From 6AM training camp breakfast, to in-practice hydration & post-practice recovery coolers, to clinic session with athletes, to the 10PM night time snack – as the sports dietitian of the University of North Carolina Football team, every day was a little diffeent. I might have a plan for the day but by the end of it, my day would sometimes look completely different – this sure did keep it interesting and I loved every minute of it!
The best part of this job was cultivating relationships with our football players – “my guys” as I eventually started calling them. Interacting with my athletes from day to day allowed us to build relationships and trust with each other so that any time they needed something, they could always come to me – whether that was helping them with a nutrition plan, figuring out what to do post-workout, talking about their class workload, helping them through an illness bout – anything! I had so many great experiences at UNC, but I’ll share just a few of them with you.
- Hydration focus. “HYDRATE!” was the first thing our coach would yell out when he would walk into the locker room on game days. We were serious about our hydration! I would work one-on-one with athletes to create not only daily hydration plans but also game day specific hydration and fueling plans to prevent cramping and keep them on the field longer. Whether that was prepping a hydration supplement in the locker room before game time, or having a quick digesting snack (like fruit snacks!) on the sideline ready for them, I had them covered!
- Goal setting – achieving, maintaining, & surpassing! The demands of football (and any sport, really) are high, but the demands also change throughout the year, whether it’s off-season training, preseason training camp, in-season, etc. So throughout the year, I helped athletes change their day-to-day nutrition and hydration plans to match the demands being put on their body to ultimately reach their goals!
- Traveling with the team. Traveling with the team was an important job – making sure we’re fueling the team leading up to the game, fueling/hydrating throughout the game, and then also refueling afterwards. My favorite trip was to Pittsburgh where we played at Heinz Field on a Thursday night. It was so cold (I wore a lot of layers while on the sideline) but we got the W!
- Injury nutrition. Unfortunately in sports, injuries sometimes happen. I worked closely with our athletes recovering from injury to make sure they were getting what their body needed to rebuild and come back stronger than ever. During my time at UNC, we started a new protocol for our injured athletes, taking a gelatin supplement pre-workout/rehab session, to aid the collagen re-building in their recovering joint. The best thing about this part of the job was watching an athlete through the recovery process – there’s nothing like watching your athlete going from crutches to running sprints and then getting back in those pads for practice!
- Freshmen acclimation. Straight from high school, our freshmen athletes were thrown into the intensity of a Division 1 football program gearing up for off-season training. The entire group was looking to get bigger (put on some muscle mass), get stronger, and get faster, but didn’t know how to go about it from the nutrition side of training. Helping these brand new college students fuel their bodies and achieve these goals was by far my favorite part of the job.
My experience at UNC has made me a better sports dietitian, and I am so excited to bring my experience and knowledge to help athletes here at Dietitians of Palm Valley!