Getting athletes to care about nutrition

 

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I hated wearing button-down shirts when I was in elementary school. Too impatient to undo each button after a long day sitting in the classroom, I would instead rip the entire shirt off when I got home. My mom hated it, but she had a trick to fix it.

“Garrett unbuttons his shirt when he gets home.”

Garrett was the cool kid down the street — two years older than me and better at sports. To my seven-year-old mind he may as well have been a god. My mom had no idea if Garrett unbuttoned his shirt when he got home, but she knew I’d more quickly follow his example than listen to her. She was right.

Last week I had a candid conversation with an athlete about grocery shopping. She’s living off-campus for the first time and thinking about how she should plan her lunches and dinners for the week. We exchanged ideas, comparing what foods we like and what strategies work well for each of us, but the particulars weren’t important. The point was that she was planning, and planning leads to healthier decisions on its own.

It helps that she’s considered one of the best athletes in Fredonia’s athletic department –through two years she already holds several records in her sport. She didn’t get that way because of nutrition, but that’s not the point either. Eating healthy is important, whether it helps you set records or not.

Telling this athlete’s story is more effective than a nutrition packet.

“Garrett unbuttons his shirt when he gets home,” will always beat, “Unbutton your shirt the right way.”

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