Trent Greener Q&A, Part Two

SEATTLE - In part two of our conversation with Trent Greener, Washington's Director of Sports Performance, we focus on winter mat drills and the emphasis on lifting during the Huskies' off-season. So what goes on in the wee hours of those chilly February mornings? You might be surprised to find out there's a lot more to mat drills than mats and strategically-placed trash cans. So what happened this winter with mat drills? What's your take on what happens with those?

Trent Greener: I think above and beyond anything else, it's the ability for us - as a team and as a staff - to get together, in the morning, to close the doors and to push each other and encourage each other to build those bridges that we think will make us a better football team. We do some great athletic drills. I know Coach (Willingham) changed some things up in there, and the coaches are always looking to improve things. But it's a way for us to build trust, to build team unity, to look the other guy in the eye, because you're running the same sprints, you're running the same quarters, you're doing the same agility drills.

When we say 'mat drills', do we get on the mat? Yes. But there's so much more that's encompassed around that. Mat drills are a great moment in the team workout setting where you're on the mat and everybody is responsible for everybody else. If one person messes up, the whole unit suffers. It's like if one guy jumps offsides; you still have ten other guys doing everything right. So now all of a sudden the great play that ten guys might have nailed now doesn't work. The mat drills session is just another extension of that; it's one of those building blocks to winning the next play, winning the next series, winning the next game. That's what I see.

It's a lot of drills, there's a lot of movement, there's a lot of coaching going on in there, and guys are put in leadership positions, guys are asked to go above and beyond what they think they can do. And they do it. When they walk out of there and we've walked through those doors together, it's like, everyone got a little bit better today. Everybody got coached a little bit more, the coaches got to learn about the players a little more, we got to learn a little more about each other, and that's what makes it such a unique setting. The mat drills session is something you can hang your hat on. It's a very valuable asset, a very valuable tool in the development of this program.

DM.C: It's interesting to hear you focus more on the mental side and the intangibles of mat drills, other than just the conditioning aspect of it.

Greener: We have some guys that are out there that are really gifted physically and the coaches put them in the right position, but it's all about getting to that next level. We've struggled in the fourth quarter (of games). We know that. So there are some things that we're trying to do to address that. But how do you get there? Is it conditioning level? We need to address that. Is it having the ability to believe that, when you are tired, you can still go out and make that great play? Putting people in leadership positions where other people can trust you...there is so much trust in the huddle when you are holding each other's hand. We don't do it just to do it. We have to trust each other. You have to go out there and know that you're going to give it everything you've got. But if you're out there thinking, I saw this guy in mat drills and he wasn't being a team guy...we need to eradicate that. That's why we go in there and do what we do.

When you get down to it - the running, blocking, tackling, scheming and all the game prep - those guys have to go out there and believe in each other. They have to be able to turn their brains off and listen to themselves and go as a unit and do it. Because if you're out there and you have 11 guys doing 11 different things...long day.

DM.C: A two-part question. During the fall we started to find out how the team was using the pool as a way to recover on Sundays. So does that extend into the recovery period after the season, and do the trainers impliment it into the team's regimen?

Greener: In the winter we don't, simply because we feel that we can get a pretty good grip on things. We can build in recovery. Playing football, there's physics involved - mass on mass - and forces out there that we try and replicate and prepare our athletes for in terms of performance enhancement and injury prevention, but you are never really going to do that. That's why you go out and play spring ball, so you can re-orient the body.

So we utilize other recovery strategies. We've got some great equipment in here and have some things that we can do with low-impact treadmill running and great tempo runs. There are things we do at the end of workouts that help in flushing the system and help to get the athletes physically ready for the next workout. Guys get beat up so much during the course of a season, it's almost a battle of attrition.

But during the off-season, we're planning for an 'unload' week. We're planning for all of it, but every day we've got something hard going on. There's something being stressed and some part of the workout is putting somebody under fire. We're all tested at some point or another. We don't utilize the pool; we have other ways of getting ready; the icetub with rub, the cold tub. We book-end our workouts with running and mat drills and we can get some guys doing some flexibility things. Our hours aren't eaten up with travel. You aren't sitting on a bus or sitting on a plane, so we can control some of the different factors a little bit more than you can in-season.

DM.C: Because you talked about emphasizing lifting a little more in the off-season, what lifts have you found to be the best when trying to get a player ready for football-specific movement?

Greener: You hear different people talk different terminology, but 'core' lifts, 'foundation' lifts...whatever they may call them, we break things down into movements and actions. But I think you have to have a squatting movement, a squatting action where you are bending the knees. It's a loaded, weight-bearing activity that stresses the musculature of the hips and legs and low back - and that's the back squat. You can do a couple of different things, but if you get too far from it, you're missing the boat. And in our setting, it's not like the NFL. We've got young men with a good training age and when things are going well the recovery system works a little more efficiently because of their age.

The other thing is upper body, different pressing activities that stress the musculature of the shoulder and upper body. You can use a bench press, an incline press. You want to produce a lot of force, because some of those real heavy movements - like the squat - are important. But football is played explosively. It's fast and sudden at impact. So we've got to be able to bridge that gap.

Sometimes you'll see someone lifting a heavy weight, and that bar is moving slow. We'll do a lot of Olympic-type lifts - like a power clean. We'll pull from the ground, I'm a big power clean believer, because a football player has to put his hand on the ground. Some will argue that a receiver or defensive back won't put their hand on the ground, but at some time or another you have to look at how best you can prepare the body physically and recruit as much muscle and as much activity in the body as we can, and elicit force, and that's through the power clean.

So we power clean, we squat and we do some sort of upper-body pressing. And those are the things you're going to hang your hat on, because if you look at the nature of football - blocking, tackling, etc... - those are high-force, highly demanding activities. And they are also highly-skilled activities. Doing a power clean, doing an Olympic movement and doing a back squat - you've got a lot of production in terms of doing a big skill with an external load on you. It's like making a block with some guy pushing and pulling you. You have to control that weight through the range of motion and out in space. Those are things when thinking about developing strength and power, body awareness and the musculature to play at this level.

DM.C: As an aside, when we were younger we were outside and incredibly active all the time, doing things to build a lot of core strengh. Are you seeing a change in bodies over the years because of TV, video games and the internet?

Greener: Yes. We've talked about that amongst each other, and that conversation probably started around 8-10 years ago. It was just a little different, and younger people have more resources. Maybe we took those things for granted. I can't put my finger on it and say definitively, but I think there is some of that, and intuitively I believe we think there's something to it.

The other thing too is that more high schools do have weight programs nowadays, and hopefully they are being implimented the right way. I'm not going to sit here on a high horse. I make some bad calls and I'll be the first one to say that I need to do a better job in certain areas. But sometimes guys will put themselves in bad postural positions day in and day out, so by the time we see them there are some back issues. And that's not trying to put something on the high school coach, because in many cases they just don't have the resources. So those are issues you have to look at. Top Stories