By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Each year, the Eastern Kentucky University football coaching staff brings in speakers from various backgrounds to address their players on a wide variety of subjects.
Karina L. Christopher, an assistant professor of nutrition at EKU, had the opportunity to speak with the team this past spring as part of the program’s Life Skills Speaker Series.
And her presentation made an impact — not only on the players, but the coaches as well.
“She kind of opened our eyes to a few things,” EKU coach Dean Hood said.
Following that presentation, Hood and the rest of the coaching staff decided it would be beneficial to make some important changes to the way they approach nutrition and hydration.
“You are always looking for an edge,” Hood said. “You are always looking for something to give your guys an advantage. (Nutrition) is area that when we met as a coaching staff we felt like we hadn’t attacked to much. We just always said, ‘Go eat what you want and show up here at practice and lets have a high motor.’ Maybe some of our guys were a little sluggish because of what they eat.”
In conjunction with assistant athletic trainer Tim Pike and strength coach Jon-Michael Davis, the coaching staff put together a comprehensive plan.
The changes started when the Colonels reported for camp two weeks ago.
School officials worked with Aramark, the school’s food service provider, to give the players better nutrition options, especially while they were living in the dorms during training camp.
The coaching staff has also taken a slightly different approach to hydration this year.
After practices, players are sent to the training room for a recovery drink. In the morning they are given chocolate milk and following afternoon workouts they are given a sports drink.
“We can go through seven to 10 gallons of Gatorade after every practice,” Pike said.
Before afternoon meetings, the players are given power bars to load them up with calories.
The coaching staff also wanted to encourage good hydration when the Colonels weren’t on the field.
So, each player was assigned a gallon jug at the start of training camp and required to bring it with them everywhere, even to meetings.
“We bought 95 gallons of water in gallon jugs,” Hood said. “Each kid has a gallon jug and got a Sharpie and put their number on it and then carry that around with them. We tell them they have to (drink a gallon) before practice and then at the end of practice they fill it up again.”
For some players, this wasn’t something entirely new. Many of them were very accustomed to carrying gallon jugs of water with them at almost all times.
To others, the idea seemed a little silly.
At least at first.
Before long, the players started decorating their water jugs with more than just their numbers.
“I think it’s grown on them,” Pike said.
Through the first two weeks of practice, Pike and Hood say the new focus on nutrition and hydration has made an impact.
Now, they hope that translates into success on the field this fall.
“Those things have really helped us pick up our game as far as nutrition,” Hood said.