Apr 25, 2017Just Like Riding a Bike
This article first appeared in the April 2017 issue of Training & Conditioning.
There’s a lot to see in and around Lawrence, Kan., home of the University of Kansas. This includes stately architecture in town, rolling prairie outside it, and sometimes, 7-foot-tall basketball players riding bicycles through both.
That’s because Andrea Hudy, MS, CSCS, USAW, Assistant Athletics Director for Sport Performance at Kansas, believes training a team is about a lot more than pushing them in the weightroom. The veteran strength coach of the Jayhawk men’s basketball team, and an avid biker, she started asking players to join her on outings 10 years ago.
“We turn a lot of heads when the big guys go for a ride,” she says. “It can be quite a sight to see a 7-footer on a mountain bike.”
The rides serve several purposes. They mix up athletes’ workouts, allow Hudy to get to know the athletes better, and expand the players’ horizons.
Hudy keeps a set of bikes on hand, several of them upsized to accommodate the players’ taller frames. The outings with athletes usually cover 15 to 20 miles and last between an hour and 90 minutes.
Occasionally, the trips start with bike-riding basics. “Some of the players grew up in environments where it wasn’t common to ride a bike, so I have to give them a quick lesson,” Hudy says. “But they usually pick up on it pretty quickly.”
Once the ride is underway, the tenor varies greatly based on Hudy’s company. “Some of the players just want to relax and spend time in the fresh air,” she says. “Others want to be challenged, so I find more difficult trails for them and go a little harder.
“Our training program covers 46 weeks of the year, and I don’t want the athletes-or me-getting bored,” Hudy continues. “This is a great way for them to get away from college life for a little bit and have a good aerobic workout.”
Hudy says the rides are generally too infrequent to provide any lasting programmatic benefit, but she sometimes uses them as part of a formal conditioning plan. “I first started doing the bike rides with former men’s basketball player Sherron Collins,” Hudy explains. “We were trying to keep his body composition in check, and biking was a great way to do that. I’ve used the same approach with a few other athletes, but for most, the rides are something they can participate in if they choose.”
She also occasionally hits the road with members of the strength and conditioning staff, especially the interns. “We use the rides as a staff development activity,” she says. “I often tell our interns that one of the ways to gain athletes’ respect as a young coach is to show them you’re willing to do what you ask of them. So I push them pretty hard at times during the rides. I want to see who is going to push through the tough parts and who is going to get off the bike and walk.”
In the same way that the rides provide Hudy insight into her players and staff, they also allow her companions to see a different side of the strength coach. “It strengthens the relationship to talk about other things,” she says. “For example, I often ask players about their school work on the rides, which I rarely do in the weightroom. And it’s a chance to talk with my colleagues about topics unrelated to work. It really helps bring us all a little closer.”