On a recent summer afternoon at Lake Vista Park, 25 athletes, ages 8 to 18, dripped with sweat...
"Backpedal, shift, backpedal, shift," their coach yelled as he demonstrated the maneuver. "It is all in the footwork."
One by one, they followed his lead — backpedal, shift, backpedal, shift — like NFL players on the first day of camp.
"If it takes you longer than 30 seconds to finish, you need some work," he yelled.
"Remember, this is advanced training. If you can't keep up, go home and do some work."
Andre Hudson, 36, charges nothing for his athletic enhancement and mentoring program. His organization, Lives Under Construction, is dedicated to the promotion of "citizenship, education and diversity through sportsmanship and fitness."
"This is just one way that I can give back to the community," the St Petersburg personal trainer said. "I would have liked to have had something like this when I was a kid."
Hudson's camps typically attract 25 to 40 young athletes. They come from a variety of sports — soccer, volleyball, basketball, hockey and football — but all have one thing in common: the need for speed.
"It is amazing how much I've improved," said Terrell Skinner, a 21-year-old Boca Ciega High grad and red-shirt junior for the University of Maryland football team. "Speed, agility and quickness … he has helped with all three."
The hard road
Hudson grew up in Clearwater and played football in high school, but a shoulder injury kept him from realizing his dream of playing college ball.
After a brief stint at Central Texas College, he joined the Army and learned how to jump out of airplanes and fire howitzers. "When I got out, I went back to my old neighborhood," he said. "I started getting in trouble." He was arrested twice in his 20s, both times for selling crack cocaine.
"I could have ended up in prison," he said. "I knew that I had to change my lifestyle or that I would lose everything that I ever had." With the help of a relative who was a minister, Hudson was "born again," and started thinking about ways he could keep young people from following a similar path.
Hudson opened his own gym in Tierra Verde and began training high school and college athletes. His business card for Pro Builder Fitness lists his position as "Chief Sweatmaker."
"At first I just focused on speed … trying to make people faster," he said. "But then I realized that when you are working with kids, you need to focus on body, mind and spirit." Skinner's younger brother, Darrian, a senior football player at Boca Ciega, said Hudson's summer camps have given him a competitive edge.
"It is all about mental toughness," he said. "He has taught me how to push through the pain." Paige Johnson, a 14-year-old soccer player who will be a freshman at Lakewood, agreed with Skinner. "When I used to go on runs, I would just stop if I got tired," she said. "But now, I think about all that I've accomplished, I concentrate and focus on my breathing so I can power through it."
For an athlete to be accepted into Hudson's eight-week camps, he or she must have at least a B average in school; a letter of recommendation from a coach, parent or guardian; sign a letter of personal commitment; and agree to perform eight hours of community service. "I think this program is just awesome, said Amy Johnson, Paige's mother. "In addition to the fitness, I really like the community service aspect of the program. He has a really good way with the kids."
Hudson, who said he is honest about the decisions he has made in his life, doesn't advertise or market his camps and admits it has been a challenge keeping them going. "I always bring a cooler out full of water and Gatorade," he said. "I try to make sure the kids have something to drink."
He hopes to keep his camps going and, if possible, expand."There are a lot of kids out there that need a little structure and guidance," he said. "I am trying to do what I can."
Lives Under Construction
The summer program helps athletes work toward their physical fitness goals.
More information: Contact Andre Hudson at (727) 278-6762.
'Sweatmaker' with a heart offers free athletic training 08/05/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 5, 2008 2:31pm]
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