She’s a world-class coach, mentor, and “mom” to some of the top college athletes in the country. She’s also quite possibly the NCAA’s best-kept secret — and the Kansas Jayhawks’ so-called “secret weapon.” And it’s true: Andrea Hudy is a rarity. As a female strength and conditioning coach for the Division I men’s basketball program (yes, men’s), Hudy has helped build nine national-title teams and send over two dozen players to the NBA. Between stadium sprints and weight sessions, Greatist caught up with Coach Hudy to talk strength, friendly competition, and why, when it comes to training, men and women are more alike than we think.
What first got you into sports growing up?
I was the youngest of five kids in a competitive family, so I was always playing catch-up. My first real sport was pee wee football. My dad was the coach and it was all boys, but at age [11 and 12] I was the biggest kid there. I think I got the league MVP, come to think of it. Then I played junior high basketball and I remember people in the stands yelling, “It’s not football!” because I took what I learned playing football and what I learned in my family — they were all wrestlers — and would just run into everybody.
And then you ended up playing volleyball at Maryland. How did you transition from that to a career in sports performance training?
I think I was a better athlete than I was a volleyball player [specifically]. But that’s the beauty of coaches as educators. If you get the right coach and you get the right fit, your athletic life or athletic career bleeds into your professional career.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to training? What does a typical strength training session entail?
Basically non-linear periodization is the philosophy Nonlinear periodization maximizes strength gains in split resistance training routines. Monteiro, AG, Aoki, MS, Evangelista, AL, et al. Department of Rehabilitation, Federal University of Sao Paulo-UNIFESP, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2009 Jul;23(4):1321-6. . And the mission is ground-based functional strength and power training. We don’t look at macrocycles — changing the reps per 4-week cycle or longer — we look at weekly periods. I think it’s good for us because with basketball, the schedule is so reactive.
So on a Monday we’ll do work capacity in the weight room — basically a bodybuilder-type workout — looking at high volume, low load, just to get a lot of work in. Tuesday is our strength/speed day, or really low volume (low reps) and a high load. Wednesdays are off. Thursdays is more of a strength day — anywhere between 5 and 8 reps. And then Friday is our speed-strength day. So we’ll do medium type of loads for a lower or medium volume.
What makes your training different from what people might find elsewhere, at another program?
The expectations. This is a different place when it comes to basketball. They’re expected to win, and with that, they’re expected to train. The other thing is I work with Dr. Andy Fry, so there’s research coming out of our weight room. We’re actually doing studies with our athletes.
And what about off the court?
We work with nutrition. I’m also a certified massage therapist, so in-season that’s a lot of what I do on the road. I always say my job is 24/7. If someone wants to go ride a bike with me, I’ll go ride a bike. If somebody wants to go for a run, I’ll go for a run. If somebody wants to lift extra, I’ll lift extra. So I’m kind of at their mercy. I’ll help anybody with anything. I’ve helped kids with math. I’ve helped them make an outline for a paper.
There’s been talk about an infamous bench press challenge. What other challenges do they throw your way?
Every day I’m challenged. That was a physical one — and I learned my lesson. But mentally they challenge you every day and you just have to put yourself out there and be real with them. Authenticity goes a long way with these guys. I’ll do pull-up competitions with them. I’ll do quick footwork competitions and agility stuff. But I usually pick the exercises that I know I can do well against them — they haven’t figured that out yet. They’ll say, “Hey Hudy, how many pull-ups can you do?” And I’ll say, “One more than you!”
And do you deliver?
Yeah, you’ve got to. On pull-ups I got 19 ... And I’m almost 40. As soon as they start beating me up consistently, then I’ll know I have to change my job.
Are male athletes ever hesitant to take advice from you? How do you gain their trust or prove yourself to them?
Someone said to me the other day that women need to feel good about performing well, whereas guys need to perform well to feel good. But I have a confidence in my abilities to coach strength and conditioning. I know that these 18-year-old boys have something to learn in the weight room. I’ve been doing this longer than they’ve been alive. So I’m going to take the lead; they’re not.
For the most part, are they receptive to you?
I don’t care if you’re male or female in the weight room ... I’ve seen male coaches have words with male athletes. I’ve seen male coaches have words with female athletes. I think it’s just a place where it’s real. If you’re in a facility where you’re pushing people to the edge, and you’re pushing yourself out there, things are going to happen. But in the end, they’re going to be for the better I believe.
With some of the players, do you ever take on a motherly role too, or is it strictly business?
I think a little bit of both. It depends on the situation and who it is and how it is. Sherron Collins came in here the other day, and the twins used to call me mom. But then we could get into it, too. I think it’s so situational. And I can change my role; I can easily do that.
Do you think that men and women should be training differently in any ways?
I don’t treat them differently. There are some things in movement patterns, where men and women are a little different. I also think hormonally they’re a little bit different. And when we look at movement patterns and recovery they’re a little different, too. In general, men have more testosterone, more growth hormone, (which is recovery hormone), so men tend to recover a little better than women. But I don’t train anybody differently. I think we’re more alike than we are different.
What about health and fitness in your life? How do you maintain your own training, nutrition, and overall wellness with such a packed schedule?
I run, I bike, I do cardio, I lift. I’ll do half-marathons. I just try to stay active. It’s my life. It’s not my job, it’s my life.
What’s been the most gratifying part of this whole thing for you, besides seeing your players move on to the pros?
I just had a guy who’s playing overseas. These guys come back and they want to train. I just went on a 16-mile bike ride with Russell Robinson. He knows he can come back here and train. And even the guys who aren’t playing can come back and hang out, ask questions, and train. I’m not only a coach, I feel like I’m an educator, and you never know how far the things that you teach them will carry with them.
Finally, if you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
That’s a good question. I’ve always thought about being a pilot. I’m fascinated by lift and drag, which is really crazy. I studied biomechanics, so physics is interesting to me… the speed of things.
To learn more about Andrea Hudy and the Kansas Jayhawks program, visit www.kuathletics.com.