By Jennilyn Howell
Former Northwestern runners Brandon and Tyler Hudgins and their sister Calli, a freshman at Northwestern, know what it's like to take the sport to the dinner table. Having their dad, Calvin Hudgins as their coach, makes it a challenge to separate running from other aspects of life.
(Family photograph, left)
"Not many of the other runners had to go home and sit at a dinner table where the topic of conversation was almost strictly running related," Tyler said, reflecting on his high school running career.
However, all three Hudgins children agree that having their dad as a coach has been one of life’s greatest experiences.
"Most of my favorite memories are ones on the cross country team with my dad as the coach,” Calli said. “Very few kids get to be that lucky."
Brandon, now a 22-year-old graduate student at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., looks back fondly on his high school years under Calvin. In fact, he plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and coach.
"I enjoy helping people push themselves to a level that they thought was impossible," Brandon said. "I guess if I had to say one thing that inspired me to coach it was my dad and watching him coach over the years. I hope I can have as much success as he has had."
Brandon plans to use his remaining year and a half of competition eligibility. While at Winthrop for undergrad, Brandon was diagnosed with an immune system disease and left the sport to undergo treatment, which is why he is still able to compete.
"Training right now could not be better," he said. “My coach, my doctors and I are just trying to figure out what is the best situation for me to start competing again."
Currently attending York Technical College, 20-year-old Tyler plans to enroll in a four year school this spring. He is most grateful for the father-son bond that developed while he was in high school.
"Spending hours on end with your father on a bus is actually good bonding time," Tyler said.
Calli finds that running under her father’s instruction is challenging yet rewarding.
"It makes racing sometimes hard," she said. "I never want to let him down. I put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to him watching every workout and every race."
Tyler remembers that extra pressure, too. He found it best to always perform above and beyond Calvin’s expectations so as to not disappoint the coach or the father.
"When you are on the track training or running a race, your coach wants you to run so fast that it leaves the opponents’ heads spinning," Tyler said. "Now your father might want that too, but at the end of the day he has to be proud of you no matter how slow you run.... It makes things much smoother if you exceed their expectations."
"There is just something about his presence that makes me push a little harder," Brandon agreed. "There were times in high school that I wished that I could get away from it... but looking back on it now, that made me tougher.”
Calvin struggles to disconnect his roles, despite the fact that his children appreciate the challenges his position presents.
"I have learned that it is impossible to separate being dad and coach," he said. "I have tried but the two are often in conflict.”
Despite the challenges, coaching "has been an unbelievable experience" for Calvin.
"Most parents don’t get to spend a lot of time with their kids when they enter high school," he said. "I have been lucky enough to have chosen a profession where I got to spend their high school years working with them on a daily basis."
Those thousands of hours spent coaching his kids leave him with "so many things to be proud of," he said. But most of all, he hopes that Brandon, Tyler and Calli will apply what they’ve learned on the course to every day of their lives.
"I hope they learn that anything worth accomplishing is going to require hard work and commitment," he said. "Like life, there are no shortcuts in cross country."
By Jennilyn Howell