“Our Goal Is 10,000 Hours To Success”

He’s been on the job for a whole year now. “And four or five days!” Rick Court clarifies. It was a heckuva debut year, too, for Bulldog football and their strength coach, with ten victories and an Orange Bowl trip, lofty rankings and all-star honors, and more.

Which made the first calendar-year on the Mississippi State job that much more rewarding for Court. Certainly it was busy. Hired last January, Court dove right into his job on Coach Dan Mullen’s staff. The results were evident on the field, the scoreboard, and for that matter on Bulldog faces after workouts and practices as much as games.

What should have Bulldog fans smiling this January though is Court’s clear comment, that 2014 is past. Great, but past. Not only is it time to resume work, which began Tuesday at the Seal Complex. It is prime time to raise the expectations and increase demands. Which is exactly what Court explains in a two-part interview.

DB: After a whole year do you feel entirely settled here at Mississippi State? Court: “I kind of felt settled-in pretty quick last year. I guess I didn’t have time to not feel settled-in, knowing what was at stake!”

“When you’re in the building every day and you see how much everybody puts into the program, from administration and Coach Mullen on down, it’s a well-oiled machine that kept getting studier and sturdier last year. So it was good to see the results.”

How would you evaluate what you and your staff accomplished in the first year together? “Well, the main thing is obviously Coach has the standards of excellence set, and what is expected every day. The way my staff worked, we probably brought a little different personality, that I think the kids bought into right away. That was a main thing, they bought into me. They bought into our personality and what we brought to the weight room, to move forward.”

With all the demands of that first year, have you had time to evaluate what was accomplished, what you want to change or adjust for the second year? “Oh yeah. We evaluate every day. I mean the way we do it here we’re no different from the football coaches evaluating film. We staff-meet every day and evaluate each workout group, certain players. And ourselves, what we need to coach better, making sure the standards are kept up.”

“We videotape each workout and watch it, to make sure we’re coaching everything the exact way it should be coached, the intensity of how it should be coached is the same. And we try to be critical of our coaching as well. We have to be at the top of our game every day in how we coach. So evaluate how the kids are doing it and we evaluate ourselves in how we’re doing it, every day.”

“We’ve coached collectively for so many years, so many times, if you don’t do a certain exercise right you may be able to say one thing to one kid and he gets it. You may have to show another kid another thing, doing it ourselves or showing another player doing it. Every kid learns differently, so we make sure we cultivate every kid to learn exactly what we want. So we really try to be really critical of coaching everybody individually and how they need to be coached to get it right and do it right. From technique, to intensity.”

That sounds as detailed as what the field coaches do each week preparing for a game? “Yeah, I enjoy obviously the in-season. But as a strength coach the off-season and summer are really the fun part. The in-season, trying to sustain and get better every week physically and mentally is more of an art.”

The off-season work began this week, can you tell a difference in the players coming off a great season? “Yeah, we had our first lift on Tuesday. And we had a team meeting, we kind of ‘squashed’ that. Last year was great; we have to go above-and-beyond anything we did last year. Because ten is great, we want to surpass ten. We want to go finish the season the way we know we can and the way we’re taught.”

”All the positive stuff is great. But I think in terms of motivating the kids and our staff, we expect more. And we have to believe we can do more. So all those accolades are fine and dandy but right now or record is 0-0. So we have to earn everything all over again. That’s what I challenged the team the other day. We have to put in more work, we have to put in more work appropriately to execute and be successful next year. We have to believe and expect we’re going to do it.”

“I told the kids this year our goal is 10,000 hours to success. Whatever that is to them, if it’s coming in and doing extra throwing, getting extra treatment, getting in the hot tub or cold tub, staying after and doing an extra set of something. It’s 10,000 hours to success. Last year we might have put in 5,000 or 6,000. We’ve got to put in 10,000 to have success. And because of the (NCAA) rules it’s got to come on their own.”

“I told them the prerequisite of being great is want. If you want it, then we can go get it. But I’m not sure if you can always teach want. You can cultivate the kid, you can motivate, you can put them in situations to be successful. But in the end they have to want it. And I come to work every day to push it out of them but they’re going to have to make that decision. If we have to use forceful adaptation to get that result, then we will.”

I’m not going to try calculating how many days 10,000 hours is? “I haven’t checked it out. But I think our guys understand my point!”

Take me through what began this week up to the start of spring practices March 18? “The first thing is re-ignite the fire and moving forward make sure we work with that chip on our shoulder. I tell our players you can’t improve if you don’t have something to prove.”

“I asked our guys the other day who in here has something to prove to the nation, to your position group, your coach, to your family, to your town. Every hand went up in a split-second. I said well there’s your motivation. You said you have something to prove, let’s go now. In terms of mentality they have to go prove it every day in the weightroom and that’s a challenge to them.”

“The easy part of strength training is eliminate ‘but…’ factors. He’s strong, but…he’s got to get body fat down. He’s lean, he’s got good body composition, but…he’s got to have better endurance. All those measurables are controllable. Weight gain, weight loss, stronger lower body, upper body, faster, better agility, better football skills. That’s what we want right now.”

“Everybody had their meetings with their position coaches and Coach Mullen over the last couple of weeks, they know what they need to work on football-wise. My staff and I have evaluated what they need to do body composition-wise. Now let’s go eliminate the ‘but…’ factors, get in good enough shape for spring practice. Some guys need to get into a little bit better than others, then go flourish in our football skills once we get into spring.”

Have players been given individual targets to reach? “They have their list from their coaches. With coaches being on the road recruiting I haven’t had time to sit down and pin-point that yet. But with constant evaluation, being in the staff meetings, I kind of know. The coaches know that I know. So we’re going to hash it out with the players.”

“Each player has a goal weight they know they have to be at for spring football, every day they have to be within a percent-and-a-half of that weight. In the NFL if you don’t make your weight, you’re fined. Here you get fined a point on our competition system, if you make your weight you get a positive point. Everything is detailed and everything matters. Our kids know where they need to go and we know what they need to work on, too.”

You mentioned these weeks and summer are when strength is the priority? “Right now we want to get our guys as big and as strong, and really push the physical, combative, the contagious toughness aspect of our program. Obviously when we go to spring it’s a high football time.”

“We never use the words ‘maintain strength’. You’re either getting better or you’re not. So we still want to get stronger in spring, we may not lift as many days but you’re still going to progress and get stronger. We’ll modify that with how many days we practice in spring or one day is harder than another in terms of hitting or not.”

“Then when we get into summer, June is basically another facet of a ‘winter’ program. It’s get them bigger, get them stronger, get them in shape. And really July I try to get the complete football player ready. You’re still getting stronger, you might do a little bit more running, a little bit more position-specific work in agility, to get them ready for camp.”

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