Saturday, December 19, 2009

In the Zone: Eating to win

Nauset Regional athletic director and boys basketball coach Keith Arnold sees it every day at lunch. He walks into the school cafeteria and watches students walk past the healthy choices on the menu and head directly to the kinds of foods that make nutritionists cringe.

“I tease them when they walk out,” he says, “because what a lot of them are eating are the fries and pizza.”

Most high school athletes understand the importance of proper nutrition and how it can improve their performance on the field. The challenge for coaches and teachers is convincing them to follow it.

“They're aware of it, but that doesn't mean anything,” says Nancy Clark, a sports nutritionist and author of “Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook.” “It needs to be emphasized that if you have an empty gas tank, you're not going to get too far.

“How often do you hear ‘We're a first half team.' That's nutrition. They're not falling apart in the second half; they're running out of energy.”

Arnold believes it's imperative that schools focus on educating student-athletes on nutrition so that they view it not only as an avenue to improved performance, but as a long-term lifestyle.

“We have the tools,” he says. “Right now, I see that there's a basic foundation of knowledge of what they should and shouldn't be doing. But I also see the fact that they are teenagers, and they thrive on those other types of foods.

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