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#AnythingButSoft: Don't Let Junk Food Hold Your Players Back

All of the time and money spent on private hitting lessons, strength and conditioning programs, and fancy video equipment can’t be maximized if an athlete isn’t properly nourished on game day, says Peter Simandl, an assistant coach with an under-13 travel softball team in Lake in the Hills, Illinois.

“What frustrated me a few years ago is how I’d see our athletes — when we’re sometimes playing three to four games in a single day — between games they would go grab ice cream or a hot dog from the concession stand,” he said. “Then they’d all be wondering why, in the next game, they’re all real sluggish. They’re missing balls, they’re no longer agile.” 

Simandl isn’t a nutritionist or personal trainer, but the father of three daughters understands the benefits of proper nutrition, as well as the disadvantages an athlete can face when not applying proper eating habits, especially on game day.

Simandl, who competes in local duathlon races and mud runs, said many of the girls he coaches were surprised to learn about the relationship between performance and nutrition. 

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“So many of these girls have the right mindset, they have the right determination, they have the right personality, they have the right drive,” Simandl said. “But the type of food they eat works against all those other great things.

“You ask any of these athletes, they want to do a great job — they get nervous if they don’t do a great job — but they need to realize they’re working against themselves when they put a bag of chips in their mouth between games, rather than a piece of fruit, or some kind of better food option.”

Simandl said the biggest hurdle hasn’t been getting the girls to buy into these habits, but getting their parents to understand the on-the-field benefits as well. That’s an important part of the transition, as the parents are usually the ones who go to the grocery store.

“It’s not about looks, it’s not about vanity, it’s not about any of that,” he said. “It’s about teaching them to be the best athlete they can be.” 

Simandl suggests athletes snack on fresh fruit between games, such as bananas, apples, pears, or grapes. Anything to replace the carbohydrates your body burned during the previous game, he said.

“Watermelon is a great snack between games,” he said.

Another good option is a sandwich with lean meat, such as turkey, but stay away from heavy cheeses and even mayonnaise, which can weigh a player down. Even peanut butter sandwiches with a couple sticks of celery are a terrific source of fuel and easy to pack and consume, Simandl said. 

And, plenty of water, of course.

From GameChanger and Dan Arritt.

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Softball, #AnythingButSoft