Q&A with Stanford Coach David Shaw

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

David Shaw completed his seventh season as Stanford’s head coach in 2017. His teams have posted a record of 73-22 including 49-14 in Pac-12 games. He has led the Cardinal to three Pac-12 titles in the past six seasons and a pair of Rose Bowl wins. Shaw’s Stanford staff is thought to be as progressive as any in the country when it comes to implementing new technology.

Shaw offered his thoughts on coaching high school football in a recent interview with FNF Coaches.

What is your process for implementing new technology? How much time do you spend thinking about it?

“I think it comes up all the time. People send us a lot of ideas. We receive a lot of pitches from people, both in emails and conversations. I’m always looking for things that make sense. I’m not trying to reinvent the game of football. If it can help our people do what they do better, I’m all for it. I’m not trying to come up with something completely off the wall.”

When a coach like Chip Kelly is hired by another school in the conference, does that cause you to be even more receptive to new technology?

“I think we always try to be proactive. We recognize every program is different, every system is different. We may not want to do everything another program does. But it’s nice to know what they do. We’re always on the lookout for new ideas.”

Are you ever overwhelmed by all of the new technology out there?

“You need to embrace the world we live in now. We’re able to make so many aspects of life better through technology. You can do it to the degree with which you’re comfortable. Accept it and understand it’s a changing world. The young people we work with are tech-savvy, and we need to be able to add to their lives in a language they understand.”

Have you discovered any new technology that has helped make practices more efficient?

“First and foremost, we use virtual reality. We’re able to film players in practice, and they come back at a later date – not just to watch it live – but to live it again. They’ll live through another third-down blitz period, another red zone 7-on-7. And they’ll get to stand right where the quarterback was standing and see 360 degrees and be immersed in the play. That helps them react faster in games.”

Have you improved the communication between coaches and players with new technology?

“We went with one of the companies that makes digital play cards for practice. So now, instead of having play cards on their wristbands, players have wearable technology on their waists. We can get to the next play quicker. It allows us to be more efficient.”

I know there are NCAA-imposed restrictions on using helmet communication devices and video during games. Have you found any new technology that helps on game day?

“No, for us, we’ve been diving into technology for meetings and practice. Game day is about the players. I want them to be in an unfettered world. We’re open to the rule changes that are coming down the pike. Whether that’s communication from a coach to quarterback or linebacker or sideline pictures or tablets, I think those things will be great for our game.”

You mentioned using technology in meetings. What are you using?

“We use HUDL religiously. I think it’s outstanding. We can make videos and send it to guys and have them look on their own time. The simplest thing for me is being able to go home, put my kids to bed, and not have to go back to the office. I can sit on the couch and watch wide receivers or defensive linemen in individual 1-on-1s.”

What new products have helped your strength and conditioning program?

“The accelerometer has been absolutely huge for us. You want to be explosive in your jumping and power lifting. Anything you can do to make players more explosive and stronger is for the best. It’s such a game of speed. We’d rather see athletes punching and exploding quickly than lying on their backs and lifting heavy weights. Then, we measure it and try again to see if they can get more explosive.”



Using Tech to Build Character

Shaw views social media as a teaching opportunity for players. He believes a player’s posts reflect his character, so he monitors the accounts of his players to make sure they’re putting their best foot forward.

“Social media’s huge,” Shaw said. “I try to remind my players how powerful a tool that is. It can be used for good and things that are not so good. Words can have an influence on people’s lives, feelings, and emotions. I don’t want them to take that for granted. Whatever they put out there is out there for the world.”

From a recruiting perspective, Shaw admits he will stop recruiting a player that crosses a line on Twitter.

“We absolutely use Twitter in recruiting to have an idea of who we’re recruiting,” Shaw said. “I’m willing to teach those who abuse it. That said, it is a sign of character and who you are as a person. If it’s not befitting of Stanford, we won’t recruit you.

“We recruit to the academic side as much as the athletic side. I let them know they don’t have to choose one, but they do have to choose both.”