I just read an interesting article about a potential managerial candidate for the Los Angeles Dodgers and what he did back in Spring Training that raised quite a few eyebrows.
Baseball clubhouses are the ultimate spot for young guys. There are big screen TV's tuned to ESPN/MLB/NFL choose your favorite sports network. There are workout rooms, hot tubs, places to nap, get a massage and tons of convenience foods.
The athletes spend a lot of time in there so I guess they want them to feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
While in his current role as the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league farm director, Gabe Kapler (former Tiger) used his authority to get rid of junk food from the clubhouse during Spring Training.*
The move was meet with mild push-back from the veteran MLB players who thought it challenged their "freedom" to make their own choices.
Kapler's move provoked me to think what I would do if I were running a baseball developmental system.
For the sake of brevity I will focus my "solutions" strictly to the nutrition side of the performance equation.
First of all I wouldn't do anything drastic nor would I make any grand announcements that things were about to change in dramatic fashion. This would actually hinder my cause because the initial shock and awe from the athletes would most assuredly lead to a revolt at worst and at best a rolling of eyes with an under the breath "whatever you say dude." I don't want to deal with that!
So I wouldn't "ban" anything. If the athletes want to buy stuff on their own that's up to them.
My first move would be not to have any processed food on hand. When it comes to maximizing sports performance (concentration, mood, energy, recovery, body composition) this is the low-hanging fruit and the easiest way to improve performance immediately.
The following items would not be made available by the club:
Soda, Candy, Snack Foods (chips, crackers, cookies, muffins, etc.), Energy Drinks nor any other processed foods. I would love to include Gatorade and the like but this is to dramatic for now.
I would make the following items widely available:
Jerky, nuts, high quality protein bars, super shakes, fruit, water.
I would also hire a full-time chef to make pre and post game meals from scratch. Using high quality whole food ingredients, nothing from a box nor any highly processed oils.
The foundation of each meal would be some type of meat (all pasture raised and antibiotic free it possible):
Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs.
Plenty of vegetable options:
Roasted root and cruciferous vegetables
Whole grain based dishes like quinoa, brown rice, even whole grain pasta occasionally
Super salads loaded with the following options:
Lettuce (spinach, arugula, kale, spring greens)
Sliced fruit/vegetables: peppers, tomatoes, avocado, apples, figs, cherries, peaches, berries
Nuts: Cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachio
Cheese: goat, cheddar, gouda
Dressing: Olive oil and dijon mustard base
Dessert: home made cookies and brownies ( hey these are big kids after all and if we don't give it to them they are more likely to get it somewhere else where the quality won't be as good). I would make sure the chef makes the treats with whole grain unrefined flours and other high quality whole food ingredients. I would not tell the players what they are made with. Here have a cookie rookie... "These taste awesome!" Your welcome.
I would also create some type of competition like the guy that logs the most hours with the trainer or therapy staff gets to pick their favorite meal to be made by the chef. Hamburgers, pizza, lasagna whatever they want but the chef makes it with whole food ingredients, just like mom used to!
I would love to see teams do this. It is a great investment in the long term health and performance of their athletes. And money should not be an issue. Teams routinely "eat" the contracts of athletes that are underperforming or pay players millions that no longer play for them (Prince Fielder by the Tigers to his current team the Rangers). There are a lot of savings to be had in sports with wise budgeting and I have no doubt investing in proper nutrition for their athletes would pay off in the long run.
Currently teams make available cheap, low-quality food for their athletes and that makes no sense! They invest millions in keeping these players on the field yet provide them the nutrition equivalent of fast food.
They should focus their attention on better scouting and development if they want to avoid wasteful expenditures, they shouldn't do it by skimping on the post game spread.