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Notice: The NSCA website is scheduled to undergo system maintenance from 2:00 AM - 2:30 AM EST. During this time, there may be short service interruptions across the site and some parts of  the site may not be accessible. We apologize for any inconvenience while we work to improve the website experience and security.

NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 60: Kurt Hester

by Scott Caulfield, MA, CSCS,*D, RSCC*D and Kurt Hester, CSCS
Coaching Podcast August 2019


Kurt Hester, Head of Sports Performance at Louisiana Tech University, talks to the NSCA Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Scott Caulfield, about his journey from weight lifting at 12 years old to training collegiate football athletes today. Topics under discussion include starting a business, pioneering strength and conditioning, and the interview process.

Find Kurt on Twitter: @thekurthester or on Instagram: @hesterkurt | Find Scott on Instagram: @coachcaulfield

Show Notes

“And you have to come to a point, as a man or a woman, and say, you know what? I want to do what’s right by my athletes. Over this undying loyalty to a sport coach.” 3:52

“My staff understands the emergency protocol of assessing the athlete of high-volume O2 if we have it down on the field, then immediately submerge in the ice mass, and then calling 9-1-1. So it’s an action plan that, if a young trainer gets, basically, shell-shocked and can’t move and can’t think, that we can go into action and help out.” 8:41

“You have to look at the heat index, how hot it is on turf versus how hot is it on the grass, the humidity level, your wind, your wind direction. There’s a lot of things that you have to utilize and understand, use that information, in taking your protocol, and either taking away reps or adding reps.” 9:59

“I like to bash my head into other humans. I love the physicalness of football. But I love the middle aspect of getting ready for the game. And that’s why I got into the—more, I got into the field. Not from the lifting aspect, because I love to train, but I loved what you had to do mentally to prepare to play a warrior sport.” 16:05

“That whole people side of things, relationship-building, is kind of the ‘X’ factor in this profession, right? You can have written the greatest program, but if you can’t get athletes to believe in what you’re selling and what you’re telling them is going to help them, then it doesn’t really matter anyway.” 28:05

“And if you’re in it for yourself, if you’re in it for your social media hits, and your tweets, and your likes, you’re in it for the wrong reason. This field is not about a coach, it is about the humans you do coach.” 29:03

“And that’s where you start learning more by interacting with other coaches and throwing around a ton of ideas.” 44:26

“It’s connected either at @thekurthester on Twitter, or it’s Hester Kurt on Instagram. Email” 47:02

“We’re always looking for free interns. Being in Ruston, Louisiana, which is in north Louisiana, it’s not very big, it’s kind of hard to get help. So if you’re willing to learn and willing to work, I’ll take you in a heartbeat. If you’re breathing and you’re ambulatory, we’re good to go.” 47:46


[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING]

[00:00:01.29] Welcome to NSCA's Coaching Podcast, episode 60.

[00:00:06.15] And if you're not-- if you're in it for yourself, if you're in it for your social media hits and your tweets and your likes, you're in it for the wrong reason. This field is not about a coach. It is about the humans you do coach.

[00:00:20.70] This is the NSCA's Coaching Podcast, where we talk to strength and conditioning coaches about what you really need to know but probably didn't learn in school. There's strength and conditioning, and then there's everything else.

[00:00:31.17] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. I'm your host, Scott Caulfield. Today with me, Kurt Hester, head of Sports Performance at Louisiana Tech, Ruston, Louisiana. But today, we are lucky enough to be in Disney with the Orlando Marriott here-- Orlando World Center Marriott for USA Football National Conference. Kurt, welcome to the show, man.

[00:00:53.76] Thanks for having me, Scott. It's always fun talking to you, and always fun talking shop.

[00:00:57.19] Yeah, it's been great. We've been hanging out for a couple of days. You had a presentation today that you did on conditioning the modern football athlete. Why don't you kind of tee us up a little and tell us what you were delivering today to these football coaches?

[00:01:12.30] I mean, even the title, to me, is almost a misnomer, because back in 1981, my freshman year in college, we were doing some of the same things that we're still doing now. It's over 30 years later, and with all the advanced technology that we have, we're still conditioning back in the dark ages.

[00:01:33.09] Our mentality towards the way we condition, towards the physiology of aspects of conditioning, are so far behind, is beyond ridiculous. And a lot of that has to do with sport coaches themselves, what they believe in, what they profess as far as mental toughness for athletes.

[00:01:57.42] And the fact that you have, still, in our profession, with as far as we have progressed from a scientific standpoint with technology, we still have a lot of guys who aren't very bright when it comes to certain aspects of our field.

[00:02:12.38] Yeah. And it's funny you say that. So why is it that, one, you think that-- seems sport coaches tend to want to have more of an ownership or keep their hand on the conditioning aspect?

[00:02:28.77] I think it's, if they had any kind of success, they quantify that success for what they did in the weight room or what they did on the field as far as conditioning and not the athletes they had.

[00:02:45.36] They won in spite of the dumb things they were doing in the weight room or on the field. And I've had sport coaches tell me, hey, Kurt, don't talk to me about that science mumbo-jumbo. (ACCENT) We did this in 1970 and we won us a state championship, and we're going do it again now.

[00:03:03.56] It's just that dumb mentality of, look, you called the right plays. You didn't have guys injured. And you had some talented athletes. And you won. It wasn't because of the conditioning or what you did in the weight room. You had talent.

[00:03:20.37] Yeah. And so I know that you've had these conversations and you've, for lack of a better term-- air quotes-- "won" some of these battles. So what are you able to say with your message to a coach? Because I'm sure that a lot of people listening to this are nodding their head right now. Oh, man, I deal with this every day.

[00:03:41.22] Right. I mean, a lot of young coaches don't want to-- they're afraid of getting fired. They're afraid to stand up to a sport coach. And you have to come to a point, as a man or a woman, and say, you know what? I want to do what's right by my athletes.

[00:04:00.60] Over this undying loyalty to a sport coach. And when you get to that point in your career, where you're not going to go out of your way, basically, to injure an athlete because of what the wants of a sport coach, of what he feels you should be doing compared to what you should be doing.

[00:04:24.68] And at the same time, educating, getting on a board. And I try to educate our whole staff. I get on a board and go through the whys of what we do and why we do it. Our athletes are well-versed in it. They have a high understanding of training.

[00:04:40.92] So they know the difference between what is good and what is not. And you just have to get up to a point in your career where you're not worried about getting fired. And my perspective is, I would rather get fired than put someone in the hospital or worse, put somebody in a funeral home.

[00:05:00.85] Yeah. Yeah. No, it's a real thing. And, I mean, I think too, the more open and able you are to teach, to be able to draw stuff on the board and show them, they're going to see-- and we were talking to a couple of guys, Erik Korem and Keir Flatt from William and Mary.

[00:05:20.31] And they told him about this new conditioning test. And then coach was like, wow, yeah, you can't-- that's not going to work. And then once he saw it, he said, what? This looks like football. This is great. This is what we need. Why haven't we been doing this?

[00:05:35.08] And it's the same thing when you go through and when-- the talk I gave was to all football coaches, basically. And I just went through energy systems and the length of plays, the length of rest intervals between plays, the length of rest intervals between series, and showed them where the old-school gassers, the old-school 300-yard shuttles, the old school-one 110s, where you're not even in the system that you play in.

[00:06:01.90] And then went through, basically, from training block to training block on the different types of tempo running that you can do, different things you do with linemen, offensive/defensive linemen versus skilled guys or big-skilled guys where you can show them where it makes sense.

[00:06:20.56] And they look at it and they go, oh, that makes sense. And so it's more of just trying to get them to understand-- and putting on a board and going through from block to block. This is why we stack it.

[00:06:31.68] This is where we start. This is where we want to end. And then going through all the dangers and pitfalls of doing things the old-school way with not utilizing your eyes, not having a safe progression, and not taking into account of layoffs for semester or quarter breaks.

[00:06:51.19] And getting them to realize that, if you don't understand your athletes, if you don't understand their medical history, you can really do some damage that, as a human, that's going to be hard for you to get over. When you do something dramatic that affects not only your life, but the lives of the players you're training and the families of the players that you're training.

[00:07:17.77] Yeah. And you talked about the emergency action plan a little bit, too, and how all of your staff is kind of well-versed in the different stages of what needs to happen if something goes down. Maybe talk a little bit about that.

[00:07:31.88] Well, first, we tag all of our athletes. So we know what athletes are sickle-cell. We know what athletes have exercise-induced asthma. We know what athletes have prior cardiac problems or a history of hereditary cardiac problems.

[00:07:49.54] So in conditioning, we put them on one edge so that the trainers know what side of the field they're on. They can see them. We typically mark them with either shirts off or-- because it's so hot where we're from, a red headband or a white headband. It's easy to pick them out. It's easy to see them. So they can see that athlete at all times.

[00:08:18.76] If there's any distress whatsoever, they pull the athlete out and assess them. And if he needs medical attention, then we go straight to the training room. But on top of that, because most teams have undergraduate trainers-- our trainers with just master's, and they're 20 years old, 21, 22 years old.

[00:08:41.56] My staff understands the emergency protocol of assessing the athlete of high-volume O2 if we have it down on the field, then immediately submerge in the ice mass, and then calling 9-1-1. So it's an action plan that, if a young trainer gets, basically, shell-shocked and can't move and can't think, that we can go into action and help out.

[00:09:10.00] And then hopefully, anybody that's in hot temperature stuff by now has that cold water emerge and stuff ready to go, especially, like you were saying, Louisiana. Things you've done. Making the bigs train first thing in the morning, super early, lessening your risk of possible bad things.

[00:09:30.22] Right. It's 6:00 AM. It's not as humid. It's not as hot. Your bigs typically want to get up early and get it done, whereas your receivers and DBs, they're doing everything they can not to come train. So they'll wait until the last minute. So they come in and we train them early in the morning.

[00:09:47.17] If they have some type of conflict where they have to come in the afternoon, we look at the volume we're training we're doing and we'll cut-- because of the heat, especially on turf field, whether we're on turf or grass.

[00:09:59.41] You have to look at the heat index, how hot it is on turf versus how hot is it on the grass, the humidity level, your wind, your wind direction. There's a lot of things that you have to utilize and understand, use that information, in taking your protocol, and either taking away reps or adding reps.

[00:10:22.36] Because typically, the guys come in the afternoon, they will know what the rep load was in the morning. They want to mimic the same rep load and I'll have to hold them back, saying, no. As far as your output and what you're putting out at 1:00 o'clock, there's a big difference at 6:00 AM in the morning. Especially if you're doing anything that's resistance involved with sleds.

[00:10:45.11] In the morning, you have dew and there's no friction. They'll slide right across the turf really easy. In the afternoon, when that turf heats up, it just-- the sled sticks to it. So a 300-pound sled feels like a 600 pound sled. So you take you take weight off or you drop rep loads.

[00:11:03.20] Yeah. Yeah. And as you talked about the groups that you're in, and having smaller groups because of the nature of having a smaller staff. So you know you're an excellent manager because you have to manage so many athletes and your coaches when you talk about kind of being at a place where you have to maximize your resources like Louisiana Tech.

[00:11:29.81] I mean, you look at even the class schedules, trying to get guys-- some guys go on Tuesday and Thursdays from 8:00 in the morning straight through 5:00, no break, but then they have no classes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, which is insane.

[00:11:44.70] Then you guys who have class on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 8:00 to 5:00, but they have no class on Tuesday and Thursdays. So to try to get them in, we have to offer more groups because of trying to get them into a workout sometime throughout the day. So that's a problem.

[00:12:02.99] Plus the fact that I don't like training huge groups. A lot of universities will train entire offense at one time, entire defense at one time. Or some will train one group, whole team, 6:00 AM, and done. I like to do a lot more of transfer or training type, bonotruck type schemes. And I like to do a lot more skill acquisition. So it's not conducive to teaching.

[00:12:29.43] And as far as having a small staff, it's not conducive to really anything. It's not conducive to teaching in the weight room. It's not conducive to teaching outside. So yeah, it's a lot more work, but I would rather have six groups of football and than two huge and I'm not maximizing my time or my staff. So it's tougher, but at the same time, I think we train at a higher level, too.

[00:12:58.22] Yeah. No. And earlier, when we were kind of hanging out, too, you've talked about how you realized-- you had done some other stuff, and you kind of realized coaching, like you talk about those small groups, being with the athletes is really your calling.

[00:13:16.19] And so kind of, I guess, give us a-- take us way back. And some people start out with the bio first, and the whole history. We're kind of working backwards. So, yeah. Talk to us about when you started private sector stuff.

[00:13:29.48] And, actually, even go back farther than that. Because I want to hear about-- you were lifting as a lifter under Gayle Hatch, teaching you how to Olympic lift. Kind of go way back and bring us back around.

[00:13:43.13] It actually started even before that. I grew up down real south Louisiana, small town, in Chauvin, Louisiana. And in 1975, which-- this is pre even, almost, having muscle and fitness magazines at your disposal. So I had a coach who was really into lifting. And we had a program in seventh and eighth grade.

[00:14:12.08] And he took two classrooms and had a weight room. We had two squat racks, two lap pull-downs, inclined, flat bench. And he was teaching us to clean, to pull, squatting, bench movements, as seventh and eighth graders in junior high.

[00:14:32.45] Which, looking back-- and you're talking about a small junior high in the middle of a cane field in way south Louisiana, middle of nowhere. I was really blessed to have that guy. And that's where I started. That was my interest. And I ended up taking my money and building my own bench, my own pull-up racks, my own dip racks.

[00:14:56.00] And I was 12 and had bought that Sears CMET 110-pound weight set. And then my brothers were-- my brother was a welder in a shipyard. And he would-- they would cut up barges, dismantle them. And he made-- I had dumbbells. I had 45-pound plates, 35-pound plates where they machined them for me.

[00:15:19.44] And I had a ton of weight as a kid. So I kind of started-- that's where I started. Then I saw a picture of Arnold and I was like, man, this dude gets a lot of chicks. I want to get big.

[00:15:32.99] I wanted to get as big as I possibly could. Then I moved to Baton Rouge, and Gayle Hatch came, spoke at my high school. and started working out with him off and on, and worked all the way through college.

[00:15:44.78] Even when I was coaching at Tulane, I would drive from New Orleans to Baton Rouge three days a week and left Monday, Wednesday, Friday nights. He'd wait for me until 8 o'clock at night and train with him. And he just beat me senseless on the platform. That's how I started. And then playing the game, I really wasn't consumed with the X's and O's of the game itself.

[00:16:05.39] I like to bash my head into to other humans. I love the physicalness of football. But I love the middle aspect of getting ready for the game. And that's why I got into the-- more, I got into the field. Not from the lifting aspect, because I love to train, but I loved what you had to do mentally to prepare to play a warrior sport.

[00:16:25.48] And that's what piqued my interest more than anything. So that's kind of how I started. Then went from Tulane to LSU. I was GA at Tulane with LSU. I was with Tom Shaw at Tulane, who is Wide World of Sports here in Orlando for the longest time. He was with the Raiders last year.

[00:16:43.19] Yep. [INAUDIBLE] Raiders, yep.

[00:16:44.69] He was with the Patriots, with the Saints. And he was one of the first real speed guys. He was a track coach at Florida State with Deion Sanders. And our first year that I worked with him at Tulane, we had Derrick Brooks, JJ McCleskey, all these guys who are now coaches.

[00:17:02.08] JJ is a coach at Tulane. Jack Del Rio was-- he played for the Saints at the time. And we were training speed work. And I've learned a lot from Tom. And then LSU hired me as kind of their speed guy. And the worked with the LSU baseball in the mid-90s with a couple of national championships there.

[00:17:24.74] And then wasn't getting paid any money at all, and opened my whole facility on the North Shore of New Orleans. And we probably trained over 50,000 athletes-- high school, junior high, and professional athletes-- in this one facility, when there was no other facilities, really, in the country.

[00:17:41.75] So you're talking pioneer, at all. The first--

[00:17:44.81] Yeah. I mean, you talk about Parise, Mike Boyle, me. We probably had the only standalone facilities in the country at the time. And I had no idea who either one of those two guys were until later on in my career. I'm down in south Louisiana--

[00:18:01.80] You're just working.

[00:18:02.39] Just working.

[00:18:02.94] Just coaching guys, yeah.

[00:18:03.57] And not knowing that-- this is pre-internet stuff, right? So because there was not a lot of people doing it, I had a ton-- some of the top agents in the country sending me athletes. In the middle of nowhere, in south Louisiana, and training guys for the draft, training guys for OTAs.

[00:18:22.30] And then Katrina hit. And I'd trained Will Bartholomew. He's the CEO of D1 Sports Training. I trained him for the draft with the University of Tennessee. And when he got hurt, he wanted to build-- he said, Karl, I want to build something like you're doing in south Louisiana.

[00:18:39.05] So I helped him with a business plan. I remember the day we sat down and I hopped in on the North Shore, New Orleans, the day-- the Super Bowl, the Patriots and the Rams, when the Patriots came back and won. That morning-- because we went to the-- boat it was in New Orleans.

[00:18:57.26] And we went to a Super Bowl after that. But did the whole business plan, flew up to Nashville, helped him train his first staff. And not too long after that, Katrina decimated south Louisiana. I didn't know what was going to go along with my own facility.

[00:19:11.81] And he convinced me to go in with him and help him build out all these facilities, be the national director of training, write all the protocol. Spent eight years doing that.

[00:19:22.07] It got to a point where I was so far away from doing what I'm good at-- and that is really helping coaches and helping athletes. And decided to go back. And I was in Denver working with some of the Broncos, and doing some work up there, building D1 up there.

[00:19:37.04] And Coach Skip Holtz called me and, hey, would you like to come back to Louisiana and coach in college? And I was just ready for that change. And then, seven years later, here we are.

[00:19:49.56] Right. Right. That's awesome. So yeah, I guess I've got a couple of questions from that. Is starting your own facility at that point, when you first started, you kind of were like, all right, had it with college, I'm going to do my own thing? Did you kind of already know, all right, I'm going to need this much space and this much equipment, or did you have stuff, or did you just have to go out and build it by--

[00:20:16.10] Actually--

[00:20:16.44] --get your brother to build it for you?

[00:20:18.25] --the idea really wasn't mine. It was a friend of mine, Bobby Gilboy, who was running a huge health club. He was my college roommate at one point in time. And I was interviewing for other jobs.

[00:20:32.30] And he was like, man, I've got this idea. And he goes, man, you're have to suck it up and not have a lot of money for a year. And I just had my first kid, so I was putting a lot on the line. And so my wife's like, what are you doing?

[00:20:50.16] Luckily, my wife's an RN, and she was making good money. And that's what kind of got me this-- if she wasn't an RN, I would have never gotten through being an intern, GAing, and being able to afford to become relatively qualified to be a training coach, because-- no money. And having to pay bills.

[00:21:11.31] And so he said, look, I've got this sports performance thing. He goes, let's train athletes, man. And come up with some protocol. And so I said, OK. He kind of convinced me to take this over. You know what? I'll give you a little space. I'm talking about one squat rack and one bench.

[00:21:33.25] And I started with five guys. I walked into this health club, convinced five high school kids-- they were working out. Let me train you. This is who I am. I'll train you for free. I trained them free for a month. Within, I think, three months, I had 75 kids.

[00:21:55.30] And we then-- they had a basketball court. And we took half the basketball court, and I built nine platforms with freestanding racks and had two benches. And I went straight to about 150 within six months.

[00:22:15.04] And I tapped out. I had 500 a day before Katrina hit. So I had 500 athletes. And I didn't take young kids, I took-- you had to be in junior high. I took from 12, 13 years old up.

[00:22:29.38] Yeah. And you talked about protocols like-- and developing protocols for D1, too. Are you talking about just standard basic movement pattern stuff that everybody is learning at a certain progression level? Tell us a little bit-- just more about your--

[00:22:46.78] I mean, I had to develop an entire system, kind of like Parisi wrote an entire system, like Velocity wrote an entire system. So it was basically an entire system that was multi-level and multilayered. And then I had to do it for multiple sports.

[00:23:02.50] So it was very time-consuming, a lot of research, a lot of thought process. Because of liability issues, and you're dealing with young kids, you're dealing with coaches that, they're not-- the way our pay scale is, you're not getting the best coaches.

[00:23:21.46] So you have to put a lot of time and effort into your staff to get them up to speed or you're going to have a lawsuit and you're going to hurt someone. So it was really involved. And I think that's probably-- probably more stress was dealing with staff. No matter at the college level, whether you're at the corporate level, it's your biggest headache.

[00:23:43.48] Most coaches think they're better than what they are. And they think they all have the answers. And they think their way is the only way. And so you have to deal with that. Now you talk about dealing with that at 32 facilities around the country.

[00:23:59.05] And where you're in and out of town, and you implement your protocol, and then you come back a month later and they're not even close to doing anything. They're doing what they feel like doing that day. And so it's firing coaches, getting new coaches, and it's a merry-go-round.

[00:24:18.37] At the division II level, division III level, ADIA, FCS. And we're a group of five, and we're really, from a budget standpoint, really a mid-FCS program, the way we run things. And so the hardest thing you're ever going to deal with is staff.

[00:24:37.96] Yeah. And that being said leads right into another good segue. You have been very successful at LA Tech. You can talk a little bit about that. But being that successful, also, it's caused you to basically lose your staff every year because these guys are getting promoted.

[00:24:57.49] Basically, for six years, I lose my entire staff. They get either head FCS jobs or head Division II jobs, or they move up to a BCS program. I lost one, Ryan Grubbs, to Purdue this year.

[00:25:13.51] And I lost another coach to southern Utah as the head guy. And the year before that, I lost coaches to West Texas A&M, as the head guy, and then one to Colorado State. And before that, it was Eastern Illinois and Colorado State again. And so it's a good thing. I want the best from my coaches. You leave Tech two ways.

[00:25:39.70] You're either fired or you move up. And that's kind of how I want it. And I'll do anything to help our coaches move up. If you're not good enough, I just get rid of them. And I want to put out quality coaches. I don't want-- what I've had done to me before was, called a coach and got a rec on a coach.

[00:26:00.73] And gave me an unbelievable rec. This coach is going to be a superstar-- exact words. And the coach was the worst-- one of the worst humans and worst coaches I've ever been around. And I had to get rid of him. And I would never do that to another coach. If I'm going to recommend somebody, they're going to be quality.

[00:26:20.04] Yeah. What's your interview process look like, then, if you're going to hire somebody new?

[00:26:25.90] I find that the best way is bringing them in, putting them on the floor, giving them a group, inside and outside. I want to see more-- I want to see the human interaction. I want to see their technical coaching skills. I want to see, how quick can they build a relationship with an athlete? I can do it in one session.

[00:26:47.47] And I want to see that. I want to see them coach really hard. I want to see them just really immerse themselves in that group and immerse themselves with those athletes. And I think, for the most part, you start out with a basic phone call. Then maybe-- at our level, it's hard to bring guys in. So then you go FaceTime or Skype.

[00:27:11.23] And then, if you can get them in, if they're close enough-- I try to hire more regional so I can get them drive over. And I'll convince him to drive over on their own tab. And then I put them on and I'll let them coach the whole day. And we go multiple groups. And I find it that is where I get my best coaches. Where their resume might not be very good.

[00:27:31.72] You look at their resume. Well, he hasn't been anywhere. But you put him on it, you put him with an athlete, and they bang it out. And I've had the opposite, where I've had these crazy resumes where they've been at all these Power Five schools, and they couldn't coach a lick.

[00:27:46.96] They had no interaction with you know with the players. They had no personality. They had no drive. And it was just a, this is where I've been. It doesn't tell you anything about them as a person. So lately, most of the guys I've hired have actually been from division II and FCS schools.

[00:28:04.01] Yeah. Well, and that whole people side of things, relationship-building, is kind of the X factor in this profession, right? You can have written the greatest program, but if you can't get athletes to believe in what you're selling and what you're telling them is going to help them, then it doesn't really matter anyway.

[00:28:24.63] No. It's that old adage, that a basic program done really well and with a lot of heart and soul, it will beat the best-written program ever. It could be the greatest sports scientists, everything could be physiologically correct in every block leading up to a season.

[00:28:44.74] But if you can't implement it, if the athletes don't believe in you-- and it's really-- Brett Bartholomew is on the right track with conscious coaching, and the way he sees that psychological aspect of that relationship between the coach and the athlete.

[00:29:03.32] And if you're in it for yourself, if you're in it for your social media hits, and your tweets, and your likes, you're in it for the wrong reason. This field is not about a coach, it is about the humans you do coach.

[00:29:17.28] Right. Yeah, no. 100%. I think that that's the overarching kind of theme of coaching, and this servant-leadership, for lack of a better term, is like that you're-- you don't need the accolades to do it.

[00:29:33.47] And probably why guys like you and I survive, if that's the right word for it, as long as we do, because we're not doing it because of the amount of money that we're getting paid, or the amount of championships-- although winning is cool and stuff like that.

[00:29:48.79] But there's been times and teams that we've been around that are really bad, too. And you have to bring the same level of commitment to that team that you do to the team that's winning the ballgame.

[00:29:58.39] I mean, for me, walk-ons, not having a staff, a coach could also bring 40 and at a time, and throw 40 new guys on. And most of the time, they're god awful. But 10 of them will end up playing for us-- 10 out of the 40.

[00:30:16.03] And so for me, I'll tell them. I'll say, look, man, if you were any good, you'd have got a scholarship right out of high school. So you're not-- because a lot of them come in super arrogant, and like we owe them something.

[00:30:27.61] And I tell them straight up, I refuse to learn your name. Because it's kind of like Afghanistan or Vietnam, where soldiers get off the plane and they're the first ones killed, and other soldiers don't want to know them because they're not going to be here long. I don't want to get emotionally attached.

[00:30:43.12] So I tell them, you make it through-- you make it through the season, you make it through winter training and through spring ball, and then I'll learn your name. It's not called-- walk-on number one, walk-on number-- I give them numbers. Because most of them come in and quit after a week.

[00:31:03.58] They came in to get a shirt-- a jersey-- I mean, a shirt. Give me a T-shirt and some clothes, and then they walk around telling everyone on campus, I play for Tech. And they're out. But once they do make it, I give them-- I coach them as hard or harder than our scholarship guys.

[00:31:21.25] And it's like, OK, you've made it. You've earned it. You've earned my coaching ability. And because, when you throw that extra-- you have 120, you throw 40, with no staff, it buries you. And so that is kind of like-- and so it's like a badge of honor when they make it through. And I have only-- from last year's 40, I have I have 12 guys left.

[00:31:44.92] Yep. That stuck to it.

[00:31:46.27] And they stuck through it, and now they have names.

[00:31:48.64] Now they have names. Now you know. That's great. You kind of alluded to it, and you talked about it in your session this morning that you presented on conditioning, about mental toughness.

[00:32:03.79] And I know that's a big one. And we've heard it talked about a lot lately, and the badge of honor-- we've got to be tougher. We've got to be in better shape. We've got to be tougher. So tell us the--

[00:32:17.73] I mean, it's a misnomer. I don't think it-- in training, just say that military saying. It's, you're either trained or untrained. And I think, with conditioning, when you're conditioning athletes, the guys that are tough are going to beast it. They're going to go out and give you everything they have all the time.

[00:32:38.68] That's just their-- that is their mental outlook. They have a high pain tolerance. They are driven to compete. There's a lot of things involved in why certain people succeed and others don't. And so that adage that we make it so hard on them, our guys become really tough.

[00:33:01.33] And that's not true, because your guys who are mentally weak, they're just in a little better shape, so they can handle the training a little bit better. So they seem like they're mentally tough, but they're not. They still haven't made the choice to push themselves to the limit, to do what it takes to become great.

[00:33:18.95] When the season starts, when something bad happens, they're going to be the first ones to fold. And your tough guys will be the first ones to stick through it. The mentally weak will be the first ones who get negative, start bad-mouthing the staff or bad-mouthing the street staff, the training staff, the play calling, everything about the season. If anything's going wrong, they're the first ones to cave.

[00:33:44.62] And I think that if you have-- from a leadership standpoint, you can get your athletes tougher by your seniors leading and not accepting that kind of stuff from the mentally weak, and trying to bring them along, and trying to push them and put peer pressure on them to make the choice to be tougher. It's a solid choice.

[00:34:08.81] Either you make the choice to be tough or you don't. You made the choice to go to class or you made the choice to sleep in. You made the choice to go to study hall and get stuff done or you made the choice go to study hall instead of sit on your phone for an hour and then leave.

[00:34:21.67] You made the choice to work hard in the weight room, or in conditioning, or watching film. It's a choice of becoming great or not. And know we have athletes who are mentally weak, and they're talented athletes, but until they make the choice to be tough, it's not going to happen. And I think that beating athletes into submission, yelling at them, getting them to vomit, getting them to drop to where they're crawling across the line, it serves no purpose.

[00:34:52.09] Right. Yeah. And the quote from one of your slides, it was talking about BUD/S. Because I think that one gets thrown out. But going through BUD/S doesn't instill toughness, it reveals it. And that's kind of same thing with training.

[00:35:05.94] I've worked with some guys in the Seals, and they'll tell you that the BUD/S, it just washes out the mentally weak. And the tough guys stay in it. But they'll be the first ones to tell you that they made it through BUD/S because of each other, because they bonded together and pushed each other they get through.

[00:35:28.51] Now, I do think that that's an aspect of conditioning that is that brotherhood in that community together of pushing through something that's hard. Yes, I think it needs to be hard, but there are certain kinds of hard. There are standards.

[00:35:43.24] Setting standards in everything you do on the drill is, that standard is just as hard as the drill itself. And having the seniors you know pull each other up so that they elevate themselves to that standard on every drill, every day. That's how you win. That is mental toughness. The drill itself is not the mental toughness part.

[00:36:08.46] And that's-- like you're saying, that's the leadership of the upperclassmen. That's the culture of your team--

[00:36:15.62] Of your team.

[00:36:15.77] --that you've crafted. Yeah.

[00:36:17.07] Yes.

[00:36:17.35] Yeah. No, that's huge. And speaking of standards, too, we talked a little bit about-- or, a lot about-- coaching in general, the profession, this weekend, and amongst ourselves and with some other guys. And kind of give us your thoughts about that. You've got some ideas about how we might better evaluate each other.

[00:36:38.92] I mean, I think, like we talked about earlier, as far as the field has come from a scientific standpoint, as far as technology, sports science, and how we're looking at data, and we've come really far. But at the same time, I think we have gone so far backwards with the way we present ourselves.

[00:37:00.50] I think that we have too many coaches who present themselves with this macho bravado. And it's this social media, Kim Kardashian type, let me see how many hits I get. Let me put something off-the-wall that's super aggressive. My shirt's off, my sleeves are off, I'm doing this. And look, I've talked to Brad about this.

[00:37:27.96] And he couldn't believe that I grew up in a pre-cell phone-- pre-cell phone, camera phone-- and I've done some crazy things to motivate my athletes. But it was something-- in my mind, it was something to help my athletes to perform better. I wasn't trying to get social media hits. I wasn't trying to market myself as this type of guy. I was just trying to get the best out of my athletes.

[00:37:58.29] And it was something I was doing-- it was something personal that I was doing for them where-- I brought a SWAT team with assault shotguns and chained the door shut. And with blanks, they shot out. The SWAT team comes in dressed full-tilt, shooting up the weight room with blanks, and the players just going crazy. Some got a little scared, thinking they're all getting arrested.

[00:38:24.06] [INAUDIBLE]

[00:38:25.08] Yeah. But it was me with a SWAT team, and it was in my facility. When I caught an eight-foot alligator, brought him in, and threw him in the-- I just taped his mouth up and then stabbed him in front of team and ate him later. But they get them fired up before a squad day.

[00:38:43.15] I mean, I've done certain things like that. But it wasn't-- it was, this is between me and you, like Vegas. It doesn't get out. And for two years, the athletes never talked about that. This was just something I-- it wasn't something I was doing to elevate myself in the field-- which it really doesn't. It makes you look like a neanderthal idiot, like you don't have a clue of--

[00:39:05.97] Actual training [INAUDIBLE]

[00:39:06.93] --actual training knowledge. And so it's just this-- you have to be-- a football coach looks at a street coach and goes, oh, he has to be 6'4", 240, tatted up, and just yells all the time. And yelling is not coaching. There's nothing technical. I kind of showed y'all that today in my presentation.

[00:39:32.26] But that's what a football coach thinks a strength coach is. And football coaches are doing the hiring, right? But they can't ask relevant questions in the hiring process of biomechanics, of pathophysiology, of progressions, of purization. They don't know-- they definitely know the answers, but they don't know the questions at all.

[00:39:52.47] So you've got the wrong people making the hires. You have ADs who are backing them, because they're like, you're not making the coach happy, so I'm going to fire you. And I tell our AD, I wasn't hired to make the head coach happy.

[00:40:10.02] I was hired for the safety of our athletes. That's my number one job, the safety of our athletes. After that, there's training. And so I've had my battles with administration and with sport coaches. And I refuse to back down, and I never will.

[00:40:28.89] I think young coaches are so enthralled with head coaches, at any sport, and they all bow down to them, be submissive, because they have this badge of, oh, my undying loyalty. And then they end up hurting somebody.

[00:40:46.47] Right. And that undying loyalty could end up hurting somebody because they're basically doing what the head coach wanted done instead of what they know.

[00:40:59.19] Should be done.

[00:41:00.74] And they probably do know, because chances are, they probably do have a master's degree and have a certification. So they probably know. They can't say they didn't know. No, that's great. Yeah. And you talked about being kind of-- when you were saying, when you first started, you were minimally qualified, at least. What does that mean to you? [INAUDIBLE]

[00:41:21.59] Your CSCS is, to me-- and your undergrad. And master's are like-- I think you don't need get a masters in kines. I think you get a master's in sports psych or a master's in sports nutrition. I think you go a different route--

[00:41:38.30] I agree.

[00:41:39.45] --to be more rounded as a coach. Professors don't like to hear this, and higher education don't want to hear this. But now, with the computer age, you can you can pretty much learn a master's degree online by just researching your own topics and getting really in-depth in minute topics when it comes to training, and becoming an expert at minutia on different aspects.

[00:42:10.02] And to me, that is a master's. Going to work with some top-level Olympic coaches, that's-- coaches Hatch used to always tell me, when I was older, look, you're working on your Hatch PhD. I'm teaching you stuff that I'm not going to teach anybody else. I felt the same way when I was with Tom Shaw.

[00:42:28.65] I felt the same way just being with Dan Path when he was at Florida, going up to Canada and working with some of the Olympic coaches up there. So, I mean, that's the minimum. I think experience is, to a certain extent-- some coaches rely, well, I've been in the field for 30 years.

[00:42:50.88] Well, but you sucked for 30 years. You know? But there are some guys who, after 30 years, have learned along the way, through experience, that you can't take those experiences away from them because it made them better coaches all the way through.

[00:43:06.12] Sure. Yeah. I mean, you've been coaching for 30 years. You're still growing and still learning. What do you do to stay on at the forefront of that? Especially, being as busy as you are, you don't have tons of vacations.

[00:43:19.77] No. I mean, I think I'm so consumed by it, I've always been-- like I said, that aspect of, what's next? Of just incessant on reading. I mean, you walk in to my house, it looks like a nutty professor house.

[00:43:42.97] It's just stacks of books and stacks of articles. There's just stuff everywhere. It drives my wife insane. Because I'm constantly read-- I mean, I try to read three or four books a month. And I'm so ADD I can't read one at a time, so I read four at a time.

[00:43:57.15] So I read one for a little while, read another one. And know just constantly trying to digest as much information as I can, getting out and working. Even today. We were talking with Eddie Rylan, and we were talking about doing grappling and conditioning with linemen.

[00:44:14.79] And we actually came up with a couple of drills by just me and him talking and saying, well, what if you do this, and you do this, you do this? And we were talking about doing it with slosh pipes, with [INAUDIBLE] And that's where you start learning more by interacting with other coaches and throwing around a ton of ideas.

[00:44:33.11] Yeah. No, that's such an important part of it. And we've said-- we talked about earlier, we've had as much learning, or continuing the education after the clinic, after the 5:00 PM session's over, and when you're hanging out at the bar or that restaurant, and you're jotting stuff down on napkins. And that part of the conference is where some of the best education goes on.

[00:45:00.25] I think just about every conference I've gone to, either spoke or our was attending the conference, it was always after the fact, where people kind of put their guards down and relaxed and put their egos away, had a beer or two-- which might have something to do with putting egos away. Helped out a little bit.

[00:45:19.74] And just going through, OK. Just throwing ideas out. And by bouncing ideas back and forth, I've come up with entire protocol. Jeff Howser and I-- who's at Duke, who I think is one of the brightest humans in our field, especially when it comes to speed development-- and we sat at a bar for six hours, and I wrote a stack-- probably a five-inch stack of protocol on bar napkins.

[00:45:48.18] And we wrote out just an entire protocol on-- a plyometric protocol that we thought was different than what anybody else was doing. And then he implemented it with Duke's volleyball team, where he had a one-inch per week gain in vertical jump. Off of what we were just writing, throwing stuff back and forth, and what if we did this, and what if we did this? What do you think about this?

[00:46:13.36] And so I've had-- and like when I spoke at SummerStrong, Jeff drove down from North Carolina. We sat for three hours there talking. And we played NC State one year, he drove in. Every time we get a chance, we try to sit down for three or four hours and just talk training.

[00:46:33.99] That's awesome. Yeah. And you have to have those key people in your coaching tree and your kind of mentorship tree, however that goes. And I think that's critical. This has been incredible episode.

[00:46:48.58] I know that based off of all of these, I want to keep talking to you. And we definitely want people to keep reaching out. I know you've got a good presence on social media. If people want to follow up with you, if they don't follow you already and whatnot, what's the best way to connect?

[00:47:02.28] It's connected either at @thekurthester on Twitter, or it's Hester Kurt on Instagram. Email Might take me a little bit, but I will get back to you. When you DM me, I typically-- if I'm riding in a car, traveling or whatever, that's when I sit down and hit back.

[00:47:25.66] I mean, I did a couple of DMs from the presentation this morning where I'm just emailing the guys the presentation. So I'll try to get back. And then if the question is too extensive, then we'll get on the phone. And it's easier to talk on the phone than it is to write things out.

[00:47:43.57] And you guys always looking for interns down there, too?

[00:47:46.72] We're always looking for free interns. being in Ruston, Louisiana, which is in north Louisiana, it's not very big, it's kind of hard to get help. So if you're willing to learn and willing to work, I'll take you in a heartbeat. If you're breathing and you're ambulatory, we're good to go.

[00:48:03.49] Yeah. Close to [INAUDIBLE], close to New Orleans, so plenty of other things to do if you want the experience of coming to Louisiana.

[00:48:13.54] You're close to Dallas. You're close to Dallas, Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans.

[00:48:18.34] There you go, the trifecta of--

[00:48:20.83] The trifecta. Yeah, of the south.

[00:48:22.75] Yeah. This has been fantastic, man. I appreciate you being on the show.

[00:48:26.38] No problem, man. It was awesome being here.

[00:48:28.75] And if you're new to this podcast and want to learn more about NSCA strength and conditioning certifications, you can get all the details and Also just want to thank everybody for listening in. We truly appreciate you guys who listen to us and give us the support, and we couldn't do it without you.

[00:48:45.07] So keep writing reviews, subscribing, wherever you get your podcasts from. And also, big thanks to our new sponsor of the podcast, Sorinex Exercise Equipment. We truly appreciate their support, as well. Thanks again for listening to the Coaching Podcast. See you next time.

[00:49:02.83] This was the NSCA's Coaching Podcast. The National Strength and Conditioning Association was founded in 1978 by strength and conditioning coaches to share information, resources, and help advance the profession. Serving coaches for over 40 years, the NSCA is the trusted source for strength and conditioning professionals. Be sure to join us next time.

Reporting Errors: To report errors in a podcast episode requiring correction or clarification, email the editor at or write to NSCA, attn: Publications Dept., 1885 Bob Johnson Dr., Colorado Springs, CO 80906. Your letter should be clearly marked as a letter of complaint. Please (a) identify in writing the precise factual errors in the published podcast episode (every false, factual assertion allegedly contained therein), (b) explain with specificity what the true facts are, and (c) include your full name and contact information.

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Scott P. Caulfield, MA, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E

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Kurt Lavelle Hester, CSCS

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