| 2015 Q1 | story by STEVEN HERTZOG | photos by STEVEN HERTZOG |
Tyrel Reed, the winningest basketball player in University of Kansas history, tells a story from his freshman year. Andrea Hudy, Assistant Athletics Director of Sports Performance and the KU Men’s Basketball Strength and Conditioning Coach, demonstrates to the team what it is to be mentally tough, by doing a pushup using only her two thumbs.
“She does this thing, a pushup with just her thumbs. I mean just her two thumbs,” Reed said. “Now I don’t think it is as much a strength thing as it is a mental thing, blocking out the pain. And as a freshman, you see her do that and we are all thinking she is a Greek God!”
It is the Hudy system, mental toughness and sports performance conditioning to make KU athletes the most physically fit and mentally tough athletes on the playing field.
When you watch KU Men’s Basketball teams, it is clear to every spectator and analyst that the players are better conditioned than their opponents, both physically and mentally. An athlete cannot have success with one and not the other. They have more energy. They have more strength. They are mentally tougher. They are the athletes on the floor who are not cramping. Not suffering from a strained or pulled muscle. They are well hydrated and well conditioned. If they are fatigued, they sure don’t show it. At the end of the game, they are faster than their opponent.
And when we think of why the KU Men’s Basketball program has the best-conditioned athletes in the country, we know one of the answers — coach Hudy.
“We think Andrea is one of the very best strength and conditioning coaches in the country. She constantly researches new techniques and technology to ensure that our athletes can perform at the highest level,” said KU Athletic Director Dr. Sheahon Zenger.
Hudy has trained hundreds of student-athletes throughout her award-winning and illustrious career as one of the leading strength and conditioning coaches in the world. Constantly in demand as a motivational speaker for the ever-growing world of better and new scientific approaches to fitness training, she recently published her new book, “Power Positions,” detailing in precise language her technique and philosophy for creating the best-conditioned athletes in the world and helping guide them to National Championships and achieving their personal goals. And with more than nine National Championship rings and 11 Big 12 Conference Championships, it is difficult to argue with her exceptional success and unique vision.
“Andrea not only demands the best of our athletes, but also of herself and our program. She is hungry for perfection. As a result, Andrea is always refining herself as a coach,” said coach Bill Self in Hudy’s book “Power Positions.” “She seeks to balance proven practices with the latest in cutting-edge technology. Her passion is why our strength program is arguably the best in the country. Her science-based approach combined with the latest technology and software puts our athletes at the forefront of performance training.”
“I think sports performance goes beyond physical — it is also spiritual and mental,” Hudy said. “When I think about health and wellness, I think about happiness, and for people to be living the best life they can. It is all encompassing as to who I am as an individual. Health and wellness is a lifetime process.”
Hudy’s past players speak volumes about the extraordinarily positive impact she has had on their lives, in the weight room, on the court and in their maturing lives as young men. They agree that what makes her so good is her attention to detail, loving what she does and caring about the athletes. She wants them to get better so they can achieve their aspirations at the highest level.
“What makes Hudy’s program so different from other sports performance programs is her extensive knowledge about how the body works,” Reed said. “She is so in touch and so intelligent about bio mechanics. She understands why athletes do what they do, what exercises are going to make them more explosive and give them an edge on their lateral quickness. She really studies human movement, and that sets her apart.”
When it comes to the conditioning of a student-athlete or professional athlete, it can mean different things to different people. There is, of course, the individual, but there is also the sport and position. There is sprint conditioning, power conditioning and endurance conditioning, so when Hudy looks at it she thinks, not only sports performance, but also human performance. She is always seeking out how we can get better as individuals, whether or not we are athletes.
The biggest misconception athletes have about conditioning, Hudy explains, is that you go into the weight room and you bench-press, do pull-ups and squat. Are those the foundations of strength? Absolutely, she says. But then she argues that it is not the foundation for better performance. Strength is not this one target you need to hit; just because you get stronger, you get better is not the case. It depends on what specific goal individuals want and need because people are different.
Hudy breaks it down in “Power Positions” into three types of athletes focusing on how the athlete moves. The Lateral Reactive, the Linear and the Rotational. The Lateral Reactive athlete tends to be muscular and needs to be able to change direction (basketball player, cornerback, shortstop in baseball); the Linear athlete (sprinter, wide receiver, striker in soccer) tends to be longer, leaner and moves in a forward line and the Rotational athlete (golfer, pitcher, discus thrower) may not appear to be athletic when they run and jump, but that is advantageous to them for rotation.
Reed says that when he first came to KU he had his own ideas about what strength and conditioning was. Working with the only female strength and conditioning coach in NCAA Men’s sports was never a concern for him. He says her reputation preceded her, and coach Self spoke highly about her credentials and the success she was having with the other athletes.
“I thought strength and conditioning was more about how much weight you could move. It was all about getting as strong as you can and getting the number [weight load] up as high as you could,” Reed said, who is working toward a doctorate in Physical Therapy at KU. “But it is more about the technique. Being explosive and fast moving the weight. As an athlete who plays basketball, it is all about changing direction and getting from point A to point B faster than the person in front of you.”
Her approach, that every athlete is different, that you train for your specific position, is a key element of Hudy’s reputation as one of the most respected and innovative strength and conditioning coaches in the country.
“That is the beauty of what I do,” Hudy said. “I work with a bunch of individuals who come from different backgrounds and are motivated differently and want to go to different places, and I have to feed into each athlete as the unique individual they are. If you want to stay healthy, you need to be a well-rounded individual. Frank Mason, for example, can tumble, can roll, do summersaults, which is not the case for a 7-foot guy, but that 7-foot guy should be able to do that — be able to control one’s body weight and get into positions they can get out of.”
Hudy’s philosophy is to develop a mechanically efficient human who is healthy and remains injury free.
“We have to train our athletes for what they are doing, whether it be basketball, track and field, volleyball, baseball, whatever — and once you create that athlete and make that athlete strong enough, then too much of something can be a bad thing and then we offset it,” Hudy explained. “For basketball practice, they are on the court, they are breaking, breaking, breaking, accelerating, backpedaling. For me to do more of those exercises in the weight room would break them down even more. So what we are trying to do is offset it with proper conditioning.”
One of the pieces of equipment Hudy has incorporated into her program to help analyze performance is the Sparta Trac Force Plate. Under Hudy’s guidance and vision, KU was the first university in the country to utilize this new, state-of-the-art equipment.
Dr. Phil Wagner of Sparta Trac is one of the inventors of the Force Plate. With its revolutionary software, Sparta is changing the perception of how sports performance is altered and re-evaluated. Dr. Wagner first met Hudy on a visit to the Adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, and was immediately drawn to her.
“I am a perfectionist, so our initial meeting in Germany was pivotal in bringing our software out into the open and let this secret out to the masses,” Dr. Wagner said. “Since then, she has been a voice to the industry, answering questions on how she applies this technology as a seamless guide to her training approach.”
Currently, Sparta has more than 12 partners, ranging from international rugby, such as the England National Team and Australia Rugby Champions; to small and big colleges, like the University of Pennsylvania to University of Texas and professional teams in all sports such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Falcons and Colorado Rockies.
The Force Plate is technology used to measure an athlete’s ground reaction force, which is how each athlete’s body creates, transfers and uses force through the ground. This works by having the athlete do six vertical jumps on the Force Plate, which is then transferred to proprietary software to analyze and identify the athlete’s movement quality, also known as movement signature.
If you are an athlete who has to stop and go in another direction and you are not strong enough to go in another direction, something is probably going to get injured. Or if you are a high accelerator but you are not designed to stop quickly and you do, you’re going to blow something out.
Hudy uses Force Plate and SpartaTrac app to monitor performance and injury risk, as well as to create a workout plan based on each player’s movement signature, tracking the results in a manner for both coaches and athletes to understand. This transparency between coach and athlete is a significant part of Hudy’s character and philosophy in working with athletes.
“So such visibility is something that really fit the culture she has created at the University of Kansas and the reputation she has within our industry,” Dr. Wagner said.
The Force Plate offers Hudy a unique look into how effectively an athlete uses energy through movement. She takes this analysis and prescribes workouts to fix any inconsistencies in movement to make them more athletic, more elastic and less prone to injury. This is the foundation for what is called Evidence Based Training.
“We used to think we were just hitting this target, or I thought I had a feel for what we wanted to accomplish in athletes,” Hudy said. “Now it is proven we have the numbers behind it and the statistics to show exactly what we are trying to create. If an athlete comes in as a non-lateral athlete, we can tell that and then we know exactly what we need to do to get them to be a lateral reactive athlete. So in that respect, we are training them to prevent injury.”
Aaron Carbuhn is the Sports Nutritionist at KU. He has been working with Hudy for more than four years to cultivate a proper diet for Jayhawk athletes. They believe through their experience that nutrition is important for optimal performance because it is the foundation that allows an athlete to optimize performance continually throughout a career.
“The athlete is either going to build their house (performance) on a foundation of rock (proper performance nutrition habits) or sand (poor performance nutrition habits),” Carbuhn said. “Performance built on a foundation of sound nutritional practices will allow an athlete to improve performance over time, resulting in an optimal performance that can be duplicated many times over, which I believe is the key to a true champion.”
Carbuhn says that what makes Hudy’s program at KU so different from other strength and conditioning programs in the country is that “Coach Hudy maintains a constant innovation and drive to become a better professional each day and to improve sport performance at Kansas and keep them on the cutting edge of technology and philosophical approach. Pioneering approaches to training and technology, continues to put the University of Kansas on the forefront of sport performance in the country.”
Reed explains that Hudy always has a rationale behind everything she does. She is good about doing sports-specific exercises and functional movement that are based on what a specific athlete needs. The small movement of the mobility exercises, or a clean and press; she can explain why doing it in the weight room will transition onto the court.
Her athletes can see that she cares so much about making them better that when they go into the weight room, they feel they have to show her that they know how much she cares for them.
“Hudy has so much enthusiasm,” Reed said. “She loves seeing us get better, loves seeing us get stronger and helps teach us how to transition what we do in the weight room and take it onto the court.”
Dr. Zenger adds, “She helps our athletes believe in themselves, and as a result they accomplish things they didn’t think they could. And the word has spread: With Andrea here, recruits know they will train with the very best when they come to Kansas.”
Inside Phog Allen Fieldhouse, hanging from the rafters is a large banner with a warning: “Pay Heed, All Who Enter: Beware of the Phog.” Maybe it’s time the university adds another banner that reads: “Beware of the Hudy.”