WKU Volleyball: Hudson reflects on another milestone during his career on the Hill
The WKU Volleyball program took a chance on a young coach back in 1995. That coach was Edmonson County native Travis Hudson. And the rest, as they say, is history. Except Hudson keep rewriting the history books with each passing year he coaches on the WKU bench.
"When I took this job, I felt like I was the Western Kentucky volleyball coach, not just a college volleyball coach," Hudson said.
Twenty-four years later, Hudson can still gladly call himself both. During that span he’s racked up countless achievements from Coach of the Year awards, conference championships, and coached players who went on to become All-Americans. More recently, he added one more bullet point to his impressive coaching resume: picking up his 600th career win on Friday night at E.A. Diddle Arena against Middle Tennessee State University to start out Conference USA regular season play.
"I was a senior in high school when he got his 500th win and that was cool," said junior defensive specialist Emma Kowalkowski. "But to actually be a part of the 600th win was very awesome."
"He’s just so deserving of it," senior middle hitter Rachel Anderson added. "The way he coaches and the success he’s had multiple years in a row shows that it’s not just a one time thing."
With win number 600 in the books, Hudson joined elite company. He became just the 58th Division I volleyball coach to win 600 or more matches in a career. Hudson also sits alone as the only coach in Conference USA history to reach the 600 win milestone.
"This has all happened kind of little by little," said Hudson. "It was one accomplishment after another. Get to 500 and have a winning season. Then win 20 and then win a championship and get to the NCAA tourney. It’s just been little by little. It’s been quite a journey over 24 years."
To say it’s been "quite a journey" might be an understatement. In his first season at the helm, the Lady Tops finished with a record of 7-26, something that seems a distant memory for a program that is coming off four consecutive Conference USA regular season and tournament championships. The journey on the court has seemed rather effortless, and Hudson himself attributes that to the players he’s been lucky enough to coach. It’s off the court, especially in the last year, where the journey has become a lot more treacherous.
On March 31, 2018, Hudson suffered what is known as a widowmaker heart attack – the most deadly kind of heart attack someone can have. Even with his life on the line, he wasn’t phased. He even drove himself to the hospital while it was still happening! And to the surprise of a lot of people, he was back coaching at practice a mere two weeks after something that could’ve taken his life.
"He could have the worst day ever and come to practice and be a totally different person," said Anderson, a player who got to be a part of both Hudson’s 500th and 600th wins.
Hudson has proven time and again that he has an undying commitment to both his trade and his team – literally. However, that passion has nothing to do with money or winning a volleyball match, but rather the love he has for his players both on and off the court.
"He truly cares about all of us as individuals," Kowalkowski said. "Off the court that plays a huge role, but even on the court. He knows what goes on in our lives outside of volleyball. I think that in turn helps him be a better coach on the court too."
Right now, Hudson doesn’t know whether or not he’ll reach 700 or even 800 wins before he calls it quits here at WKU. And to be honest, that’s not something he’s concerned about. What he does know, though, is that there’s no other place he’d rather coach at than on the Hill – a place he calls home, and the place where he knows he was always meant to be.
"Sometimes in life we are always looking for the next big thing when, if you’ll open your eyes and look around, it’s a pretty special thing that you’re a part of already," said Hudson.