Tackling Football Nutrition

By: Danielle Ferguson, UMD Dietetic Intern

A few weeks ago, I was presented with my dream supervised practice opportunity – working with the Coordinator of Football Nutrition at the University of Maryland through the last few weeks of the football season. My internship director knew that I had a strong interest in sports nutrition and was able to arrange extra supervised hours working with the Registered Dietitian of the football team. This meant after my regular work day, I would head over to the football team house to continue my practice hours. I often worked over 10 hour days, but it was worth every minute.

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When I arrived at the football team house each day, I would check in with my preceptor about what tasks needed to be completed that day and get to work. Some of these tasks included restocking the fueling station where the snacks were stored for the players, packing up the cooler with post practice nutrition, and creating infographics for the table cards in their dining facility. I learned about different nutrition products given to the student athletes and how they were specifically planned for their needs that day. Some of the products we used included muscle milk for recovery, tart cherry juice to reduce inflammation, and pickles to help restore electrolytes.

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My preceptor and I spent a lot of time discussing the things she does to help the athletes on the team receive the proper nutrition to maximize their training efforts. Her job includes a wide range of responsibilities, including counseling the players on weight needs, working with the coaching staff regarding athletes’ post-surgery and post-injury needs, creating nutrition-related injury prevention guidelines, working with the dining staff in the dining hall to provide appropriate and healthy meals, tracking and ordering inventory of nutrition snacks for the team, arranging meals during team trips, and much more. She showed me how she is up-to-date on NCAA rules regarding nutrition, supplements, and training.  She worked with me closely to help me understand the level of commitment it takes to be involved with a Big Ten Collegiate athletics program and I was reassured of my belief that the hard work is worth it.  

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Working for a collegiate athletic department is something that I have had my eyes set on for a long time. When I was younger, I thought it would be through coaching, but as I’ve grown into a passionate soon-to-be Registered Dietitian, I now hope that my role will be on the nutrition side of the field. Before starting this internship, I didn’t know that it was possible to have a rotation in sports nutrition, especially at the University level. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have had this practice and I am grateful to my preceptor and the University of Maryland Football Team for allowing me to participate with their team. This has provided me an incredible experience and I am even more enthusiastic about sports nutrition than ever.

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