By Kaden Gaylord, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School
One name that has become synonymous in Western Kentucky history is Travis Hudson.
Heading into his 23rd season as the head coach of the volleyball team, Hudson is the all-time winningest volleyball coach in WKU history. After going 30-3 in 2016, Hudson was named South Region and Conference USA coach of the year.
Despite all of the accolades, his off-the-court contributions have stuck out the most.
“If all I’m remembered for is wins and losses then I think that’s shallow and sad,” he said.
Hudson is originally from Louisville but grew up in a lake house around Mammoth Cave.
“I come from not a lot,” he said. “My family didn’t have much money when I was growing up.”
When he got to college, he went straight to work. Hudson got two jobs, along with being a full-time student. He said he didn’t interact much at the student center or play intramural sports. He went to work, class, then back to work.
Hudson graduated from WKU in 1994 and was the first person from his family to graduate from college.
“When you’re down in life it is going to go one of two ways— you’re either going to make excuses for it, or it’s going to drive you,” he said.
Hudson said to go through what he had to endure made him the man he is today.
Having a great relationship with his players is one of Hudson’s valuable strengths.
“Travis is a coach that genuinely cares about your future outside of volleyball,” said rising senior and All-American Alyssa Cavanaugh. “It isn’t all about winning on the court. It’s about creating an environment and principles that will take us to bigger things after volleyball.”
He takes much pride in telling others that there has only been one player to transfer from the program in his 22 years of being the head coach.
Hudson said he invites his players over for dinner and to play with his sons.
“I want to be somebody that they know I care about them…it’s important to know your players,” he said.
Even when his players graduate from the program, he stays in touch with them, like outgoing senior Georgia O’Connell.
“He is always there giving me advice and reassuring me that everything will be OK,” she said. “He has been a great motivator.”
Being a coach takes a lot of energy and time, which can interfere with some other aspects of life. Hudson said the hardest part is traveling with his sons growing up because they didn’t understand why he left all the time.
His wife, Cindy Hudson, was a volleyball player when she was in college, so she understood why he left as much as he did.
“If it weren’t for controlling my time I would be a lifelong assistant,” he said.
Hudson said there are some disadvantages for his kids, but there are also many upsides like growing up in an athletic environment and traveling the country.
“I want them to be a part of this with me, and if I ever have to decide between being a good coach or a good dad, I am going to be a good dad every time,” he said.
Hudson said he is invested in his kids 24/7, which includes the academic side of his student-athletes.
“I’ve been very hands-on through the years…you’ll have an academic advisor, and I’ll be the second one,” he said.
Hudson keeps up with his team and their goals in life and everything they hope to achieve. In the 22 years at WKU, 100 percent of his players have graduated.
“This (WKU) is my home,” he said. “… I don’t know if I would feel the same passion anywhere else.”