The Volleyball Life Podcast: Travis Hudson from Western Kentucky

The Volleyball Life Podcast with Travis Hudson


Welcome to The Volleyball Life Podcast. We’re back today with Travis Hudson, he’s the head coach at Western Kentucky University, and you’re going to love listening to him. He’s got a great Kentucky accent, for one thing, and he’s just this marvelously inspirational guy.

He says a lot of, I think, really profound things in terms of the coaching profession and the way he approaches it. It’s fun to get to listen to kind of his story of getting started and the 25 plus years he’s spent at Western Kentucky, and the success they’ve had. They lost in the 2nd round at the NCAA tournament to the 4 seed Kentucky this year, we’ll talk a little bit about that match. We’ll talk a little bit about his history, and just fill in some of those blanks with kind of little bits of wisdom that he’s got. It’s been really good, I think you’ll love this program. Thanks for joining us and enjoy the show. Well, we’re here with Travis Hudson on The Volleyball Life podcast. He’s the head coach at Western Kentucky University. Travis, thanks so much for taking a minute out of your day.


volleyball coaching education

Coaching is Hard

This post is certainly long overdue. As such, I’m going to combine a couple of different topics into one post. You will forgive me, but like many of you, I’m deep into preparing for a season with considerable promise.

Club Coaching is Hard I coached an 18’s club team is past club season. I learnt a lot about coaching and the club volleyball scene. Those of you who club coach, and successfully manage the many demands, you have my deepest respect. It’s not easy. I don’t think college coaches have any idea of the complexity of what you do on any given practice, tournament or 3 day weekend qualifier.

A such, I promise I’ll never coach club again.

We are service providers One of the biggest confirmations of coaching as a service provider is the club volleyball scene. The consumer has a choice at the end of the club season – do we come back to the same club, or move to another club? Much of this is decided before the current club season is over and is influenced by other club athletes and their parents. I recently attended a presentation by Disney on their philosophy on customer service. It turns out that it’s expensive for a family of five to attend one of Disney’s theme parks for the day. So the first person they see once they enter the park better be excited to see them.

Shouldn’t we as coaches be excited to see our athletes when they enter the gym. Shame on any coach that wishes they coached orphans. We should strive to be the best service providers to our athletes.

Score! I don’t think even Usain Bolt is capable of flipping the score fast enough to satisfy some people at club tournaments.

Coaching Community I continue to be amazed at the level of access coaches within volleyball have with their coaching peers. This might be unique to volleyball – I don’t know as I haven’t asked other coaches. I’ve seen college coaches give freely of their time to other coaches. I’ve seen fellow coaches, who compete against one another with passion, then talk about their systems with mutual respect. It really is a great sport we coach.

Hopefully I’m not speaking out of turn, but I’m confident if you emailed any of the staff at GMS you would get an answer to your question in a timely manner. So if you do have a question, go ahead and email Tom Black and let me know how long it takes for him to get back to you.

A quote I shared this quote with one of my OH’s today in practice – “Our doubts are traitors And make us lose the good we oft might win By fearing to attempt” – Shakespeare.

So as we begin a new season, good luck. May each of us have a team full of “trees” – The Giving Tree

Jason Watson – Arizona State Volleyball

Yeats and the Volleyball Season

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth, We are happy when we are growing  William Butler Yeats

At LMU we play in the West Coast Conference. And it is a tough this year…really tough.  The teams that finished towards the bottom last season are greatly improved. Two teams are ranked in the top-20.  BYU has entered the conference this year, and with it, greatly enhanced the competitive level. Basically, every night is a battle.  Having competition like this is great. There is no doubt every team will be severely pushed and tested, and in the process learn a lot about itself. There are lots of challenges to all this, but possibly one central one:

“How do we keep our team, and individual players, on a course of improvement through such a turbulent process?”

Already, our team has managed to come from behind from some major deficits, as well as seen a few slip away we wish wouldn’t have. We’ve had some victories that felt great, and some defeats that have left the locker room in a sober silence. How do we ride this rollercoaster without being one ourselves?  I don’t have a simple answer to it, only some thoughts. But here are a few:

1 – There is no bigger role for me as a coach and a teacher than teaching my players how to learn: 

Maybe I should just stop with that comment, because I believe it’s at the core of everything. I believe everything is a skill, whether it is emotional, mental or physical, and everything has a lesson. If we can model and foster a mindset that challenges are an opportunity for growth, we will always be learning. If we are learning, we’re improving. And if we’re doing both of those things, we’re most likely highly motivated.

Sounds so simple, and yet is so difficult. If you’re skeptical, spend a day in a gym and chart the feedback of coaches and players. Make one column “process” and the other “result”. Which is praised more? Can people tell the difference?  If we can’t, if a good result means a good process, and an unfavorable result always means a bad process, the rollercoaster of the season might take us down with it. I know I’ve fallen there more than I like to admit, and as these young ladies’ teacher, I have to be better.

2 – We are a part of something bigger:

This is often said and communicated, and it couldn’t be truer. I believe this is one of the central reasons organized sports are so popular. Whether we’re an extraverted life of the party type or a loner with our nose buried in a book, we all want to feel we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves. This is a basic human need.  Do we have a team goal? Does it reflect this desire? Is it based on behavior we can control or is it based solely on results? Does everyone clearly understand how it is being measured?

3 – Back to Yeats

“We are happy when we are growing”. As much as this is a team game, players have to see and feel how they are improving in order to stay motivated. A player’s path of improvement, their ownership and understanding of it, is an anchor that should be there through all the results. I believe this is a compass through the highs of winning and the pain of a loss. And as we all know, losing hurts. It really hurts. We need that anchor.

This can be where organization and clarity comes in. Are there a few specific, clear items each player has to work on within their game? Do they have daily opportunities in practice to work on it? Are there video sessions for them where they can “keep score” of their progress? One of my most rewarding moments since I’ve been at LMU was when I had an older player come into my office crying, saying she felt she hadn’t improved at all. She wasn’t being dramatic; she was profoundly upset, and was wondering if this whole process-thing might just be too hard. Luckily, I was ready for her, and had picked up some old film of her, as well as a series of recent clips of her playing. Watching the look on her face as she recognized how much she had grown was a wonderful moment for both of us.

As many coaches have said, “results matter” and none of us would disagree. One of the central issues for all of us might be – how do we give ourselves the best possible chance at these results, continue to improve, and have a rewarding experience through such a challenging, competitive experience? Maybe some ideas from above will help, and if you have some yourself, I would be grateful to hear them.

Tom Black – LMU Women’s Volleyball


The Ultimate Over-Achievers

This past weekend, unbeknownst to many here in the United States, the Wallabies (Australia) defeated the Springboks (South Africa) and advanced to play the All-Blacks (New Zealand) in the second semi-final of the Rugby World Cup.  Over the past year, these three teams have been the most dominate in World Rugby.

So the stage is set for another classic rugby battle between my Wallabies and the All Blacks.   A match already sold out and being played in New Zealand at Eden Park.  A field Australia has not seen success in 25 years.  I’ll make no bets.  I’ve lost far too many over the years.  But I’m Australian and I therefore believe in the Wallabies.

I’ve read a number of recaps of the match, but one posted in the Sydney Morning Herald ( struck me as significant.  It asks simply “How did the Wallabies do it?”

How did they make the World Cup semi-finals when they really had only one chance to score in last night’s epic and memorable encounter?”

It’s difficult to describe the pressure associated with being a Wallaby or their coach.  I coach for a college and represent my institution in competition.  Some colleges have the weight of representing a State.  Only two volleyball coaches here in the United States represent their country in competition.  But even those coaches, don’t have the weight of an entire nation on their shoulders when they go and compete.   When the pressure mounts there are moments where you question what you’re doing as a coach?  Have I done anything to help my athletes?  Am I making an impact on my program?  When it seems like the path is hard and the challenges many, what do we do?  How do we respond?

“How?  Simple.  Through sheer determination, courage, incredible will power and enormous belief.  Australian rugby has a history, a reputation for getting so much out of so little, using every little bit of its limited resources to repeatedly overcome those who are overflowing in riches… It’s that Wallabies spirit that keeps them being such a fascinating beast, the ultimate over-achievers.”

We can spend our time looking sideways – comparing our program to other programs.  We can complain about our lack of resources, our budget, our feeder schools or our administration etc.  Or we can become over-achievers.  We can embrace the traits of the Wallabies – determination, courage, will power and a belief.  There’s no guarantee if we do, we’ll beat our version of the Springboks or the All Blacks.  But I’d like my chances.

Sunday, October 16th – Australia Vs. New Zealand.  Eden Park, New Zealand.