A conversation with Trent Greener

SEATTLE - In the hubub of fall football camp, with position battles ongoing, human-interest stories to write about and the occasional off-field incident to report on, sometimes the importance of what happened in the offseason gets lost in the shuffle. Here to get us back on track is Washington's Director of Sport Performance - Trent Greener.

We sat down with Greener this week to talk about the football program - what he saw when he got here from Oregon State, and where his program is headed.

Dawgman.com: What did you see with the football program and it's strength and conditioning efforts when you first decided to look at taking the job?

Trent Greener: "It's not all that much different now than when we got here. When we came in, guys were working hard and training and doing the things they needed to get done. Just the way the room was and the way things were designed...each coach has a different tweak and basic philosophy, so we changed the room up with some different apparatus to impliment our philosophy and our way of training.

"They had people in place, but when you're struggling, sometimes that just doesn't come out. Kids have a lot of coaches and lot of changeover. With so much change everywhere, it was hard for them to get it on the field. Physically they were fine. We did a few tweaks, but for the most part they were OK. They were working hard and I saw them work out. Guys were doing all the right things."

DM.C: Just like the program was able to eliminate a lot of shoulder injuries with the implimentation of a hammer strength machine, what things have you brought in to reduce the number of injuries?

TG: "Things are cyclical. When you are around football on a daily basis, you might see three or four ankle sprains and then not see them for another year or two. Things tend to be cyclical. You try to be preventative, and you try to get the players ready for practice and to get them on the field, and that's what we try to facilitate. We try to cover all the weak links in terms of what might get normally injured for a football player - the neck, ankle, knee, back - we try to target those in our everyday programs."

DM.C: So is it a matter of luck, as much as anything else? Especially when you look at something like last year's offensive line - which basically played the entire season intact?

TG: "There's clearly an element of that, but there's also a very targeted team approach. I work with Rob Scheidegger, head athletic trainer, and knowing the practices and the tempo and how Coach (Tyrone) Willingham runs things and how physical practices can be, we try to take a view of our landscape and work to be preventative. We tell them that when they come in, they are going to work hard and prepare. We try to develop guys, and anything that comes up as a red flag we try to head it off before they become something that's chronic. You're never going to avoid the acute injury - the one-time mishap. That just happens. It's unfortunate, but it's part of the game. But the open lines of communication definitely help."

DM.C: What were your initial impressions of working with Willingham?

TG: "I had seen him on the sidelines when I was at the other place (Oregon State). I always knew that he was a disciplined coach, very few penalties. So that was my general impression before meeting him. When I met him from the get-go, I could tell the sense of discipline and the sense of how everything is important, every area is important - we are going to leave no stone unturned - we are going to work hard, we are going to be fair and equitable. I could tell that the trainer was going to be important and that Sports Medicine was going to be important. I just saw a plan in place, and it was neat to hear that. I knew from then in, in a very short period of time - that I was going to pester him until I became a Husky."

DM.C: What were your initial impressions of the facilities once you decided you wanted to come to Washington?

TG: "I saw them on the side when I had been up to play a couple of times. I knew that we were going to make a couple of changes to the weight room too, but I thought the facilities were very impressive. And not just the facilities - but also the people I met. You had some long-time people here, but also some new people, and the energy was there. Washington is a place where every coach is playing for a championship. That's what struck me. That to me - in my area - is very exciting, because there's always a buzz year 'round. That was very neat. They (facilities) are very competitive in the Pac-10, but they know that they need to keep up. Part of it is, we have to take what we have now and win and move forward."

DM.C: In general, what have you put in place that differed from your predecessors?

TG: "I do some more Olympic-oriented movements, in terms of how we clean and how we put a bar over our head. We try to get some real high-velocity activities going on. It pre-disposes your athletes to have more explosion. And we're not trying to create body-builders or weight-lifters, but we've implimented some Olympic movements and some total-body training sessions during our winter programs, just so we can maximize their strength, power and speed."

DM.C: "How important has speed training become as part of your overall regimen?

TG: "Speed is directly attributable to having a strong, powerful athlete and that's all grounded in strength. We combine the running, lifting and the jumping and all those things year-around, because we're trying to create a strong, powerful, explosive, sudden athlete. And you have to have those big, ugly guys in the middle too and you have to be strong in the middle, because those guys can make the other guys look fast too when they are blowing open holes or stopping guys up front so that guys in space can run and make plays. From our standpoint - back in the day our winter program would have consisted of nothing but lifting weights for two, two-and-a-half hours. In the mid-80's, they realized that we have to get them to move too. We were creating these big refrigerators, but nothing was getting done. We'd have guys now running around them and those guys couldn't block someone they couldn't hit.

"So guys were trying to integrate things. Nowadays, you go in and do dynamic workouts with speed development drills as a warmup and then you'd do some footspeed drills, and then maybe you'd do some ground-based core exercises, and work on hip-flexibility and then go hit the weights. So you're in it 15 minutes, and then you'd lift for an hour, 75 minutes, and then finish it off with some jump-training, some plyometric work. The workout looks completely different, and we're doing that year-around. Here at Washington, we work on speed 365 days a year. That is crucial. My starting guys - Sunday after a game - will be working on speed. We will always fold a component of getting faster into a workout. We always have a component of speed in our training sessions. I don't care if it's footspeed, strike, reaction, whatever it is - speed is something we train on every day."

DM.C: I know the Sunday pool workouts were a big hit last year. Will you continue to do that, or even expound on those workouts?

TG: "Schools have experimented with it. We have targeted games where we know we need to be in the pool - whether it's a long road trip or we know it's going to be an especially physical game - we target some times where we know we'll need a pool session. People use different things, but it's not as if we're in there with float toys. They get their heart-rates up, they are moving around. We are still getting a heck of a workout. Moving through the water is still resistance, so it's a good thing. And the pool is right there - so we're going to use it."

DM.C: Is continuity with a strength and conditioning regimen almost more important than continuity on a coaching staff?

TG: "The more continuity, they get it. You don't have to coach them as much. I impress upon my assistants to use the same time of coaching cues that the football coaches would use, because they are with us as much as anybody. They can come in and apply themselves; there isn't a lot of guesswork. The more you can worry just about application and the 'how' instead of the 'what', you're so much better off. Too much change, and all they are worried about is the 'what'. How we go about what we do is so important."

DM.C: How does your job change once the players are done with your summer workout session?

TG: "One of the things we always talk about when we test or we finish a summer program - it's not as if we're just handing them off to the coaching staff. It's a continuation. It's a process. There are things we change the minute practice starts. We are worried about guys' weights and working with sports nutrition about what they are putting in their bodies and what they can use to recover and perform (i.e. chocolate milk). Ultimately we're worried about wins and losses, but we also want to make sure the program is always moving forward. The other guys are trying to win too, and sometimes the ball just bounces funny. But if you're improving your ability to go out there and play 60-70 plays as fast as you can and as hard as you can, you're always giving yourself a chance to be competitive."

DM.C: I know you can't talk about specifics, but what was it about certain players on the offensive line and their summer workouts?

TG: "We get them eight hours a week. That's two hours a day, which leaves 22 hours a day for them to do whatever they want. And we're hoping they take care of themselves when they leave the facility. That means making good, intelligent, informed choices decisions that are going to allow you to maximize your hard work. I have setbacks in my own workouts, in my own training. And sometimes it's hard to balance workouts with work and with life in general. Those young men have decisions to make. Hopefully when we're around them all year long, that helps. I don't think there's a real disconnect (when they leave the gym for the day), but when you don't make good decisions back-to-back, it just compounds things. Everybody here is on the same page, we're just asking some of our guys to do extra-special things. Guys learn from experience. And sometimes that experience comes from bad decisions. But as long as they learn and they want to get better, we can make that happen."

DM.C: Clearly, the football coaches are ultimately judged by wins and losses. Is it that simple for you and your program as well?

TG: "We are going to be graded on wins and losses and everyone here understands that. This is not my first rodeo. I get it. But we're also trying to develop young people. It's cliche, but they become coaches for us, and everyone has a vested interest in the program and what we do."

DM.C: I know focus is going to be on the guys that didn't reach their goals, but do you also have a lot of guys that go above and beyond?

TG: "That's a great question! I like the way you put that too - above and beyond. I see a lot of guys going above and beyond. Successful guys I've been around - they will always run that hill on their own. They will go get some guys, and when they are done here they will come back at night. Or they will do some 7-on (7) or they'll do some crossover work with the o-line or d-line. And it's fantastic. Not only does it help with sound decision-making, but it also helps to keep them active all the time and helps build the team. There's a lot of unity with stuff like that. I've been places where you almost had to pull guys back because they wanted to do too much, and we had to let them know that it's a long season and you don't want to burn the candle on both ends. You want to stay on top of that too. But some of these guys, it's amazing the energy they've put into things, how they're being creative to go out and do different things to improve themselves. I've see it take off."

DM.C: I know you've only been here a couple of years, but do you feel like things are getting better and better and that everything is progressing the way you'd like to see it?

TG: "I think these guys have worked tremendously hard from the winter on, and I think they have made strides in the areas they needed to make strides in. I think they've prepared themselves mentally and physically to the point where they were ready to withstand the rigors of fall camp, instead of just having a survivor mentality. They've done their homework already. Now it's a matter of honing their football skills. I've been around some good programs, and this program has some driven guys. They've put forth a lot of effort."

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