‘What leads to fulfillment is helping other people succeed.’ Will Greenberg – Olympic S & C Coaches interviewed Episode 90
Will Greenberg, Strength and Conditioning Coach for the NFL club Buffalo Bills shares his journey into strength & conditioning, why he believes you need to pester people respectfully, how he values human connections, and the importance of people in your network that challenge your believes.
Furthermore, we discuss
- Life in the NFL during the COVID-19 crisis
- How he got into strength and conditioning
- His darkest moment
- His best moment
- His advice to a younger Will Greenberg
- His advice to young and aspiring S & C coaches
- The importance of people that challenge you and where to find them
- The differences between working in the university setting and professional sports setting
- How to work in a high-pressure environment like the NFL
- How to structure the strength and conditioning to the different playing positions in American Football
- His coaching philosophy
- His core values
- How to deal with decisions you don’t agree with
- How to manage expectations
- A typical training day in the life of an S & C coach in the NFL
- How to design a training program
- Dealing with complex problems in the S & C industry
- Complexity vs simplicity and the process of finding the right answers
- His interview nomination
- Where can you find Will Greenberg
Christian: In this interview, I’m joined by Will Greenberg. Will is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Buffalo Bills. Will has previously worked as Director of S & C at the Southern Utah University; Assistant S & C at the United States Military Academy and Director of S & C at Appalachia University and Assistant S & C at the University of Florida.
Will: Christian, thanks for having me.
Life in the NFL during the COVID-19 crisis
Christian: Will, how’s life at this moment in the COVID-19 crisis and the NFL? How do you cope?
Will: It’s difficult for everyone. We’re just doing the best that we can stay safe and stay healthy. We are trying to support our athletes the best that we can.
How he got into strength and conditioning
Christian: Let’s jump right into it. How did you get into strength and conditioning?
Will: You know as a kid, I was always the smallest. I was a little bit of a late bloomer and I was always gravitating towards sports. I played baseball, basketball, and I ran track. I was just a generally active kid.
I remember the first time walking into a weight room when I was 13 years old and it looked like a playground and it looked like something that I wanted to do. It was a Nautilus facility of John Philbin who had been formally Arthur Jones’s disciple.
I remember the first time walking into a weight room when I was 13 years old and it looked like a playground and it looked like something that I wanted to do.
If I knew then what I knew now about what was going on in that facility and about what I could have accomplished there, but either way it was something that was encouraging for me for sport. I loved every aspect of it. I loved the challenge of it. I loved the physical and mental challenge of it.
So after college where I played baseball and was part of a strength and conditioning program at the University of Maryland, I realized that it could be a job for me after school. So I started as an intern with my former baseball Program and Strength Coach there, just to test the field out a little bit. And once I dip my toes in, I just wanted to jump right in.
Christian: And that was primarily baseball?
Will: I played baseball in college. I played some basketball and after I was done, I started an internship and a Graduate Assistant position at the University of Florida with Preston Greene. And that was all with basketball. It just happened to be with basketball.
It had nothing to do with whether I preferred it. I just knew of the reputation of Preston Greene. I sent him emails for eight months, asking if he needed a graduate assistant, and finally, when the time came, he called me up and said that he was tired of me bothering him, so I should come down and help him out.
I sent him emails for eight months, asking if he needed a graduate assistant, and finally, when the time came, he called me up and said that he was tired of me bothering him, so I should come down and help him out.
That’s how I started back in the collegiate setting, which was in basketball actually, which is a relatively unique setting. Most Strength and Conditioning Coaches in college, in the US, start in football and then branch off from there. I had the unique opportunity to learn from someone who I greatly respected in a little bit of a different context, which allows me to see things sometimes in a different light.
Christian: How many emails did you send him?
Will: It must have been once a week for eight months. I knew that I needed to get my name in there. It was a competitive environment. Luckily I had someone who knew him on my side, so I just wanted to stay in contact.
That’s actually some advice that I give to younger Strength Coaches trying to break in the business is just pester someone. Be respectful, but pester someone. Go see if you can shadow them.
Some advice that I give to younger Strength Coaches trying to break into the business is just pester someone. Be respectful, but pester someone.
When he came to town, he was at Clemson at the time. When they came to Maryland, where I was living, I went to go see him and introduce myself and watch them play at the University of Maryland. So again, I was as respectful as possible, but I was trying to put my name in his ear and show some value to him so that when the time came it would be a no-brainer for him.
Christian: I had spoken to Matt Little, Andy Murray’s S&C coach, and he said something very similar when he started out. He wanted to go to Australia to learn the trade of Strength and Conditioning and he sent mails after mails after mails. Always respectful, but after some time people tend to reply.
- Check out the interview ‘Expect that this journey will take an incredibly long time.’ with Andy Murray’s Strength & Conditioning Coach Matt Little
His darkest moment
Christian: What was your darkest moment as an S&C coach?
Will: That’s a good question. Something I value in S & C is the connection with the athlete. I think all my darkest moments end up being my athletes’ darkest moments. Maybe where I felt like I failed them in some way, or they failed or I could have done something to help them.
Something I value in S & C is the connection with the athlete. I think all my darkest moments end up being my athletes’ darkest moments.
So it’s not necessarily a personal moment in my life that was the darkest moment. But I can recall multiple times where I felt like I could have done more for an athlete that they failed or they didn’t reach their potential.
It allows me to reflect on how I could have done more for that athlete because part of this job is connecting and helping others, which really is what leads to fulfillment within the job, is connecting and helping people succeed. So I’d say those are my darkest moments, whether they be small or big it’s always something that I reflect upon.
Christian: Do you have a specific example?
Will: When I was at Southern Utah, it was my first chance to really lead a football team. And I remember that I thought I had it figured out. I thought we were going to train hard, get strong, put a bunch of muscle mass on guys, establish a culture, everything that a Strength Coach is supposed to do.
I thought I was doing really well and we got to the season and we had more injuries than I would’ve ever expected. We had non-contact ACLs; we had hamstrings; we had contact injuries as well. These were all things that were probably unavoidable.
But every time an athlete got injured, I would have this pit in my stomach like I didn’t do enough for that athlete. And my initial reaction is I wanted to apologize for that athlete. Maybe it wasn’t avoidable, maybe it was, but I always took that with me.
Every time an athlete got injured, I would have this pit in my stomach like I didn’t do enough for that athlete.
I know that it’s never going to be perfect and I’m never going to have the singular answer to how to avoid those injuries. But I just recall the first thing that came to my mind was those injuries when I was Director there because I felt like I was directly responsible.
Christian: I can relate to that. I also have some memories from the past where I think like maybe I could have done more or sometimes I have two cases where I think I couldn’t help the person as much as I should have for various reasons. It’s a feeling you carry with you where you’re not sure whether you did everything you could.
His best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Will: There are probably a few, but again, it goes back to connecting with those athletes. There’s one in particular and it’s a pretty bittersweet moment for me when I was at United States Military Academy in army football.
I came in with a new staff and they hadn’t beat Navy, which is a huge game Army versus Navy. It’s America’s game, they call it. They hadn’t beaten Navy in the 12 years when we got there and if you played 12 games in a season in Army, if you go one and 11 and you beat Navy, it’s a good year. That’s how important that game is.
And so myself and the strength staff, we were part of a culture turnaround and I was there for two and a half years. I left right before the third season began. I went to Southern Utah and in the two years that I was there prior, we hadn’t beaten Navy.
When I left, I came back for the Army-Navy game, which was in December and I wasn’t on the sideline. I was up in the nosebleeds and it was the first time they had beaten Navy in 14 years. And I remember being up in the nosebleeds, way up above watching everyone I had just spent the last two and a half years making some of the strongest connections in my life with celebrating.
And, of course, I’m up in the nosebleeds celebrating, screaming, crying, but again, that was one of the best moments in my life to watch those people, but it was also bittersweet because I wasn’t down there with them.
It’s the experience of the struggle and the strain that you go through with all those people as you get there.
Again, it’s about the connections with the players and the athletes and the coaches and everyone that’s involved in a team sport like this. Whenever there’s a success, that’s always such a high moment. But looking back, it’s the experience of the struggle and the strain that you go through with all those people as you get there.
His advice to a younger Will Greenberg
Christian: If you could travel back in time, 10, 15, 20 years, what advice would you give your younger self?
Will: You know what? I don’t know if I’d want to give myself any advice. I’d want myself to figure out what I have figured out or taken the path that by chance, a lot of where I’ve gotten today was just by betting on myself, going to the internship, and to another internship.
I don’t know if I’d want to give myself any advice. I’d want myself to figure out what I have figured out.
There was also not getting paid very much for a while and just betting on myself that if I educated myself, if I met these people, if I ran into someone by chance and stayed in contact with them, I would grow my network. I also hoped that I would grow my knowledge; I would grow my wisdom and eventually I get somewhere where I could be proud of the work that I put in.
So, I wouldn’t necessarily give myself any advice. I think that my attitude back then was what I wanted it to be. I wanted to grind and I wanted to get somewhere. I had a goal in mind and I had a purpose to work for so I think he’s good. I think he can handle himself.
Christian: So the advice would be, keep going.
Will: Keep going.
His advice to young and aspiring S & C coaches
Christian: What advice would you give young, aspiring S & C coaches? You already mentioned pestering people respectfully. Can you expand on that?
Will: It’s probably a couple of things. Number one, invest in yourself and that might be part of it, of sending an email to someone that you respect and just reach out to them. You are not asking for all the advice in the world, but just say that you respect their work. You’d love to shadow them at some point and maybe go talk shop.
But people’s time is valuable, so you have to be very respectful of that. But invest in courses and books and invest your time into reading and learning and trying to understand things better and challenging yourself. Always spend time with people who have a different point of view than you.
Invest in yourself, invest in courses and books, invest your time into reading and learning, and challenge yourself.
It’s easy to be in an echo chamber with other Strength Coaches or other professionals that just mimic and echo the same thing that you do. They confirm each other, but it’s really hard to go and spend time with people who see it in a different light, people who will challenge you, and people who are unrelenting in that way.
I think that’s a really important thing for a young person to do and then outside of that, understand that there’s not a singular answer to things. That’s why it’s important to go find different views. It’s really easy to think that I need to solve this problem and that you’re going to use a simple answer.
There’s a best practice to it, but there are a lot of different ways to skin a cat. There’s a lot of different and good practices and some answers that we may not even know until we get into that situation.
It’s really hard to go and spend time with people who see it in a different light, people who will challenge you, and people who are unrelenting in that way.
So always keep an open mind, challenge yourself, surround yourself with people that are going to challenge you.
The importance of people that challenge you and where to find them
Christian: How would you go about finding these people that challenge you?
Will: Probably just through an inner process of going through and talking to people. I know that in my experience, I would call people that I knew were smart, and I thought were smarter than me and I would develop a friendship and a relationship, and I would bounce my ideas off them and ask for critical feedback.
I would call people that I thought were smarter than me and I would develop a friendship and a relationship, and I would bounce my ideas off them and ask for critical feedback.
Then it’s spending time with someone and if you feel like you’re two peas in the pod, it’s great. It’s always fun to spend time with that person, but go find other people and that might be through browsing through social media and seeing who has a different perspective than you.
That might be asking someone who may have a similar opinion of let’s take opposite sides of the coin here, and let’s have an argument about it. Let’s see if we can challenge our really deeply held beliefs and still come out believing the same thing, or if we’ve changed our mind in some way.
I think that’s actually a very valuable tool is if you’re debating with someone, flipping the roles and saying that they now get to debate their side and you get to debate your side to them and you’ll try to argue that way. It just opens up a new perspective for yourself.
Christian: Absolutely, yes.
The differences between working in the university setting and professional sports setting
Christian: You have worked in the university setting and professional sports setting. What would you say are commonalities and what are differences?
Will: Sport is always sport wherever you go. I’d say that’s the universal truth or the same part of it, but the relationships definitely have to be different. In the college setting, you’re more of an authority.
At college, a player comes in, you tell them what to do, and they’re going to obey the rules and if not, they’re disciplined. It’s almost like a military-type approach. But the relationship you form with them is coach and athlete almost. I don’t want to go as far as say as father-son, but it’s something where there’s an authority figure respect within that setting.
In the professional setting, it’s different because you’re more of a guide. You’re all employed by the same person. Most likely the players are going to be being paid more than the coaches in some cases.
In the college setting, you’re more of an authority. In the professional setting, you’re more of a guide.
Again, you’re being more of a guide. You’re trying to develop trust in a very short period of time because what you’re trying to do there is not necessarily develop them. You may only have a week, a month, a year, maybe a few years with a player.
So it’s more about optimizing what they already have and trying to polish the weaknesses and emphasize strengths. So, it’s less of a disciplinarian; more of a colleague guide to saying let me shape your path so that it’s easiest for you to succeed.
How to work in a high-pressure environment like the NFL
Christian: Working in the NFL to the best of my knowledge, athletes have short careers compared to other American sports. There’s also high pressure of performing. How does that play out in the delivery of Strength & Conditioning? So just talk us through generally how you approach and your colleagues approach the training.
Will: I believe there’s a statistic that the average lifespan in the NFL is 3.3 years. Some people joke it stands for Not For Long. And that goes along with players, coaches, and people. It’s a very high-pressure league.
So in terms of planning for the athletes, the first thing that you have to do is develop a sense of trust with them. Because they know that their career may be short or their time may be short. So they only want to do what’s going to lengthen their career.
Of course, everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team, but their business also is lengthening their career within that team. So, with trust comes competence and character.
With trust comes competence and character.
So the first thing you have to show is that you’re authentic to people; you’re there for the right reasons, and you’re there for them. And you have to show that you’re competent in what you’re saying and what you do.
So the communication piece to me really sums that up, that I can communicate effectively to a player, whether they just got here or they’ve been here for years. This is what is required of them to be successful and I’m coming from an authentic place of high character and my competence and my understanding of what I’m talking about.
- Also check out the interview ‘People don’t care what you know, they care how much you can help them.’ with Nick Webb, the Head of Strength & Conditioning for the Indian National Cricket Team, who outlines how developing trust and effective communication is the key of working with high-profile athletes.
Players will challenge you and test you and ask you questions that they know they may already know the answer to, but they want to probe and see what you have to say. So your ability to answer those and communicate as well is a huge part of gaining their trust.
Players will challenge you and test you and ask you questions that they know they may already know the answer to, but they want to probe and see what you have to say.
Then from there, it’s about polishing some of the weaknesses and emphasizing strengths. And throughout the time of the year, you might spend more time on one than the other, but again, you don’t know how long you’re going to have an athlete.
So you want to make sure that there’s no yearly plan for a player. It’s what can we optimize at this moment and then work as it emerges.
How to structure the strength and conditioning to the different playing positions in American Football
Christian: And then how does it work? You have different positions in American football as well. Do you have different SNC coaches for different positions? How does it work? Just talk us through it.
Will: That’s a good question, and probably every team does it a little bit differently. Some people break it up into position groups. Some people mailbox things into big, medium, and skill, which can be all your big guys and you’re inside the box lineman.
Some skill guys are outside the box. These are players that are fast and need to change direction. Combo guys that are mid-skill, are going to be kind of a combination of both. They have to go inside the box, which would be where a lot of the wrestling and hitting happens.
Then outside the box, they have to go out in coverage, where they have to run and sprint and change direction and go on offense or defense. So there are a few different ways to mailbox those, you could say. You could do it by priorities of training as well.
So it just depends on what the emphasis of the program is because I’m sure that all 32 teams do it somewhat differently. And then in college, there are different ways to do as well, because you may have more players.
You may have players that since you have more players, then there may be a lot more that don’t play that might be on a practice squad in the NFL or redshirt in college that they have a year where they’re not going to play at all. So there’s a bunch of different little sub-categories of players that need development or optimization, whatever place that they may be.
His coaching philosophy
Christian: What is your coaching philosophy?
Will: That’s a good question. Philosophy’s kind of a funny word to me, just because it’s in theory. Philosophy would mean in theory. I always like to look at it in practice. But really there are a few things that come to mind.
Philosophy’s kind of a funny word to me, just because it’s in theory. Philosophy would mean in theory. I always like to look at it in practice.
You have to understand your principles deeply. What are your first principles? You have to recognize the context that you’re in, in applying your principles.
You have to make the process iterative, or you have to try different little things as you go. And then you have to challenge your deeply held beliefs. So it’s kind of like a cycle.
I understand my deeply held beliefs. I understand my first principles. I recognize the context that I’m in, so that as I apply my principles, I can see the small little changes that I need to make.
Then after that’s done, I can look back retrospectively and ask were those principles correct? Can I challenge myself on that? Do I need to expand my thought process on how to be successful?
You have to understand your principles deeply. You have to make the process iterative, and you have to challenge your deeply held beliefs.
So, for my example of when I was at Southern Utah and I had more injuries than I expected, I had very deeply held beliefs and those were my principles. I may not have recognized the context or understood enough in applying those.
As I reflected back after the year, I was able to challenge myself and ask, what did I not see? What principle or belief do I need to strip down a little bit further and try to understand better? So that’s how I see my philosophy and how I put it into action.
His core values
Christian: What are your core values?
Will: I’ve probably spoken about them already. Connection is one and then growth is another. I think those are two things that I value and bring fulfillment to myself and bring fulfillment to my life is I can connect both in strength and conditioning and outside of strength and conditioning with people.
Connection and growth are two things that I value and bring fulfillment to myself and bring fulfillment to my life.
That helps me feel more fulfilled in my life. I feel like I have a purpose when I have other people around me and growth to me is another one. That’s the same thing. I can grow myself.
I can help grow others, which helps me connect. I can grow both inside and outside of strength and conditioning, but those are two values that I’ve seen across the span of my life, both in and outside of my job that I hold pretty dear.
How to deal with decisions you don’t agree with
Christian: So in a team of coaches and support staff, everyone is wearing his own hat and sometimes there’s disagreement. How do you deal with that kind of disagreement?
Will: There’s always going to be disagreement, but a mentor of mine told me once that conflict arises from misaligned expectations. So the best way to deal with any type of disagreement is to avoid in the first place.
The best way to deal with any type of disagreement is to avoid it in the first place.
So communication with everyone on staff or anyone who has to wear a different hat, whether it be a different coach or a trainer or an athlete if you can proactively communicate everything that’s being done and align expectations, most of the time conflict can be avoided in that way.
Christian: Yes, I think that’s a really good point.
How to manage expectations
Christian: On dealing with individuals. Very often, we deal with individuals that have their own ideas of how things have to be done or should be done. If these ideas don’t align with your ideas, how do you influence change?
Will: Change management is a great topic of discussion because it’s really difficult. Again, the first thing that goes back to is communication. It is aligning expectations and even that may be difficult because expectations may come from a different place.
I’m expecting A and someone else to expecting Z. The next thing would be being a proactive listener to what they actually expect or what they want. Because a lot of times we may on the surface explain your expectation, but if you dig a little bit deeper with that person, that expectation may mirror yours a little bit more than you thought.
So listen to what they have to say and try to understand better where they’re coming from, because their context may be completely different than your context and the way that you’re seeing it. So the more perspective you can get, the more reality you can actually see between you and that other person.
Listen to what they have to say and try to understand better where they’re coming from, because their context may be completely different than your context and the way that you’re seeing it.
So communication, listening, and then the last part would be trying to draw each other closer to each other’s points. And that happens with really good discussion and effective communication on what you hear the other person saying. You also hear the why, and how what you’re saying mirrors what they’re saying or comes close.
Can we find some type of agreement within there? It’s not you’re right against I’m wrong or the other way around. It’s how do we find the best solution given what we’re seeing here as a collective whole.
Christian: It’s like one of the seven habits of highly effective people from Steven Covey ‘Seek to understand before being understood.’
Will: Yes, it’s difficult. It’s difficult because you immediately think about your opinions. Can we start to identify that what I’m thinking is the right way to do it, because that’s what I see. But again, we’re all biased in some way.
So you have to go outside of that to try to find what other people are seeing and what other people are saying and have the humility to say, this is what I believe, but my beliefs aren’t attached to who I am. It’s a lot easier to let your guard down when you say that.
A typical training day in the life of an S & C coach in the NFL
Christian: How does a typical training day as an S&C coach in the NFL look like?
Will: It depends on the time of year. Right now it’s a lot different than it usually would be, but I’d say in some way, there’s always going to be some type of caffeine.
There’s always going to be some type of protein and there’s always going to be some type of training. Then I’ll add onto that, there’s always going to be some type of stimulation of the mind.
There’s always going to be some type of caffeine, there’s always going to be some type of protein, there’s always going to be some type of training and there’s always going to be some type of stimulation of the mind.
So, really, it’s just stimulation of the mind, the body and the spirit or the soul in some way. Regardless of the day, it’s always going to be something along those lines.
How to design a training program
Christian: How do you design a training program step by step?
Will: It goes back to understanding your principles. You first have to identify the person’s needs. Then going back to communicating, you have to collaborate with everyone who’s involved, who has a touchpoint with that athlete.
There’s the physical and the mental training aspect of it. There’s the rehabilitation recovery side of it. There are the skills, the technical and tactical components.
So really there are the physical, mental, technical, and tactical components of training. And if I were just to look at the physical component and say, I’m just doing my job, I’m going to stay in my lane, that’s a difficult way to say that I have been successful at my job, or I’ve made an impact on the player in some way.
Because that’s the ultimate goal, is to impact the player so that they’re more able to succeed in their sport.
- Also check out the interview ‘My job is to help express the athlete’s ability come game day.’ with Dr. Nic Gill Head of Strength & Conditioning for the All Blacks
So collaborating with everyone who has a touchpoint on that – coach, trainer, dietician, mental skills, coach, physical therapist, strength coach, whoever has that touchpoint, that’s part of the planning process.
The ultimate goal is to impact the player so that they’re more able to succeed in their sport.
So you’re identifying the needs and addressing the needs from every aspect of that. Then communication also – I left out one piece of that is communicating with the athlete and what they are feeling. What do they feel like they need to work on?
Then it’s trying to understand the process from their point of view because no one knows their body more than they do. And sometimes that’s really valuable information. So once you gather that information and you identify the needs, you use underlying principles of the physiology of the body to make a specific adaptation.
And then within that, that is a communication of here’s the process we’re going to go through to the athlete, to the coach, everyone who needs to know here’s how we’re going to do it. Here are the markers that we’re looking for and checking in periodically to say that we’ve hit our markers or we haven’t.
Here’s why, or here’s how we’re going to proceed from here. It’s a constant process trying to find the best path as it emerges under your feet to drive the athlete towards the goal that we’re looking for.
Dealing with complex problems in the S & C industry
Christian: You have discussed dealing with complex problems in the S&C industry. Can you elaborate on that?
Will: I heard a talk, “Coaches versus COVID” in early April about finding solutions to complex problems. I mentioned it earlier in our talk here that there’re really not that many simple answers to problems within our field.
There’re really not that many simple answers to problems within our field.
Usually, that comes along with programming and dealing with injuries. It comes along with creating a culture. Three things that we’re evaluated on as Strength Coaches. They don’t have simple answers.
There’s no research article or book or even a piece of advice from someone that’s going to span every experience that we can have. You’re always going to run into problems that are different or have a little bit different context, or that you haven’t seen before and you have to try a new solution.
Again, the reason that I think it’s important is because we’re evaluated on improving performance, of mitigating the risk of injury, of being the keeper of the culture, or providing the landscape where a culture can grow, but all these things are not simple. There’s no best practice for them.
Best practice would mean that there’s one practice. There’s one best way to do that. If a car is low on gas, best practice is to put gas in the car, but once the car gets out on the highway, I may know the route to get home, but there are a million different drivers.
Best practice would mean that there’s one practice. There’s one best way to do that.
This guy’s cutting me off, that guy flipped me the bird. I’m trying to avoid this accident that happened. I might’ve missed my exit. So I may know the route to get there, but there are so many different things that I wouldn’t know happened until I got on that path and that’s a lot how performance happens.
That’s a lot how injury happens. That’s a lot how cultures emerge. You have to make the best decisions as they come to you. It’s an emergent practice, not necessarily best practice.
Now we can use our understanding of research and previous experience that has been successful for us as looking at what we could call ‘good practice.’ Sometimes complicated problems show good practice where there are multiple different answers, but I would never be able to map out a year worth of training for someone and tell them that I’m going to go from point A to point B within 12 months.
- Also check out the interview ‘Coaching starts with the unmeasurable quality of presence.’ with Kelvin Giles, who has more than 4 decades of experience in strength & conditioning in professional and Olympic sports, outlining the challenges of creating a plan for multiple months.
There’s just too much complexity within that to say that I am going to stay on that linear path the entire time. Understanding that is a really big component of how I approach training, to how I approach relationships with people, both inside strength and conditioning, and outside is understanding that I may not have the answers.
However, if I can recognize the perspective and the context that it’s in, I may be able to address that problem with a better solution, because I was more open to it. I was not rigid in saying that I’m going to try to fit this square peg for a round hole.
Complexity vs simplicity and the process of finding the right answers
Christian: Then two questions come to my mind. Complexity can often lead to confusion because the more complex it gets and you’ve mentioned if you don’t have an answer to a question, what do you do, so complexity leads to confusion. How do you manage that? The second question is if there is a question you cannot answer, what’s your process of finding an answer or finding a possible solution?
Will: This is where it gets tricky. This is why people step away from this and look for best practice. They look for good practice. They look for answers because it’s tricky and it’s uncomfortable to say that they’re going to step into complexity.
They’re going to step into something that is really confusing and really challenge themselves. Maybe the challenge is what I really enjoy about this, but I see it a little bit on the flip side is not that complexity gets confusing is that I use understanding complexity for confusing problems.
Maybe the challenge is what I really enjoy about this, but I see it a little bit on the flip side is not that complexity gets confusing is that I use understanding complexity for confusing problems.
Let me use Southern Utah, for example again, and I keep going back to that with the injuries. I thought I had done all my research to understand how to prevent injuries so that might’ve been good practice or best practice or something that’s predictable and repeatable.
All of a sudden I get in this situation and there are multiple injuries that happen and I say that I had done all my research. I had understood the answer. It should have been predictable and repeatable. But injuries are not that way.
They’re not predictable and repeatable. Now we can put a good guess forward and try to account for all the different variables, but there’s no injury prediction model yet that will prevent all injuries.
In fact, we’re probably seeing a rise in injuries in many different sports. But what you can do is search and account for every variable that may matter. Track that, understand that, record that. If I were to go back and give myself some advice back then – again, I wouldn’t have because I needed to figure this out myself.
I had to look at previous injury history, track load, understand what age they were because above 26, all of a sudden injuries start to occur more frequently. What was their mental capacity? What was a wellness questionnaire, a mental, psychological, physical readiness?
All of those things are going to start to show a bigger picture of potentially what can occur and from there, I can communicate that information to the parties that need to know that. I can tell the coach that this guy’s training load has been high the last three days and I know that he has had a previous injury – a history of hamstring injuries.
We may need to pull back his high-speed running within today’s practice, just in case that this happens. Now, maybe it’s an overreaction, maybe it’s not, but I record that and say, here’s why it was the best decision at the time because I can’t know what’s going to happen.
I can’t know whether or not that person’s going to get injured, whether or not we saved him from an injury, because that’s the other part of it is I’m never going to be able to go to the coach and tell them that I prevented ninety-three injuries this year. I may have had seventeen, but I prevented ninety-three.”
It doesn’t work that way. But when it comes time to evaluate how you did over the year, you have a book of why these decisions you made were the best decisions at the time. Here are the red flags that we saw, here’s how we approach that, and here’s why we possibly helped that situation.
You pull back on the players training to a more appropriate load, and he still injures himself. Well, you made the attempt. The attempt was there, maybe it was just not soon enough. Maybe it was just inevitable that it happened.
Again, you’ll never know those things, but it gives you a better talking point to show your value as a practitioner, rather than saying that you got him strong. I don’t know why he got hurt. Maybe he just wasn’t strong enough.” You have an understanding of yourself and for your evaluation as a practitioner.
Keeping a record of your best decisions at the time is important. I’m not saying I’ve always done it, but I’ve started to do that. It gives me the capacity to look back and ask myself if it was the best decision now knowing what I know.
Keeping a record of your best decisions at the time is important. It gives me the capacity to look back and ask myself if it was the best decision now knowing what I know.
It’s easy to look back retrospectively and say that you should’ve made that decision. But at the time with the knowledge that I had, that’s another reason why it’s important to seek out as much information from that athlete as possible. I’m going to seek out information from our mental skills coach, from our dietician, from the position coach, because there might be something lost in communication that falls through the cracks that you find out afterward that would have been nice to know.
I didn’t realize that he was going through this at home, or I didn’t realize that he had been struggling with this issue with his nutrition, which is why it’s so important for a team to be integrative is the communication piece about the player.
Nutrition is an interest of mine. It’s just something that I’ve picked up along the way that I found to be important, but it’s always treated ad hoc. It’s always treated as saying that persons need to talk about nutrition.
Go see the dietician; go see someone who knows about nutrition, and then you’ll go learn that and come back and we’ll train again. They go hand in hand. Nutrition drives training, training drives what type of nutrition you should have.
Your habits, both in the weight room, on the field at home, the way you eat, they all drive each other, so it’s a process that it shouldn’t be that strength and conditioning is here, athletic training is here and physical therapy is here. They all drive each other. I think again, finding out as much information about a situation before you make decisions is imperative.
His interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Will: I’ll have to think about that. It has to be the right person. I want to make sure that I get the right person to you, but no, I’ll get you one offline.
Christian: That is cool. Thanks.
Where can you find Will Greenberg
Christian: Where can people find you?
Will: In Buffalo, New York, but on the internet – during this coronavirus, during the pandemic, I tried to go the exact opposite way. I got off of social media. There was a lot of information just being thrown out.
I felt like I have to read everything and in an attempt to also just personally disconnect from the world just for a minute – just for a brief moment in time, I only follow one person and that’s my wife on Twitter and she never tweets.
My feed is nothing, but I am on Twitter and I’ll eventually get back on there. I’m more of a voyeur than someone who engages quite a bit, but if people reach out, I tend to respond, whether it be a direct message or email or whatever.
But coach_willg is my handle and as I said, I like seeing what’s going on in the world and keeping up to date about everything, but I don’t engage too much with social media.
Will Greenberg’s social profiles
Christian: Will, thanks a lot for your time. It was awesome.
Will: I appreciate it. That was great.