KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – During spring ball on Rocky Top Rachel Pfister has the same goal as any position coach on the practice field: prep the athletes for the season ahead.
“We’re on top of them about their weight, building healthy habits, making the right choices when it comes to food and recovery,” Rachel Pfister said. “(We’re) Trying to mimic that Fall Ball to one make sure that we perform in Spring Ball and two once we hit Fall Ball it’s second nature to them.”
At the University of Tennessee, it’s practically a task to be unhealthy between the post-workout shakes the nutrition staff makes and the options made available at Smokey’s Grill for student-athletes. But with many athletes being removed from that “healthy safe haven” and the watchful eyes of the nutrition staff there’s a new level of self-accountability required.
“It’s a different kind of hard I guess when you’re not able to see them everyday and kind of have them surrounded in that,” Pfister said. “You’re kind of on your own you have to make those healthy decisions when you just finish working out should I go through the Wendy’s drive-thru or should I go home and make some food or drink a shake.”
Although student-athletes are still in school via virtual classrooms and expected to keep up with virtual workouts, many are finding cooking as a way to fill the down time.
“They’re a little bit bored so they’re able to experiment more, especially because they’re not able to gather round, workout with everybody,” she said. “They’re able to kind of experiment on all the things that we’ve been educating them on throughout the year. They’re like where do I get this? How do I get this?”
But not all student-athletes have the same culinary skillset. Pfister and her staff have received an array of questions while student-athletes are at home ranging from how to cook rice to wanting a recipe for a new recipe to attempt with beef, prompting them to bring back their Vol Nutrition Instagram page.
“Everybody is on their phones right now they’re scrolling through Instagram,” she explained. “So it’s like if we can have them scroll through and see how to cook chicken a different way and we can convince them to try it out then we’ve done our job. That’s kind of why we brought it back especially because we’re not around them day in and day out.”
The page features basic cooking instruction, recipes and how to shop smart at the grocery store. Most recently, the page shared a how-to for homemade granola.
It’s been a unique experiment for Pfister and her staff, seeing how their nutrition lessons are being implemented by players on their own.
“Really instilling in them that hey any second we could be back in Knoxville playing football,” she said. “We don’t want to have to get ready once we get to Knoxville we want to stay ready or we don’t’ want to have to catch up for lost time. So, for the most part, the ones that are serious about it are locked in.”