in the door."
From Kentucky, you went to Butler University, the Butler that defeated MSU in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. What was your position there?
"I went in as the head strength coach. In fact, I was the first strength coach that they had ever had. I was in charge of everybody, 400 people. Some people worked with me more closely than others."
You mentioned all the help Kentucky and Clemson had. How many other coaches were there at Butler other than you?
"I was by myself, no GA's, nobody."
How in the world were you able to do that?
"It was difficult. Some people came in as a team. With the basketball guys, I brought them in small groups throughout the day. It was not uncommon for me to get there at 5:30 in the morning and leave at 8 o'clock at night."
Since you worked with all the sports, that must have been a great learning experience for you. Did you have a different routine for each sport?
"No, it is just training athletes. Making them better athletes as opposed to weight-lifters. We might concentrate on different muscles groups more closely. Like in volleyball, we might do some rotator cuff exercises that we might not do in basketball, more shoulder work for tennis.
"A lot of what I do, especially with larger groups, depends on how hard their partners train each other. Initially, during the first workout, I will show them what I expect and teach them how to do the exercise. Then, it is up to their partners to train them. If they don't train them hard enough, then they won't get the full benefit of the workout."
You worked with the Butler basketball team that beat MSU for a couple of years, didn't you?
"The juniors on that team were the last group that I worked with."
What did you do to make them so good?
"I don't think it was so much what we did in the weightroom as it was the fact that they were just tough kids. I think a lot of it was the kind of kids they recruited."
That may be true, but I've heard from several coaches that the strength coach makes them tougher on the court by making them go beyond what they think they can do in the weightroom. That develops mental toughness.
"That is one of the things I try to stress, doing more than you think you can. The mental part does transfer directly. When you think you can't do one more and you force yourself to do three more, that transfers. I had a sign at Butler hanging above the door that said 'could you have done more' I like that, challenging yourself. I'm not going to yell and scream. It's the kid's career. If he doesn't care, then me yelling and screaming at him is just going to make it worse and make it stressful for everybody."
Back to Butler. Did you handle their baseball team as well?
From Butler, you went to Clemson. What sports did you work with?
"I worked with men's and women's basketball. I also worked with rowing a little bit my last year."
Why did you leave Clemson?
"A lot of times at that level, when the head coach goes, the whole staff goes. And I was part of his (basketball) staff. When he resigned, through no fault of my own I was let go. Most people know it's not your fault when that kind of thing happens. You are kind of guilty by association. I would have given my life for that guy. I loved working for him."
How did you find out about the Mississippi State job?
"I heard about it through the grapevine at the (coaches) national convention. I had people looking for me and somebody mentioned this (job) was going to be opened, so I emailed my information to the (MSU) assistant basketball coaches, because I had heard they were going to be the guys that were going to be in charge of hiring. They passed it along (to the MSU administration) and I interviewed for the job."
Talk a little about what your routine is for the players at MSU is?
"On the college level, the (athletes) have classes, practice, study hall, a social life, they have to eat by a certain hour. Because of that, I may only get them for a half an hour or an hour at a time. I have to make sure that hour is as productive and efficient as possible. The way we train is not the typical, traditional three sets of 10, do a set, stand there and rest, talk about your weekend, then do another set. If you aren't working out or spotting, then you are wrong. The pace is quick between exercises. The exercises themselves are not done in a quick fashion, but they are done to failure. That means doing as many as you possibly can and then 3 or 4 extra repetitions with a partner. Failure is not fatigue, is it not where you barely get that last one and you are tired. Failure is when you are pushing one way but you are going in the opposite direction."
That means you are pushing but the weight is not going upwards but back toward you, right?
"Yes, you can't get that last repetition and you also do 3 or 4 forced repetition with a partner. You take the weight off and go again immediately. You are doing back to back two sets. Then, your partner does the same thing and you move on to the next exercise."
Explain that in more detail.
"I get down and do a set to failure, then my spotter helps me get 3 or 4 extra. Then, we rack the weight and take 25% off and I go again to failure. Then, my spotter, who is also my partner, does the same. I go back to back and my partner goes back to back. Then, we go to the next exercise."
How many different exercises do you do each session?
"We do 12 to 18 exercises every other day. We do the full body each session, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Some also do it two days a week, which is Tuesday and Thursday."
How receptive have the players been to your workouts?
"They have been very receptive. I have been very impressed with their willingness to do the workouts. All the athletes here have been very disciplined and are excited and willing to be in the weightroom. They all like the weightroom. So, that has been a big plus for me and has made the transition easier. When you replace a guy who had been here for about 25 years and who is loved by everybody, you don't want to step on any toes, but you want to establish my own thing."
[Because he has been at other colleges and has seen their weight and conditioning programs, one of the subjects that I asked Shannon about was the difference in the number of strength coaches (full-time and graduate assistants) and weightrooms each school had that he coached at. I did that so that I, along with all the rest of the MSU fans, could see and understand where MSU, due to financial limitations, stands in regard to people and space when compared to the schools they are expected to compete with on a daily basis.-Gene]
How many people did you have helping you with basketball at Clemson?
"I had one GA and myself."
How many strength coaches did they have at Clemson for all sports?
"They had five full-time people and three or four GA's and some student assistants as well."
How many people did Kentucky have on the strength staff?
"They had a full-time guy for football with a couple of assistants and some (graduate assistants). They also had their own weightroom. They had a full-time person and a couple of assistants for their Olympic sports and a different weightroom. For men's and women's basketball and volleyball, they had a full-time guy, an assistant and two GA's."
How many full-time people and graduate assistants are there at MSU?
"Mike (Grant) and I are full-time. I think he has two GA's and I have two GA's."
How does MSU compare to the other schools as far as weightrooms are concerned?
"At Kentucky they had three. Clemson had two. Having one weightroom for all sports for an SEC school is surprising. Butler had one about the size of ours and it is a Horizon League school."
It sounds like MSU is definitely behind.
"Mississippi State is way behind but the administration knows and understands that. I think part of the problem is just realizing it. And they do. There is no question they do. They want things to change as badly as I do and they are in the process of changing it. It just takes time."
[I didn't get this part on tape due to my tape running out. Shannon pointed out that the MSU administration is currently working on getting an indoor facility for football and one for baseball. And the administration is also trying to figure out if there is any space in the Hump for a weightroom for basketball.-Gene]
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.