Inspiring the next generation

Nicole Hudson, an assistant track and field coach, hopes to motivate students, especially women.

Nicole (Nicky) Hudson works with Nicole Greene at the Eddie Smith Field House on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. March 12, 2019. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

“There’s enough room in the sky for all the stars,” assistant track and field coach Nicole Hudson tells her athletes. “Don’t dim your light. Just shine.”

Hudson, or “Coach Huddy” to her athletes, has lived those words and has the credentials to back them.

In 1988, she entered Carolina on an academic scholarship to study mathematics education. As a student-athlete in the grueling heptathlon, she set a school record that stood for 25 years, helped start an Atlantic Coast Conference track and field dynasty and was just shy of making the U.S. Olympic team. As a successful high school and college coach, she’s prepared male and female champions, including 2018 NCAA indoor champion Nicole Green. She taught high school courses ranging from algebra to AP calculus and earned a master’s degree.

As part of the first wave of female athletes to benefit from Title IX, “I was blessed to part of a generation of women’s programs that made their imprint not just at the conference level but nationally and in the world,” she said. “Professors and coaches here always demanded my best and never settled for anything less, and that’s what I took with me.”

College also opened her eyes to female leaders, particularly faculty members in Carolina’s School of Education and Afro-American Studies director Sonja Stone, who died in 1991. “I watched her walk through campus,” Hudson said. “I remember thinking when I got back here that I wanted to walk through campus with my head held high and have young women be inspired by me.”

Hudson is doing her best to be that role model, motivating students, with an emphasis on women. “I tell them to embrace being an alpha female, that you’re going to fill up a room and inspire people,” she said. “Don’t make yourself small. Don’t be afraid to outshine.”