By Josh Ortegon
I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert in nutrition. But I will be willing to admit that I have influence over the athletes we train, I have a “serviceable” knowledge of proper nutrition and even most important, I have great relationships with people who excel in the area of nutrition and I refer to their expertise any chance I get.
Proper nutrition and diet is essential for the highs school athlete. Kids are consistently boarded with media selling them fast food, the newest supplement, sports drinks full of sugar and pseudoscience to the point that the typical high school athlete, or family for that matter, have no real source for consistent, credible nutritional information and support.
Athletes are on the run all the time! Constantly having practice or games after school along with their academic requirements and their always increasing social calendar will lead to decreased sleep and recovery as well as inconsistent eating habit that will keep them at risk for injury, over-training and increased fatigue.
Proper nutrition is a gaping hole in the average high school athlete’s lifestyle. Below are 3 tips for the high school strength coach to assist in improving the nutritional habits of their athletes.
Get to Know Who Runs the Lunch Room
Building a good relationship with those who are in control of the lunch menu or who handles the cafeteria is a great place to start. Some schools do not have a lot of options when it comes to what they serve for lunch but building that relationship will help establish credibility where you could possibly help make more healthy food choices available for the students at the school. Sometimes that could be as simple as making healthier choices available or even putting them in a visible area within the lunchroom.
There is not a kid in grade school that didn’t get pumped up for a field trip! Once you develop a relationship with those in charge of the lunchroom I would greatly recommend a “field trip” with your athletes to educate them on what proper nutritional choices are available to them. Once your athletes are educated, they can then be held accountable. Of course I understand that high school kids can be stubborn and even if they were offered food choices from a private chef they would still find issues with a high school lunchroom. Many times I will recommend 3 or 4 items they can bring from home to supplement the offering in the lunchroom.
Bring in a Speaker
Developing a relationship with a certified sports nutritionist is a great way to bring credibility and useful information to your team and school. One successful strategy is to bring them in during a parent’s night or a preseason meeting to take 5 or 10 minutes to go over simple strategies for proper nutrition and the importance of fueling your body correctly. A simple tri-fold or pamphlet to hand out with nutritional tips and guidelines is an excellent “take home” for parents.
As the strength and conditioning coach, we spend more time with athletes than almost ANY staff member. We are also lookup up to as a source for wellness, general fitness and nutrition. Being able to use that influence within our team is essential to educating the parents and athletes on the importance of a well-balanced diet and how to make healthy choices during the hectic school year.
Joshua Ortegon is co-founder and the Director of Sports Performance Enhancement at Athlete’s Arena in Irmo, SC as well as a High School Strength and Conditioning Coach and Consultant. See more at www.JoshuaOrtegon.com and www.AthletesArena.com