Part II: “10,000 Hours To Success”

In Thursday’s Part I, Coach Rick Court talked about beginning his second season in charge of Mississippi State strength and conditioning work. What stood out most was his unambiguous statement that as great as 2014 was, if the Bulldogs are to be better in 2015 they must re-double their labors. Literally, in terms of time invested.

As Court explained, he guesstimated that this past dozen months the Bulldogs put in 5,000 or 6,000 total hours of work. Whether lifting, running, practices supervised or improvised, training room visits, even studying better diet and nutrition, every hour counted.

So starting this week, with the real beginning of off-season workouts, Rick Court has just about doubled the demands. “We’ve got to put in 10,000 to have success,” he proclaimed.

Today’s Part II completes our interview, picking up with why unlike many strength coaches he does not set annual ‘testing’ deadlines.

Oh, and by the way; 10,000 hours would make 416-plus full days. Now that is a lot of overtime in one calendar year!

A year ago you said you don’t emphasize a specific testing schedule, you test every day really? “Everything. I mean everything. I evaluate myself every day, I expect to be evaluated by the people who are supposed to evaluate me every day that I do my job. And we’re going to do the same thing with the players. They have a certain weight on the bar, they have to get for this man reps. That’s a test. If we’re running this many under this time, that’s a test.”

“It’s all progression through the year. We’ve got a great, detailed plan. We really start working on the winter program really in August, because we’ve already evaluated and taken notes. It’s not like we get together December 1 and start hashing it out. I’ve got three notebooks here, and one I bring home that we constantly are writing down notes on what we need to get better at. It’s a very well thought-out and prepared plan.”

A lot of great players have graduated and left. But you have a good group of veterans coming back? “We have a great core of leaders coming back. Taveze Calhoun, Dak Prescott, Ryan Brown, Kendrick Market, Richie Brown, Beniquez Brown, just guys off the top of my head, I could name a ton.”

“I looked at my groups yesterday and was starting to tell them what we needed to do. And then I was like what am I doing? Everybody on the team has some capabilities to lead where people may follow. Whether they’re rambunctious, whether they’re kind of quiet, they have some type of leadership capability.”

“The thing now is we have to create that team from the locker room-out and make sure we get that chemistry and unity for each position group, get it going offensively and defensively. And get it all set by August. We’ve got eight months but we’ll be sitting here in July talking again and it will be getting ready to go. So there’s no time to take our foot off the gas.”

You have three junior college and three high school guys this spring, how do you structure their off-season? “We have six new guys. They’re thrown-in in some sense right now. We go through about a three or four day slow process where we get kind of an extended physical on them. What they’re current strength levels are, get a baseline to know. Because some of them have never lifted before. Then they’re in our groups, but they are together.”

“See, we go five groups a day where we don’t have more than 24 guys. So our guys are coached. We don’t do big team lifts every day, because guys get lost in the mix. We really lock-in and coach the guys.”

“So those six guys are with Coach (Nick) Savage. They do the lifts but they may do it at a slower pace, we’ve got to make sure their weights are accurate. After about two weeks they’ll be a little more ‘full metal jacket’ so to speak, doing everything. We just keep a little more of an eye on them because there is no way anybody, however tough or hard-working, can go through what we do from day-one. They would be so turned off and maybe lose confidence, especially when they see how the veterans go about it. So we try to go kind of baby steps for a couple weeks, then we get rolling.”

Are your groupings complicated or dictated by semester class schedules? “The class schedules really work out. Kylie (Amato, Academic Counselor) and I do a great job with the communication and how we want to schedule the classes. We make sure all the classes and tutoring get taken care of, and she allows me to get the lift groups set. I adjust based on the classes. We do have some groups where we try to get old guys/young guys together, position groups together. The classes don’t really hinder us that much.”

You don’t try to keep body types together; linemen this period, speed guys that period? “Within our groups there’s always a mix. And having five strength coaches what I’ll do is these five or six guys, all big guys, they’ll be together; all these skill guys are together. Then there will be a little bit of individualization in the workouts because of that. If there are 25 guys in a group, I have five coaches, each coach has about five guys and we may try to put these five big guys here, these five skill guys there, five big-skill and five others or whatever.”

So with a full staff, and this new weightroom, you aren’t limited with groups and schedules? “Exactly. Not at all. The schedules and facility and staff, I can basically can get worked around whatever I want to get done. Everything has worked out good.”

Something else that has worked out good, you aren’t re-habbing many players this off-season? “We’re in great shape. That’s the goal. Our game is so violent you’re going to get some issues.”

“We added a nutritionist, Kelly White, in August. Dan Jacobi and Thomas Callans came in July as our new trainers. There’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle here that have made lack of injuries happen. We do hydration and urine tests every day, we really upgraded all the nutrition. So from a recovery standpoint I’m confident what we’re doing in the weightroom.”

“Coach is unbelievable with how he controls practice throughout the week. I thought a missing element was how we did nutrition and the training room. The upgrade of that since July has been unbelievable and those people deserve a ton of credit. Because any time or day they make sure they get their job done and you can fuel your body right and can get your body right. And we have all the tools in that training room. It’s a good deal.”

I see a Big Brother list for 2014 on the wall behind you, do you have a new list for 2015? “We’ve got it. Right here, we have our Big Brother list and have posted it in the weightroom. I don’t really classify the real freshmen as freshmen any more because they’ve been through a summer and a season. I told them the other day the next time we play a game they’re going to be on the field so they have to be ready. I tell them now they have to help out those six new guys. I tell those six guys they’ve got Big Brothers.”

“We’ll cultivate things they’re supposed to do throughout the day and make sure they’re helping them out on the weekend. We’ll pair them up in the weightroom every once in a while to do some stuff, just to show them how we finish.”

How are the players paired-up? “Coach (Greg) Knox does it. You try to get someone just like your brother. Family is always comfortable and when they come in real quick they’ll learn it really is a family atmosphere here, I think they all learn that in recruiting. But coming in, you might have a guy at your position or maybe from the same area of the state or geographical location. There’s maybe a little bit more of a sense of somebody they can lean on when they get here.”

“Sometimes if there is an issue, which really there hasn’t been, but for argument’s sake you have an issue, I can go to that Big Brother too and say let’s make sure we get this taken care of. Even things as simple as taking them to breakfast at Perry dining hall. He can show him things, or where to eat around town. Simple things that are a big deal which don’t have anything to do with football. You even have someone you can lean on for a ride somewhere. It’s so much more than football.”

You are in all coaching staff meetings, which isn’t always the case with strength coaches. What does that say for the total team approach here at Mississippi State? “You are all accountable. So I try to make sure I keep up daily. Every day the coaches are here I try to check in with every single coach, are there any issues, anything I need to know? And I try to give them the same thing back.”

”And what I try to do too is always have a lot of positive stuff to tell them. A lot of times people go talk to a coach when it’s negative. So if I’ve got a guy that’s made weight five-straight days or is on a gain or lose weight plan, I want to celebrate that kid to the coach. So he can get confidence coming from the coach.”

“You can’t mistake confidence. So if I’m telling a kid good job, and his position coach is, and Coach Mullen mentions something, and you have three or four guys saying hey I heard you did a great job? The odds of that guy doing really well that day for practice or a game are high. The odds of them walking to class that day with their chest a little higher to do better in school are high. I don’t always want it to be a negative thing, and there hasn’t been much of that in the last year. With the group now I don’t anticipate a lot of that happening either.”

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