Sandy Abney was the young teen that was dismissed from fitness centers in Alvin, Texas because at 13, she was too young to be using the facilities. Despite this said adversity, Abney experienced much success in regards to the weight room. As a high school track and field star, she was introduced to powerlifting at an early age, which she considers beneficial to her performance in her throwing and sprinting events. Abney set multiple state and national records during her high school career, and she earned a scholarship in 1993 to become a heptathlete for Southwest Texas State University, (now Texas State University), where she also competed in weightlifting. With the help of former Bulgarian strength coach Angel Spassov, Abney was introduced to Olympic weightlifting. After finishing her collegiate track and field career, Abney continued to train in Olympic movements. In 2004 she competed for a spot on the USA Olympic weightlifting team, (although she was just short of making the team), and in 2009, she was crowned the 2009 Master Olympic Weightlifting National Champion.
In the midst of her training, Abney was hired as a strength and conditioning coach for the University of Texas in 1999. She remembers the rigorous twelve-hour days training multiple groups, in addition to finding time to train herself. Although female strength coaches were a rarity at the time, Abney believed that her athletes could relate more to her coaching style because of her knowledge and past experience.
She now attributes her past weight room achievements to “informing the athletes that I’ve been an athlete and a weight lifting competitor, so I know what they go through during a season.” In addition, Abney believes that being a strength coach is “like an art”, and says she was drawn to strength and conditioning because of the ability to “manipulate the body to perform a certain way in order to optimize performance and get the athletes to adapt their abilities.”
Today, twelve years later, Abney’s philosophy has allowed her to become the head strength coach for the softball, rowing, and women’s swim teams at Texas. Additionally, Abney has seen her teams compete for twelve national championships and won more than twelve Big 12 Conference Championships. Abney has also trained eight Olympians, four of them gold medalists, during her career as a Longhorn. Her success in a field dominated by males is a testament to her dedication and talent.