A mom’s point of view:

Any mother worth her salt has encouraged those around the dinner table to eat their veggies. Over-crowded schedules and extremely active children put a great deal of emphasis on the nutritional balance of our meals. I’m just as educated as the next mother when it comes to the food pyramid. I understand the value of home-cooked meals over take-out and highly processed shortcuts we can purchase at the grocery store. Knowledge withstanding, the lecture that most impacted my adult life on the value of proper nutritional guidelines came in a high school gym under the tutelage of an up-and-coming head football coach. His words helped me realize the importance of developing strong relationships with those responsible for coaching my son.

My freshman son, barely out of the equipment room with his first set of varsity football equipment, sat beside me as the room of parents and other concerned adults slowly grew quiet while the coach waited patiently for our attention. He thanked us for allowing his coaching staff to have the opportunity to work with our children. He stated that our children were our most valuable asset and that his coaching staff was aware of the worth of each child. He immediately had my attention by acknowledging the value and worth of my child, a quality I already knew was rare in most teachers and coaches. His next words impacted me even more: “Friday night football is not the most crucial moment in the big picture of high school football.” You could have heard a pin drop. He continued, “Friday night’s outcome is most important to us because of the big … we want in the stats, but it’s about what is done the rest of the week that will make us successful on Friday night. What your son does in practice and what he puts into his mouth and into his head, and his heart, all week long will determine the level of success we can have in this program.” He followed by explaining the guidelines he expected us to implement in our home environment that could help impact his players. “Thursday night’s evening meal will sustain the player through the game as much as Friday afternoon’s snack. A player fully hydrated on a daily basis will be immune from those sideline cramps that short-circuit performance on the field.” A review of carbohydrates and their rate of digestive impact on athletes rounded out his speech. All of us filed out of the gym better informed and thus more active members of the typical Friday Night Football craze. I lingered long enough to have a private moment with the coach and enjoyed the connection I felt with him. We were both on the same page … helping my son be the best he could be.

That night, a family meeting was called to solidify our commitment to following our coach’s guidelines. We promised each other the following:

(1) Hydration is important, not just on Friday, but all week. At lease one meal a day, we would substitute water for our usual iced tea. Our son promised to try and consume more water during practice.

(2) We would cut down on fast food. Thursday night’s meal would consist of serious nutrition; meat and veggies. Snacks after school and before practice would consist of fruit and crackers with peanut butter.

(3) Friday’s snack after school would be limited to a small amount of pasta and fruit.

So how did our nutritional changes affect our son’s entrance into high school sports? He became the fastest receiver on the team and a record-breaker in track and field. Seventeen years later, following his completion of four successful of college football and track and his continued success as an adult influencing others in the field of sports, I still find myself grateful for the coach’s advice and continue to support the high school program. The same coach continues to invest his time not only in the lives of his athletes but also in the education of parents. I challenge you to cultivate friendships with the coaching staff and other individuals that will build team efforts toward developing your athletes into the well rounded children you want them to be.