Paul Lacoste, owner of Paul Lacoste Sports, has dubbed himself “Mississippi’s Coach” and has a passion for getting Mississippians healthy. Lacoste grew up in Jackson and played football at Mississippi State University, where he also earned a master’s degree in sports administration and exercise science. He has played for the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts of the NFL as well as in the Canadian Football League. Paul Lacoste Sports has more than 20 employees and plans to expand throughout Mississippi and to other states. He and wife, Laura, have two sons.
Q — So, a Paul Lacoste workout is intense?
A — P90X can’t touch us.
Q — How did Paul Lacoste Sports begin?
A — When I got cut (from professional football) that last time, the coach was really nice. He said, “Lacoste, you have played as long as you can, and it’s time you become a coach.” … I worked for Nike Corporation when I was in college. … I trained people all over the country. Sports agents would hire me out to train their clients and get them ready for the NFL combine.
Once I finished playing ball, I moved back home, and I started training people here. As I was training youth athletes, their moms and dads would sit and watch. I noticed these people becoming bigger and bigger. … My first client stuck his head around the corner and said, “Hey, can you train me like you’re training the pro guys?” … That’s how this started, with one client.
Q — What was it like playing in the NFL and CFL?
A — I was never one of these guys in the NFL who had a spot. I was one of those guys that you never hear about that loved playing football. I had to fight and claw just to make the roster. … I knew early on that I had to really fight for every little bit that I got. That wasn’t unusual in life for me at all. I was used to working hard. I loved it.
Q — How did you develop such a strong work ethic that has helped you in your sports and training career?
A — I think that goes all the way back to a learning disability I had in reading. I had a lot of great teachers and an unbelievable mother who worked with me nonstop with reading. Academics were always hard for me, so I had to learn work ethic. Where most people got it really easy, it was a struggle for me. Athletics always came naturally. … It taught me a lot.
Q — You feel strongly that coaching Mississippians is you calling in life.
A — My calling life is to motivate people and coach people and inspire them to live at the next level. That’s our big phrase: “The next level.” During every work out that we do, everyone screams, “Next level!” The mission of that is: Your religious beliefs — go to the next level. Your family — go to the next level. Your nutrition — go to the next level. Your workouts, your business, whatever it is your doing in life, take it to the next level.
Q — How much does it cost to work out with Paul Lacoste Sports?
A — Paul Lacoste Sports started with one person. I never did any marketing. It just grew. Now we’re training over 100 at both locations at every hour. We use the Jackson State Walter Payton Center and Madison Central High School’s facilities. … We keep our overhead expenses down, and that has allowed us to offer training at an affordable rate to Mississippians: It’s $12.50 per workout. If you try to hire a private trainer, it’s $50, $60 or $75 an hour. I train you four days per week for 12 weeks.
I train the adults as if they were pro athletes. We have 75- and 85-year-old clients. We’re able to modify and do workouts based on what they can do. You go and do your best, your next level, and you have all these team mates around you who are pushing you and inspiring you.
I am also passionate about the business side of this. It’s a huge business. It’s huge.
Q — You are training state legislators for the third year now through your “Fit for Change” program so they can set an example for the state.
A — The first year in 2010, 60 or 70 legislators and some state employees (a total of 100 people) lost over 1,400 pounds. The next year in 2011, we had Team House, Team Senate, Team Barbour. We had a Team State. We had 200 people who lost 3,100 pounds in 12 weeks. Isn’t that amazing? The first year, the nation really took notice: FOX, CNN … The second year Blue Cross jumped on board as our official sponsor. … This is our third year, and St. Dominic’s Hospital is our sponsor.
Q — The Mississippi Legislature “Fit for Change” program has resulted in requests for your services in other states. What are your plans for expansion?
A — We’ve had requests from 15 different states that we bring our program to their legislators as well. What makes me so proud is that this is a program that has started with a company right here in Mississippi. The United States is the fattest country, and we’re the fattest state in the fattest country. So Mississippians are the fattest people on planet earth. We have a program and we have people here who are doing something about it. … Our state spends $900 million a year to medicate the obese.
We have a goal for 2013 that will put us on the Coast, the Delta and having seven “Fit For” programs across the state. I’m looking for other companies to be part of this movement. We want to expand to other states as well.
Q — The Paul Lacoste Sports program also includes nutrition information?
A — Every two to three weeks, we do a nutritional seminar at St. Dominic’s Hospital with Deidre Mooney. Donna Speed from the state Department of Health takes our clients on grocery store tours, where she teaches them how to shop and how to read labels.
— Interviewed by Amy McCullough
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