KU's Strength

Plenty goes on behind the scenes while developing one of the nation's best college basketball teams. It's about more than just the coaches and players. Strength and conditioning has become an integral part of men's basketball programs across the country -- and Kansas is no different. Phog.net introduces you to one of the "strengths" of KU.

Here’s a bit of trivia for you. Which member of the KU men’s basketball staff has eight national championship rings? Stumped? Believe it or not it’s Associate Director of Strength and Conditioning, Andrea Hudy. Phog.net would like to introduce you to one of KU’s less heralded staff members and the work she does “behind the scenes” to help the Bill Self’s Jayhawks be the best they can be.

You may not recognize her name, but Hudy has built quite a reputation as one of the nation’s best Strength and Conditioning coaches. Strength training in college sports is no longer relegated to just football. It’s yet another weapon college coaches have at their disposal.

“A lot of times the strength and conditioning coach is now part of the team, which I think is great… I think a lot of that has to do with the increased awareness of strength and conditioning and what a strength and conditioning coach can do,” Hudy said. “They can work in conjunction with sports medicine, with research, with the coach.”

Andrea is now in her third year at KU after over nine successful years at the University of Connecticut. While building an impressive resume in Storrs, Hudy was part of eight different national championships – five in women’s basketball, two in men’s basketball, and one in men’s soccer.

Her responsibilities in Lawrence over the last three years have included men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s volleyball.  

“My highlight teams at UCONN were also men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and volleyball. I did a lot of administrative work. There’s so many similarities the jobs pretty much parallel themselves,” Hudy continued. “I think I’ve gotten involved in a lot with all three teams. I’m at all their games that I can be when I’m not traveling with men’s basketball. You get into coaching -- some days you have 18 hour coaching days, some days they’re not so long -- but the time commitment and the commitment to the community, and KU, and athletics, and the administration – I think they’re a lot more here.”

The Kansas Athletic department certainly has shown its commitment to strength and conditioning. Hudy does most of her work in a state-of-the-art workout facility called the Anderson Family Strength & Conditioning Center. The athletic department opened the $8 million, 42,000 square-foot facility, in the spring of 2003.

BACKGROUND

The road from Andrea’s hometown Huntington, PA to a sports and fitness-related career was a natural one. The Hudy family has always been a family that’s embraced athletics.  

“Everybody in my family was an athlete so I was the youngest of five athletes and my parents were athletes. I was always around it and it was just part of who I was,” said Andrea.

In college, Andrea was a four-year letter-winner in volleyball at the University of Maryland and was a part of the 1990 ACC championship team. When graduation day arrived in 1994, one thing was certain; Hudy knew she wanted her life beyond college to include sports and fitness.

“I graduated college and I wanted to do something fitness-related but didn’t really know what,” Hudy said. “In 1990, I think their might’ve been about a handful of female strength coaches that have ever been in the profession. So I went after a graduate assistant position at UCONN. I got into corporate fitness because I thought everybody was all into fitness like I was. I found out pretty quickly that was not the truth (laughs).”

THE JOB

With athletes arriving at campuses across the country bigger, quicker, and stronger than ever, programs nationwide have put an emphasis on strength and conditioning. Strength coaches like Hudy, have now become invaluable to coaches in nearly every sport. Its Andrea the KU coaches rely on to help get the most out of each athlete.

One coach Hudy works closely with in Lawrence is men’s basketball coach Bill Self. Not every men’s basketball coach in America shares the same philosophy on the importance of strength and conditioning, but with Self, it’s clearly a priority.

“He’s great to work for because he lets me do my job,” stated Hudy. “But if he’s noticing or he wants somebody to have something more whether it’s more endurance training or needs to be stronger, he’ll let me know and give me extra time with that athlete. I go see him daily and touch upon every athlete. We touch base everyday, we’re at practice everyday…there’s daily contact.”

At the major Division I level, whether its basketball, football, or volleyball, strength and conditioning is a nearly a 12-month a year commitment.

“There’s probably a few different seasons you can break it into. Summer, there’s 8 weeks in the summer we train during summer school. Then there’s the preseason which could be up to eight weeks depending on the schedule. Then once we get into October, that’s kind of a season on its own, because you’re getting ready for the November games,” Hudy explained.

But once the season starts and games begin, it’s all about maintaining the solid foundation built in the offseason.

“Once November and December roll around we’re really starting to back off on the weight room activities and strengthening activities and we get into maintenance.  (We) don’t spend much time in the weight room,” Hudy continued. “Then once the season’s over it can be less than a week and I’ll start seeing guys because they’re chomping at the bit and then I can see them four days a week just like I did in the summer and preseason. We go from there and then there’s a small break between the end of the semester and summer and we keep it rolling. It can be a 50-week program.”

The rigors of Division I college athletics is not something all players are ready for. Inexperienced freshmen arrive on campus every year and Hudy makes sure they’re privy to a quick introduction to the rigors of big-time athletics.

“We feed them to the sharks. We try to get them to learn by doing. They’re not prepared in my opinion, especially basketball players. If we can compare them with football players – there’s two different levels there. So I don’t think that the athlete knows what they’re getting into when they get into Division I Athletics in terms of the time commitment.”

The third year coach has learned that it’s not difficult to motivate college-aged men to get into the weight room, especially when they can look in the mirror and see the results.   

“It’s going to sound kind of corny but I think a lot of the guys do (like weight training). They look forward to it because we see the results. You see their muscle size increase and Coach (Self) has made a pretty neat commitment to me to get them in the weight room. There are guys who call me all the time to come in and do extra work so I think we’re in a pretty cool place,” Hudy concluded.

For Hudy, the job entails more than working with “healthy” athletes. Arguably, her responsibilities increase exponentially once she is asked to help a key member of the team who might be injured. In 2004, Hudy was integral in helping UCONN All-American Emeka Okafor through a nagging back injury. During her first year at KU, Hudy made sure Wayne Simien remained in tip-top condition when he was nursing a thumb injury. Injuries don’t deter Andrea from focusing on the task at hand.  

“Let’s just say for instance somebody has a hand injury. They can’t really grab a dumbbell, but they think they’re grabbing a dumbbell and I can apply manual resistance -- which can be a lot harder because then I can change the force,” Hudy explained. “I don’t think I can replicate some of the weight we put on bars but I can change force and make it a lot harder than even a barbell workout. The body doesn’t know the difference between what force is applied to the body. I can put them in the pool and make them run really hard, that’s going to get them winded. It all depends on the injury you’re working with.”

Finally, Phog.net couldn’t resist. We had to ask Andrea for the inside scoop on which Jayhawks shine in the weight room.

Sasha Kaun has a pretty strong upper body, Sherron Collins is strong. Darrell Arthur is strong. Darnell Jackson is pretty strong, Russell Robinson is strong. Overall, I think the guys on the team have all worked pretty hard to get a base,” said Hudy. “I think the guys are fun to work with, they’re working hard. I think we’ve got a pretty good read on each other -- when I need to back down or I need to pick up the tempo with them. I think we know each other pretty well that we can probably judge the feel of it.”


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