By: Leslie MacManus
The second I heard the crowd chant “U-S-A! U-S-A!” as the USA team’s delegation marched into the opening ceremonies at the World University Games, I knew that my decision to attend as an intern was the right one. The initial purpose of this internship opportunity was to get more experience with sports marketing and media with top-notch athletes from all over the world in a highly competitive atmosphere. I knew I would improve my marketing and media skills which I thought would also benefit me in my future career as a registered dietitian. I would start my technology-focused dietetic internship shortly after the trip and this sports communications experience was a unique segue from university life to the start of my professional career. While I was not there to specifically share my sports nutrition knowledge, it quickly became clear that this knowledge was helpful to have.
The World University Games, or Universiade, is an international multi-sport event that is organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) for university students from all over the world to compete against one another. The Games are held every two years in a different city, and, similarly to the Olympics, the Universiade has both a winter and summer event. In terms of relevance and number of participants, the Summer Universiade is second only to the Olympic Games. The 2019 Summer Universiade took place in Naples, Italy from July 3 to July 14, 2019. These Games had U.S. representation in over 20 sports with one of the largest delegations of over 410 people (athletes, coaches, and staff). The USA Team completed the Universiade with 21 gold medals, 17 silver medals and 15 bronze medals, for an overall ranking of 3rd place!
Upon arrival, I was quickly notified that I needed to change roles from a media intern to a team liaison for both the swimming and track and field teams. Throughout the entire trip, I was tasked with several activities and responsibilities for both teams that required problem solving and troubleshooting, while continuing to help out in the main delegation office with whatever was needed. I was able to make some amazing connections with the USA team’s medical staff as well as the staff members of other delegations from around the world. This opportunity gave me great experience in working with a multidisciplinary team. I learned how to communicate effectively with people from other professions and to respect other people and their different perspectives. It was important to remember that we were all on the same team with a shared purpose and goals. These skills are essential in a team work environment.
Many of the athletes knew I had graduated with a degree in nutrition. Because of this, I was involved in multiple situations where people were searching for general opinions about good meal choices for competition. For example, there were a few women’s soccer athletes who followed a vegan diet and needed some advice on how to navigate the dining hall at their athlete village. In another situation, a taekwondo athlete asked for some tips on hitting his weight marks, or “making weight,” in a healthy manner. So, despite my initial role not being related to nutrition specifically, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I was able to use my nutrition knowledge to make suggestions about the kind of food that’s likely to support some of the competitive athletes as they strive to meet their goals at the World University Games. It was exciting to see how I will eventually be able to use my dietitian credential in a sports nutrition setting so easily!