The beautiful thing about sports is that they are so much more than just a game.
Sports expand beyond the arena of competition and into all sorts of different areas of life.
The game itself may seem simple sometimes, but the purpose of that game, the context of that game — it impacts how people feel.
And that’s what I love most.
It’s why I got involved with sports initially, and it’s what continues to drive me today.
When I joined Michigan State as a student, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do with my life. I was coaching figure skating at the time and knew that I wanted sports to be a part of my future, too.
One area that had always intrigued me was nutrition. When Oakland was looking for part-time assistance in that space in 2011, I jumped right on it. Little did I know that this laid the groundwork for the rest of my career.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I’ve now been fortunate enough to work with Team USA as well as the Detroit Pistons as a sports dietitian. My work even allowed me to travel with Team USA to the past two Olympics — it seems surreal to even talk about it.
What started as a small, part-time contract gave me the opportunity to learn and grow as a sports nutrition professional, which has opened the doors to many other exciting opportunities. I’ll be forever grateful to Oakland for taking a bet on me and giving me the flexibility to expand my work beyond campus.
Working with some of the best athletes in the world comes with countless lessons that I can use to assist our student-athletes here at Oakland on a daily basis.
As a sports dietitian, I have a responsibility to not only the organization I work for but to the individual athletes. It’s one I take extremely seriously.
Learning who someone is through the way they eat is a really special experience and creates a unique bond with that person.
When you’re talking to someone about food and eating habits, it can be very personal. It forces people to be vulnerable, and can lead to challenging conversations.
Yet, these conversations are critical for our work together, and I work hard to make sure athletes feel important, heard, and cared for as a person first, and athlete second.
This is step one.
Then, we can start to focus on those competitive goals.
But helping athletes live a happy, healthy life is what I strive for.
I do my best to convey this to all the athletes I work with.
If our work together leads to them living a better, happier, or healthier life, in addition to having success in their sport, that’s a win for everyone.
Being at the Olympics was one of those pinch-me moments. It’s something that I never imagined was possible for me.
And doing it twice? It’s still surreal to me.
Working at the Olympics was as special as it looks from the outside. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for the opportunity.
Working with professional athletes, I get a front-row seat to observe what exactly makes them great and what their struggles are. One thing that has surprised me is just how similar they all are — no matter what level they are training and competing at.
Our student-athletes go through a lot of the same challenges these elite athletes go through.
And I think it’s important to acknowledge that.
Especially through my work with Team USA, I got to learn about the ‘team behind the team’ concept. At Team USA, they embrace this 100%.
From the training staff to the equipment managers to the coaches to us dietitians, there is a tremendous amount of teamwork going on behind the scenes that is critical for the athletes’ success.
There is this synergy when all these pieces are operating and working together — it’s a beautiful thing, and can truly make a difference.
Seeing our team work this way and how that translated at the Olympics this time around is one of the things I am most proud of. It was like watching a beautifully choreographed dance.
Translating what I’ve learned on the road to our athletes right here at Oakland is what I strive for on a daily basis.
I feel heavy responsibility for the role that we as athletics staff play in their lives, and I strive to do my very best in that role.
It has been so much fun to experience the field of sports nutrition in so many different ways, and live out my dreams at the Olympic Games.
It’s always an honor to be a part of the team behind the team.