One of the most important coaches in every college basketball program is practically unrecognizable, even to the team's most diehard fans.
This person does not sit on the bench or show up on camera.
Rather this coach essentially lives in the weight room, where he or she helps athletes mature from scrawny freshmen to shredded seniors. Strength coaches may not bask in the glory on the court, but they are responsible for much of a team's success and failure.
As you can imagine, the field of strength coaches is largely male-dominated. Kansas' Andrea Hudy, however, is slowly but surely shattering that stereotype.
Hudy has been with Kansas since 2004, and in that time the Jayhawks have reeled off an unprecedented nine straight Big 12 championships, been to two Final Fours and won the 2008 NCAA tournament.
"I don't know where we'd be without [Hudy]," coach Bill Self told ESPN last year.
Hudy has done wonders for several current Jayhawks, most notably star center Jeff Withey. The 7-footer, who called Hudy the "secret weapon" behind last year's Final Four run, came in to Kansas as thin as a rail. Under Hudy's guidance during the past four years, Withey has gained 20 pounds and transformed into one of the nation's most dominant big men.
Self was initially reluctant to hire Hudy, who had previously worked with the basketball teams at Connecticut. But now he looks back on the hire as one of the best decisions of his career, as Hudy has been one of the main driving forces behind Kansas' amazing consistency. Her willingness to embrace modern technology in the weight room, as well as her unending desire to help the athletes, has paid off big time.
"Andrea gets a lot of credit, and deservedly so,” Self recently told the Associated Press. "What she does with the guys isn't just from a weight gain, or things like that. It’s from a confidence, a flexibility. It’s from a core strength. It's from things you can't see."
Hudy, who played volleyball at Maryland, says she hasn't felt pressure as a woman in a male-dominated field. She is more focused on giving her athletes the tools they need to succeed on the court.
And so far, so good.
"I don't think I've ever felt the pressure of the glass ceiling," she recently told KCTV. "I think it's other people who tell me, or ask me, 'How have you gotten where you have?' I've never seen it. And maybe that's just me and how I look at things. I like to refer to myself as a chameleon. I can fit in anywhere and do anything that I need to do to get something done. I don't look at myself as a female. I look at myself as a teacher and coach. And I look at the athlete as a student."
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