If southwest Iowa athletes put in the time, Judd Hawkins is confident he’ll help them get faster and stronger.
After more than a decade training professional baseball players, the Council Bluffs native moved home to open Level 10 Performance Advantage, located off Perry Road on the outskirts of Council Bluffs.
“I always had an eye toward working specifically with athletes. That’s my background, one of the things that motivates me,” he said. “What I concentrate on is getting athletes to move more efficiently and more powerfully. The details vary depending on the age group.”
Hawkins returned to the area and opened Level 10 in January of 2017. He sees athletes from around 6 years old through college, with clients that play a variety of sports, including baseball, basketball, football, golf and soccer, along with swimmers. He works with individuals, small groups and entire teams.
“With younger kids, I try to instill in them a sense of aggressiveness and confidence,” he said.
Hawkins said increasing speed is a skill that can be learned, with some of the work involving arm motions, strike and more.
“If you can’t hit a curveball, you work on hitting a curveball. If you want to sprint faster, you need to do sprints.”
Hawkins grew up in Council Bluffs and attended Underwood High School, graduating in 1993. He played college baseball at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake before attending Iowa State University for a master’s degree in exercise physiology.
He was also a graduate assistant coach on the Cyclone baseball team, including during the team’s final year as an NCAA-sanctioned varsity sport, 2001. Baseball is now a club sport at Iowa State.
Hawkins worked as an intern strength and conditioning coach with the Iowa Cubs, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and, after graduating from Iowa State, took as job as a minor league strength and conditioning coach with the Kansas City Royals.
Hawkins was with the Royals from 2002 to 2004 before working for the Cincinatti Reds for a year and then taking a position with the Oakland A’s.
Hawkins operated out of Phoenix, Arizona, with the A’s — it’s where many of the players lived in the off season and is where the A’s play during spring training — traveling around the country to work with players in the A’s minor league system.
“I was in charge of all the agility/strength programs throughout the organization. I had an emphasis on the minors, with some major league work,” he said, noting there was a dedicated major league strength coach.
“I loved that job,” he said of the work from 2006 to 2010.
While in Phoenix, Hawkins and wife, Sarah, had their first child.
“I couldn’t handle the travel. It was a tough decision, but being gone all the time wasn’t an option,” Judd Hawkins said, noting his wife is from Carroll. “We turned our focus to when we could move back home.”
The Hawkins family stayed in Arizona, with Judd opening a gym to continue doing what he loved, but without the travel.
After their third child was born, the family moved back to Iowa — settling in Council Bluffs in the fall of 2016.
The Level 10 space isn’t crowded with machines and the like, with a weight sled, small hurdles and small cones among the equipment used.
“It’s not real complicated,” Hawkins said of his program. “We want to help athletes get fundamentally strong, fundamentally quick. People make the mistake of using running for conditioning only. You need to be explosive as well as an athlete.”
The certified strength and conditioning specialist said the general strength and speed work done at Level 10 translates to game action.
“What’s nice about what he’s doing, what we like, is it’s not focused on one particular sport. He’s working on core movements that you can apply to any or all sports,” said Brian Hamilton of Council Bluffs, whose sons Cohen, 10, and Cooper, 8, workout with Level 10. “It’s done really good things for both my boys. It’s helped each one of them in different ways. Which has been nice.”
Hawkins said he works with athletes from the Council Bluffs school districts, along with those from Underwood, Tri-Center, AHSTW, Missouri Valley and elsewhere.
“I love the competitiveness. This work isn’t for every kid, and if it’s not for them it’s OK,” he said. “This is for the kid that wants that competitive edge.”
Jodi Podraza said her sons Johnny, 16, and Joey, 14, and daughter Kati, 11, have all enjoyed their work with Hawkins.
“It builds confidence. It makes them stronger,” she said. “And it makes them feel good about themselves.”
For more information on the business, which shares the building with Council Bluffs Crossfit at 19998 Perry Road, go to www.L10performance.com.
Hawkins said his greatest source of pride comes when a parent tells him about improvements on the field or court or in the pool.
“‘You should’ve seen Timmy on the court,’” he said. “I like watching the kids improve. Especially when they improve confidence. It’s great to watch them ‘get it.’”