NSCA’s Coaching Podcast, Episode 118: Rock Gullickson

by Eric McMahon, MEd, CSCS, RSCC*D and Rock Gullickson
Coaching Podcast February 2022


In this episode, we hear from 40-year veteran strength and conditioning coach, Rock Gullickson. Rock shares his path from collegiate strength and conditioning to the National Football League (NFL), including how weight room conversations have changed over the years as well as his thoughts on growth in the field today. Listen in to hear Rock connect with NSCA Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager, Eric McMahon, on lessons and insights for an impactful coaching career.

Connect with Rock via email at Rock-Ter79@hotmail.com| Find Eric on Instagram: @ericmcmahoncscs or Twitter: @ericmcmahoncscs

Show Notes

“I always liked the idea that you tell the guys, hey, we're going to help you get stronger. We are going to take you to levels that you haven't been before. We are going to push you. We are going to ask you to do things with a lot of energy and you need to bring that each day. And that you also have to have a willingness to work with us on your technique. And we'll film you. We'll watch you. We'll be right beside you. We'll motivate you. We'll encourage you.” 22:37

“More than ever, it's developing a relationship and an understanding and a trust that I'm taking it down this path. Because I want you to be bigger, faster, and stronger. I want you to be more healthy on the football field. I want you to be more explosive. I want you to run better.” 26:49

“For the young aspiring strength coach, I tell them that there's three things that go into your success. And number one is that you work hard at what you're doing and that people recognize that in you.” 38:24

“It's the it's the life lessons that you teach these young people. Because there's things that you have seen and done that, you should share it with these young people so that you teach them about life. And you teach them about their responsibilities and help them with their goals. But that's where the happiness comes.” 43:00


[00:00:00.72] Welcome to the NSCA Coaching Podcast, episode 118.

[00:00:05.19] More than ever, it's developing a relationship and an understanding and a trust that-- I'm taking it down this path because of, I want you to be bigger, faster, and stronger. I want you to be more healthy on the football field.

[00:00:20.28] I want you to be more explosive. I want you to run better. And it's all about-- more than anything, it's about building those relationships of trust and understanding.

[00:00:32.79] 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.

[00:00:43.60] Welcome to the NCAA Coaching Podcast. I'm Eric McMahon. Today, we're joined by a 40-year coaching veteran Rock Gullickson, long time in the NFL, college sports. Rock, welcome.

[00:00:56.82] Thanks, Eric.

[00:00:58.74] Awesome having you on. We connected at the NFL combine a couple of years ago now and really just got to know each other over the past couple of years just talking shop. And I wanted to give everyone here a chance to learn a little bit about your path in the field. So share that with us.

[00:01:19.02] OK. Sounds great. No, I appreciate that. I started out as an undersized offensive lineman. I walked on at Moorhead State, which is now the University of Minnesota, Moorhead. And wanted to play college football. And my offensive line coach said, you're too small.

[00:01:38.56] And so I was quickly introduced by my dad. My dad took me down to the YMCA in Fargo, North Dakota and introduced me to the power lifters that train there. And they taught me the ropes on how to lift weights and how to get bigger and stronger.

[00:01:57.78] And I brought that back to Moorhead State and introduced some things to the my teammates. And before too long, I was telling my folks that you know what-- the idea of going into engineering, I'm not too sure about anymore. I kind of like this idea of being in the weight room and working with football players.

[00:02:17.79] And my folks were like, well, we don't even know what you're talking about, being a strength coach. Because there wasn't very many around at the time. But I convinced them that I was going make a switch and start studying the exercise sciences, exercise physiology and anatomy, and so forth. And I loved it.

[00:02:43.27] And I just really enjoyed being in those courses. I enjoyed being in the weight room working with the guys. And once I graduated from school-- from college, my football coach said to me, you know, hey. Why don't you stick around a year and being an assistant strength coach and work in the weight room with the fellows. And it was a federally-funded program. It was called CETA-- C-E-T-A.

[00:03:10.57] And it allowed recent graduates a year of work. And it wasn't a whole lot of pay. But it was sure a lot of fun. And I was able to stay at my alma mater and work with the football team and progressed from there.

[00:03:27.60] It wasn't too long and that year was coming to an end. And Marty Johnson of Mayville State of North Dakota contacted me and asked me if I'd be interested in coming up to Mayville State-- it was a Division III school-- and work for him.

[00:03:43.23] And Marty was great. He was a Marine. And he taught me a lot about organizing my day and keeping the weight room neat and clean and working with the football team.

[00:03:55.44] But at that time, Eric, I was a track coach. I was offensive line coach. I was in charge of the equipment room. I taught a couple of courses. And I took care of things in the weight room.

[00:04:09.30] That lasted for about two years. And my wife, [? Teri ?] and my folks, they all agreed that maybe I should try to pursue this a step further.

[00:04:21.07] So I went to South Dakota State by the recommendation of a friend of mine, Tom Richardson, who had been there previously. And I met with Barry McEwen. Barry was my advisor.

[00:04:33.57] And Barry says, well, you know. I haven't done much of this, preparing guys to be strength coaches. But we're going to write up a curriculum together. And we're going to come up with a course load for you that will benefit you the most in pursuing your career.

[00:04:52.41] 15 months of study there at South Dakota State, and Barry was able to help me get my graduate degree. Montana State opened up. And I'm thinking, wow, what are the chances? My wife is from Montana and what a great opportunity for me to be the first head strength coach in the Big Sky Conference.

[00:05:17.19] I met with Doug Graber. Doug was a big influence on me as well. Doug was the head football coach at Montana State. I got the job. I was so, so excited.

[00:05:29.35] And it was very much a highlight. And went to Montana State, spent eight years there. And then in that eight years, we won the national championship. And I'm thinking, gosh, this is kind of fun.

[00:05:45.11] And I met a lot of great people, worked with a tremendous group of football players and athletes, ran the weight room there. Our weight room was 2,200 square feet, a lot of iron, barbells, dumbbells-- but not a whole lot more. But we learned the basics.

[00:06:05.25] And the guys loved it. They hadn't had a strength coach before. And they performed super for me. And I just enjoyed being part of that whole process. And after eight years there, I started to recognize that maybe there was more to this. The money wasn't very good.

[00:06:28.08] I loved living in Bozeman. My wife and I found that as our home base. We always thought that Bozeman was our place of choice to live. But time came when it was time to move on. And Rutgers had opened. And Doug Graber who had hired me at Montana State was the head coach there.

[00:06:54.93] And I talked to Doug. And he said, I want you to come out. And so we went out there in 1990 and joined the Rutgers staff.

[00:07:06.18] Great fun, great fun. Doug was so supportive. And Doug was the one that said to me-- he says, you know. Of all my guys on my staff, you have the greatest chance of coaching in the NFL one day.

[00:07:22.02] And I'm like, wow, coach, that's quite a compliment. And from that moment forward, it was my major goal. And we talked about the lifestyle that we would have and what are the chances of making it to the NFL. We were at Rutgers for three years. I met Jim Haslett.

[00:07:49.08] A couple of friends and I and my wife, we drove up to Montreal to watch the World League Championship game played between a couple of teams. And Jim was the defensive coordinator for the Sacramento Surge.

[00:08:03.51] And they win the game. And Jim is excited. And I had a chance to meet Jim. And in our brief meeting he says to me, what are your goals? What are your goals in strength and conditioning? And I said, well, coach, you first. What are your goals as a football coach?

[00:08:21.33] And he says, I want to be the head coach of an NFL team. And I'm like, OK. Who doesn't? And he says, well, what about you? And I said, well, coach, if you're the head coach, I want to be your strength coach.

[00:08:37.18] And that was in 1992. And, Eric, eight years later, he gets the job at the New Orleans Saints. And he calls and he says-- at the time I was at the University of Louisville. And he calls and says, how would you like to be my strength coach? Are you still up for it? And within days I was there.

[00:09:00.56] After Rutgers I went to Texas. And I worked for John Machovec. John was great. He told me one thing that kind of sticks with me still today, he says, I've got I've got a bunch of assistants. I've got nine assistants on my staff. And they all think they know more about strength and conditioning than you.

[00:09:23.12] But he says, you're my strength coach, so whatever you say goes. And I thought that was as much support as you could ever ask for from a head coach. And we had some really fun times at Texas. We won the first big 12 championship. Played Nebraska in St. Louis. And it was really another highlight of mine.

[00:09:50.58] From Texas, we went to Louisville for a couple of years with John L. Smith. We're getting things kind of started there. They just opened up the new stadium, brand new weight room. And Tom Jurich was our AD at the time.

[00:10:08.22] And Tom was like, hey, whatever it takes to get this room to be the best that it can possibly be, we'll pay for it. We'll take care of it. We want to follow what you think is most important. Evan Marcus was my assistant there. Evan is now with the Browns.

[00:10:25.05] And Evan and I had worked together at Rutgers and Texas and now here at the University of Louisville. And we had just a grand time putting that room together for the first time. And we lasted there just two years. And then Jim called and said, would you like to come to the Saints?

[00:10:45.90] And, luckily, I was able to get Evan to come along. And we started in there. And it was such an awakening for both of us. I had been in strength coaching for 22 years. And the idea that as a strength coach-- I'm a first-year year NFL strength coach at the age of 44.

[00:11:10.41] And I had two players on that team that came to me. One was Willie Roaf and one was Roy Glover. And they both pretty much said, hey, coach, whatever you say, goes. We'll do whatever you ask us to do.

[00:11:25.56] And as a first-time strength coach in the NFL, that was pretty special. And they were very special men and are still today and helped me immensely to get started. Jim treated me like a champ, took care of us.

[00:11:42.54] We had a brand new facility that opened up. And we were really, really enjoying our time in New Orleans and working for Jim. And then Katrina hit. The team moved. We spent the season in San Antonio. We set up a temporary gym there in the Alamodome.

[00:12:05.87] It was interesting. The players hung in there. But we didn't have a whole lot of success that year. I thought it was great that Jim held the team together and that we fielded a competitive team. We just didn't have the wins that were necessary. And at the end of the year, we were all looking for another job.

[00:12:29.70] I had the fortune of getting to know Mike McCarthy. He was our offensive coordinator for five years in New Orleans. And he had left to go to San Francisco for a year. And he gets the Green Bay job.

[00:12:44.42] Now, for me going back to the north, I'm originally from Minnesota, and to go to Wisconsin and coach for the Packers was like a dream come true. And the Packers are just a tremendous organization. There's none better in football.

[00:13:01.58] Had a great room and great assistance and really fun to be with the team. And in Rodgers' first year, we only won six games. And so Mike felt he needed to make some changes. And I was off to St Louis.

[00:13:17.90] Jerry Palmieri had become a very good friend of mine over the years. And Jerry helped me get in front of Steve Spagnuolo and was able to join the St Louis Rams.

[00:13:32.06] That was an interesting job. It was really fun. I like being in St. Louis. It's an easy place to live, a lot of good people there in that building, enjoyed the players immensely.

[00:13:43.25] And Steve lasted-- he was there for three years. We didn't have the win losses that everybody was hoping for. And they brought in Jeff Fisher.

[00:13:57.17] Steve Waterson was a friend of mine, is a friend of mine. And Steve helped me with Coach Fisher. And I was able to stay with him. It doesn't oftentimes happen that when a coaching change is made that you get to stay. But it was great working for Coach Fisher. Coach Fisher is-- the strength of Coach Fisher is that he's a problem solver he's a people person.

[00:14:20.75] And obviously, he did a tremendous job getting the team moved out to LA. Once we got to LA, my wife and I recognized that living full-time in LA probably wasn't going to work for us. A good friend of mine was the head coach at Tennessee. And that was my final year. And strength coaching was going to the University of Tennessee for a year.

[00:14:49.36] And what an education for me to go back to college level. Loved the kids, the players, the young men that I got to work with, loved working with them. But the politics that are involved at some of these schools it's just-- it's just kind of hard to overcome. But we made a lot of progress. And I enjoyed that year. But it ended much, much too soon.

[00:15:17.83] And then retirement-- going back to Marty Johnson and my first job there at Mayville State, Marty taught me how to work. Marty taught me about the workday, how to organize my time, how to decide what needs to be done next, how to prioritize, how to treat people, how to get things done, and how to be part of a team.

[00:15:43.00] But he didn't teach me what to do when I got to this point in my career. He didn't tell me about retirement. And so we move out here to Oregon to be with family. And I'm like, well, what am I supposed to do with my time?

[00:16:00.29] And so I looked at a couple of high schools. And a good friend in the neighborhood knew the head football coach at Sandy which is just down the road here. And I met Josh Dill. And Josh is the head coach at Sandy. And he welcomed me in. And he says, hey, what do you see about my weight room?

[00:16:21.97] And I said, coach, I'd move this here and move this here. He goes, let's do it.

[00:16:26.08] He says, what do you think about my program? I says, love your program. What would you change? And I said, just a couple of things. I'd tweak just a couple of things. He says, let's do it.

[00:16:35.42] And so the players started coming in. And it was really a fun year with them. I wished I was involved more. COVID keeps me out of school during the class-- during class hours. But I get to go in early in the morning and work with the guys that are available.

[00:16:59.18] And, again, such a learning curve for me. I hadn't coached 16, 17-year-old players. And so it was a change for me. But what a delightful group of young men to be around. They have so much foresight and so much understanding of life that I'm like, at 16 and 17, I didn't know what they know today.

[00:17:26.02] But just giving them a couple of tips and a couple of clues on how to be successful in the weight room and how to build your body to stay healthy really has been enjoyable. And that brings us up to today.

[00:17:41.55] That's awesome. Rock, you speak to the early days and the struggles early on of just how challenging this field is. And this is something that comes through a lot on this podcast of just the everyday struggles of being a strength and conditioning coach. And you're now on the other side of it.

[00:18:01.81] And you always hear how many coaches get to retire as a strength coach. It's one of those things where coaches who do tend to find themselves in really good situations and have a lot of luck along the way. But with that said, you speak to an immense coaching tree of a mentorship and people that have built you up along the way.

[00:18:25.90] One thing that stuck out for me, you didn't get to the NFL until you were in your 40s, something you were aspiring towards. Do you think that gave you an advantage, coming in a little bit more mature, a little bit more seasoned in the weight room? Speak to that a little bit.

[00:18:41.08] Yeah. When you look back and you think about the experiences that I had at Montana State, that I had at Rutgers, Texas, and Louisville, I wouldn't have been the coach that I was when I first got to the Saints without having taken those steps. And at the time, you're going through your 30s, and you start thinking, well, I'm starting to get a little bit older as a strength coach.

[00:19:09.61] And I've been in this thing for 20 years. What's going to happen? Is there enough time left to make it to the NFL? So at age 44, to think that I was going to have a 17-year run in the league, it just wasn't likely.

[00:19:31.15] But like I say, if it wasn't for Texas, if it wasn't for the lessons I learned at Montana State, at Rutgers, at Louisville, I wouldn't have been the strength coach and I wouldn't have all that experience to draw from.

[00:19:46.24] You meet so many personalities. And you understand that your role as a strength coach is to get as much as you can out of each one of these guys. And you understand that some guys take a little coaxing. Some guys take full-out, hey, let's explain this whole thing to you. Some guys by on day one. And everybody's different.

[00:20:14.83] And with that experience, you understand how to reach some guys that are-- if I was in my early 30s when I first got to the Saints, and if Kyle Turley would have come up to me and he says, I ain't doing this workout-- and at age 44, I had the ability to say to him, well, we've got a list of exercises. and you say you're not going to do this. But maybe we just get started with something that looks appealing to you. And then we'll work our way through it.

[00:20:54.16] And so I let Kyle get started. And he's working out with Jerry Fontenot. And they become my best guys. They become just outstanding guys in the weight room. But he was testing me. And at a younger age, I'm sure I would have said, hey, I'm the strength coach. When you're here, you do what I tell you to.

[00:21:15.90] But instead, I had the ability to reach out to Kyle and just recognize that he's going to be-- he's going to be different for me. And we developed quite a successful bond of working together. But without those experiences, I don't think I would have had that kind of success with Kyle.

[00:21:39.75] Yeah. That truly speaks to the professional level. And what I'd like to ask is, you've worked across so many levels and with, obviously, varying levels of talent and athletes, what are the core training principles that you hung your hat on over such a long career?

[00:21:57.16] I know you like to get after it in the weight room even today. But what translated into your programming? And what were some of the big items you stuck with?

[00:22:08.34] Well, my upbringing was with powerlifting. And so I always felt that each day you had to do some type of press, some type of squat movement, whether it be a double leg or a single leg, a front or a back. And you had to do some type of pull-- whether it's a deadlift or a clean pole or a power clean or snatch.

[00:22:34.53] And I always felt that with those basic movements being part of your workout, you had a chance to be strong, get stronger. And I always liked the idea that you tell the guys, hey, we're going to help you get stronger. We're going to take you to levels that you haven't been before.

[00:22:55.12] We're going to push you. We're going to ask you to do things with a lot of energy. And you need to bring that each day. And you also have to have a willingness to work with us on your technique.

[00:23:07.47] And we'll film you. We'll watch you. We'll be right beside you. We'll motivate you. We'll encourage you.

[00:23:14.46] But we want to see you get stronger. We want to see the numbers improve. And you always got a kick out of the guys that, even at the NFL level, that came to you personally and said, coach, I've never felt stronger. I've never been stronger. I've never felt faster. I've never looked more muscular.

[00:23:34.33] That's the prize. That's what we're looking for, is we're looking for that type of buy-on based on the fact that things are working for the athlete. But, yeah, the basic movements-- I believe in barbells. I believe in dumbbells and all the basic movements.

[00:23:55.62] You have to keep in mind, too, that as a powerlifter, I read about Fred Hatfield. I watch Fred Hatfield lift. I went to his symposiums.

[00:24:05.82] And he talked about gaining strength. And he says-- he was the first one that I heard it from. He says, there's only two things that the athlete needs to bring to the weight room. Number one, he's got to bring the juice. He's got to be excited. He's got to bring the energy to work hard enough to get better.

[00:24:26.04] And then secondly, he has to have the willingness to listen to you and work on his technique. And his point was 1,000 good reps makes you a pretty good lifter. But until you've got those 1,000 good reps under your belt, you're still learning.

[00:24:44.04] And for many guys, for many athletes, that's years of training. When we got to the NFL, and I had a chance to meet with guys that we were interested in drafting, I would ask them, I'd say, when did you first start training?

[00:24:59.97] And if they said, hey, I first started training seriously when I was 13, 14, 15 years old, I thought, now here, we've got a chance. We've got a chance with this guy. If he says, I didn't start training until I was in college, he just doesn't have enough years behind him.

[00:25:20.07] Let's start these athletes young. Let's teach them how to lift. Let's teach them the importance of coming to the room with excitement. And then let's make sure that they're being nourished and rested in between.

[00:25:34.53] That's a good takeaway just on building, getting more time under the bar, getting more time under the bar. And I think back to a lot of us started our strength and conditioning journey as freshman in college. High school strength and conditioning hadn't really taken off even 15, 20 years ago.

[00:25:56.88] And there's a lot of work to be done there. What are you seeing now that you get to dabble at the high school level? What are you seeing in those athletes by getting maybe a little earlier head start in terms of just their readiness to get strong and how their athleticism is starting to progress a little earlier?

[00:26:21.48] Yeah. These guys as you know, Eric, these guys have access to all kinds of information that we didn't have even just 20 years ago. And so I'm explaining something to them. And the next time we meet, they're like, hey, I looked up what you said. And can you explain this to me? Or can you explain to me that? Because they have so much information.

[00:26:48.96] So for today, it's more than ever, it's developing a relationship and an understanding and a trust that I'm taking it down this path. Because I want you to be bigger, faster, and stronger. I want you to be more healthy on the football field. I want you to be more explosive. I want you to run better.

[00:27:11.77] And it's all about-- more than anything, it's about building those relationships of trust and understanding. It used to be just put the X's and O's on the board. Hey, this is the workout today. And this is what we're going to do.

[00:27:26.88] Now, it's more of a sales job that this is what we're going to do. This is why we're going to do it. This is why it's so important to you. All right, now, let's go.

[00:27:39.09] And then it's being on the floor with these guys, being right next to these guys, taking out your phone and filming them and walking them through. But after you've developed that relationship-- and you guys all know this-- but after developing these relationships, these young guys will go anywhere you ask them to.

[00:27:59.46] But they have a wealth of information. And some things they misunderstand. And it's really important for us to step forward and say, no, this is why we do what we do. Now, one of the things, Eric, that I've always, more recently than ever before, was when we're underneath the bar, and we're getting ready to either to squat or a press or to pull, I'm all about breathe and brace.

[00:28:27.96] And I'm asking these young guys, hey, let's take as much air into your chest as you can and then hold it as we start the movement. And how quickly they forget that. And they need to be reminded over and over and over again.

[00:28:42.87] And I try to have the patience and the understanding that if it takes me 100 times to ask them to do that, it's worthwhile. But there's so many little things about the techniques of training that the young guys need to be taught.

[00:29:00.30] Now, once they try them, they're going to come right back to you and say, you told me. And you stayed with me that when I start my pull, my arms need to be long. My arms need to be straight. And how often do guys, when they're pulling on a bar, they want to include their biceps in the pole? And you know that if you do, at some point, you may hurt your biceps.

[00:29:24.84] But it's just all the small little things that if we can teach these guys how to lift weights successfully, and then we just stand back, and we watch them take off. Nutrition is interesting too that when you explain to the guys their protein needs and their macronutrients and their micronutrients and the importance of timing their nutrition, they don't really understand.

[00:29:53.44] But once they buy on, they go, gosh, coach, what you told me, it's just perfect. It's working great for me. And then you're able to take them from there to the next step.

[00:30:07.32] A very challenging time-- because like I say, at Montana State, I'd put up on the board, hey, this is what we have today. And hey, the strength coach said it. We're going to do it.

[00:30:18.69] Now it's OK, but why and how? You got to help them through and be there for them. And I've really enjoyed working with the younger guys.

[00:30:31.47] And it's interesting too that when you first start out in the business 40 years ago, I always felt like I had more knowledge than the other people in the gym. I thought, well, I've studied this a whole lot more than they have. Now, it's just kind of like, well, I may not know as much as you do, but I've seen what works. And I try to sell it that way.

[00:30:58.97] This connects me. I think over the years, we, as a field, try to say, hey, what's the role of the strength coach within the team or to a player? And we're not just exercise instructors. It brings us to what you're saying. Strength coaches are a guide at times. Sometimes, we're negotiators and trying to just navigate tough conversations.

[00:31:26.64] Right.

[00:31:28.24] And I really like that your perspective brings out-- the athlete's job is to show up. If you say, hey, what strength coach, what's your role? To get players strong.

[00:31:39.49] Well, the athlete's job is to show up. And I love how you say, my job is to teach them technique and get the repetition so that they can learn the technique. And if both of those things happen, then they have a chance to get strong. They have a chance to progress as an athlete.

[00:31:57.67] And we all know different athletes are going to progress in different ways. You mentioned bringing out your cell phone in the weight room. And that probably wasn't something that was available in the early days of coaching.

[00:32:10.13] I want to ask you. You've probably seen this in the NFL and at Tennessee and your various stops-- just the evolution of technology in relationship to your foundational coaching principles. I think this is something that coaches are challenged by nowadays of the blend of the two. How do we stick to our foundational principles of training and also keep up with the technology and implement that in an effective and efficient way?

[00:32:41.29] Yeah. Most of the technology that's available today that I know of, it can be so beneficial. But you can't lose-- you can't lose touch of the fact that it's a person business and that the technology can't simply take over. I remember days when Evan Marcus and I were together at Texas.

[00:33:05.87] And we took each guy's folder. And we had watched the guy working in the weight room. And we're looking at the bench press, the squat, the power clean. And we're assigning numbers for the next workout.

[00:33:20.93] And Evan's got a little calculator over there. And I'm explaining to him, OK, this athlete finished their three sets of five at 200 pounds. Now, next week, we're moving to three sets of three. Let's move them to 215. And he's working the calculator.

[00:33:37.94] And each guy-- it takes a minute or two with each guy. And you have over 100 guys. And so we would meet for a couple of hours. And then I would hand write in each guy's folder the weights that he was going to use the next week.

[00:33:54.32] Now, here's the thing is that each one of those guys knew when he came in to get his folder, that Rock and Evan spent two hours writing their numbers in by hand. Nowadays, you can take those numbers, press a button. And all those percentages are figured for you.

[00:34:13.37] And the athlete will grab his folder. And he'll look at his numbers. And he'll recognize that those are his particular numbers. But the personal side is missing a little bit where it was computer-generated. And it was a program that had been planned on, obviously. But now the computer has taken care of it.

[00:34:36.44] I like the idea that I had a sheet for myself that I knew each guy's numbers. And so when I went to watch him, I would look at the number. And I'll go, OK, Octavious Bishop at Texas, his bench press is 285 for three sets of five today. I knew exactly what he was working on.

[00:34:55.58] And today, I think technology takes that away a little bit. I love the [INAUDIBLE], the idea that you're moving weight with speed. I love every chance that you can to watch yourself as a lifter.

[00:35:09.65] So any filming that's possible, any video that can be taken, even just videoing with the cell phone-- a picture paints thousand words. Guys love to watch themselves as they exercise. And you can talk through with them. And they can see exactly what you're talking about when they watch their depth on the squat, when they watch their breath and brace.

[00:35:35.45] I think it's such a good way to teach and to be successful with your teaching. But I am concerned about the guys losing maybe a little bit of-- we all love variation. We all love throwing in different things. But you still have to be true to the basis.

[00:36:00.89] So I'm in college again. And I'm learning about getting stronger. And I read from Wilmore. And Wilmore says, you have to train heavy. Strong guys lift heavy weights. Strong guys will do reps between two and six. Strong guys will do multiple sets.

[00:36:17.31] And I hang out with the powerlifters. And that's what they're doing. And I listen to Fred Hatfield. And that's what he's doing. You can't lose sight of the fact that you've got to get underneath the bar and press it and pull it and squat against it in order to increase your strength to the maximum level.

[00:36:39.96] That's awesome. I think it's great. We always take it back and not forget those foundational principles. And when I connect with veteran coaches, those principles come through loud and clear. And I think for the current generation of coaches for aspiring coaches, we have a duty to continue to teach those foundational principles and not forget that not everything-- this didn't always happen on an app platform or on your iPhone or-- the personal connection to it.

[00:37:14.48] And I like that story of you filling out workout cards for the guys and plugging in percentages. It's just so-- so many coaches can connect with that. And some coaches still do that if they don't have tons of resources available. And that's just really great to hear your perspective on this.

[00:37:34.25] I want to ask-- aspiring coaches, young coaches and the profession, coaches in school studying, maybe some of them have those same goals to get to the NFL or have a long strength and conditioning career and retire as a strength coach. What advice do you give young coaches? And what kind of message would you like to leave them?

[00:37:54.82] Well, it's not easy. And one of the things I tell young football players is that I truly respect the fact that you're playing football. And the same thing goes with strength coaches. I truly respect that you're in the weight room working with these young men and helping them in their careers and helping them achieve their goals.

[00:38:24.37] But for the young aspiring strength coach, I tell them that there's three things that go into your success. And number one is that you work hard at what you're doing and that people recognize that in you.

[00:38:40.66] And coaches move around. And your name gets out there. And people recognize that, hey, this guy's worked hard. He does a good job. He's good with the players. He treats the players fair. He's tough, but he treats them fair. And he gets a lot of results.

[00:38:58.70] Secondly, your education is important more now than ever. Get your bachelor's degree. Get your master's degree. Get certified.

[00:39:09.64] And that's looked at right away. is He educated? And has he taken the right courses? Has he done the right things with his education?

[00:39:19.24] And then you have to get out there and meet people. If I hadn't met Jim Haslett, I would have never made it to the NFL. And tell people what your intentions are. Jim says, what do you want to do? I said, I want to be your strength coach. I would have never been Jim's strength coach if I hadn't said so.

[00:39:41.59] Of the three, you're known as a hard worker. You've got a good education. And you meet people. And you develop relationships with coaches, which is the most important? Unfortunately, it's meeting people.

[00:39:59.89] It's still a people business. And it's all about fit. A coach meets you. And he says, man, I'd like to have this guy on my staff. I think it's a fit. And unless you get out there and meet people and shake hands-- now, the difficult thing about right now is it's super competitive.

[00:40:21.04] When I went to Montana State to interview with Dave Anderson, Dave was the chair of the committee, there was three of us. There was three guys that had applied for the job. And so I had a pretty good shot walking in the door.

[00:40:36.73] Whereas now, if that job were to open again now, there would be hundreds of applicants. And it's so competitive. So everything needs to be in place-- your education, that you're a hard worker, that you're good with the athletes, and that you've met the right people that can help you along the way.

[00:40:58.36] Rock, if I had to add a number four to that list, I think it'd be make sure you're having fun doing this profession. Because I hear that come through loud and clear in what you're saying and you spoke to it early in just how much fun you were having through those pivotal years learning the profession at various stops after you graduated from school and just working your way up. And what advice do you have for coaches just how to keep this profession fun even though it can be really challenging sometimes?

[00:41:30.03] Yeah. The hours are long. I remember when we first got to Texas, I was talking to one of the assistant coaches. And I was telling them that, gosh, we get here at six in the morning. And we leave at six at night.

[00:41:45.49] And he goes, well, you got it made. And I'm like, how's that? And he goes, you're only working half days. And I says, half days? And he goes, yeah, 24 hours in the day. You're working 12. So what's the big deal?

[00:41:58.66] But he also did say, take time for yourself. Take time for yourself. Enjoy the ride.

[00:42:08.50] And going back to it, if you enjoy the people that you're working with-- and I know that everybody's treating their players right and you're developing those positive relationships, but you have to stand back and say, I'm part of this thing. I'm part of this thing. But it's not about me. It's about helping these young people and taking pride in the fact that you've helped change their lives.

[00:42:40.18] Rusty Whitt is a really good friend of mine. And he's at Troy University. And Rusty is a Green Beret. And he's been bouncing around a little bit in this business. And I went down and helped him a little bit this summer and was very fortunate to spend a couple of weeks with him

[00:43:00.22] And it's the it's the life lessons that you teach these young people. Because there's things that you have seen and done that, you should share it with these young people so that you teach them about life. And you teach them about their responsibilities and help them with their goals.

[00:43:18.97] But that's where the happiness comes. It's great to win football games. It's great to win championships. But it's those relationships with players that make it all worthwhile. And at this stage, when you're looking back, that's all that matters is the effect that you had on the young people. And you hope that they remember you in a positive way. But that's what brings you joy.

[00:43:48.12] Rock, Thanks so much. This has been a great conversation just learning your path, your journey in the field, some fun stories. I just want to leave it to the listeners. If anyone wants to reach out and get in touch, what's the best way for them to do that?

[00:44:03.95] Yeah. My email address is Rock-- R-O-C-K-- rock-ter79@hotmail.com. And I would look forward to hearing from anybody. There's times during retirement that you look back at the end of the day and you say to yourself, I woke up with nothing to do. And by the time it was bedtime, I only had it half done. So I would appreciate anybody that would like to reach out and further discuss anything about the strength and conditioning field.

[00:44:43.16] I have felt very fortunate. People ask me, well, what was your favorite stop? I loved them all. We were at good places at good times with good people. They all stick out as being favorite spots. And just enjoy the journey.

[00:45:01.08] Yeah. I think back early in my career when I was getting started, and I took a lot of value from reading coach's bios, just what stops they had, what degrees they had, what certifications they had. And I'm really fortunate in doing this podcast and bringing this to our listeners.

[00:45:19.35] And I encourage all of our listeners to take it one step further than that and actually reach out and make connections and hear the stories firsthand. Because there's so much value in learning from those who have done this for a number of years that you can plug and play into your program with your athletes-- maybe a tough coaching conversation that you have.

[00:45:43.05] There's people that have been in our shoes before. And so, Rock, we really appreciate you being with us today.

[00:45:49.75] Can I say one more thing?

[00:45:51.03] Absolutely.

[00:45:53.82] I've had great support from my family and my wife in particular. And they've always said, hey, go for it. Do it, Rock. Get after it.

[00:46:05.14] And then it reminds me of the most influential coach I had along the way was my offensive line coach in high school. And he pretty much said, you can do this, Rock. You can do this.

[00:46:19.47] And that's the coach that I always wanted to be. I wanted to be that guy that said, I'm here for you. I believe in you. You can do this. Because I think that has the greatest impact.

[00:46:34.09] Rock, thank you. This is the NSCA Coaching Podcast. To our listeners, we appreciate everyone tuning in. We'd also like to thank Sorinex Exercise Equipment. We appreciate their support.

[00:46:46.07] From the NSCA, thank you for listening to the NSCA Coaching Podcast. We serve you, the coaching community. So follow, subscribe, and download for future episodes. We look forward to connecting with you again soon. And hope you'll join us at an upcoming NSCA event or in one of our special interest groups. For more information, go to nsca.com.

[00:47:08.92] 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.

[00:47:27.49] [MUSIC PLAYING]

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Eric L. McMahon, MEd, CSCS,*D, TSAC-F,*D, RSCC*E

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Eric McMahon is the Coaching and Sport Science Program Manager at the NSCA Headquarters in Colorado Springs. He joined the NSCA Staff in 2020 with ove ...

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Rock Gullickson

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Rock Gullickson is a retired 40-year coaching veteran, including 17-seasons as an NFL strength and conditioning coach with the St. Louis (and Los Ange ...

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