It was a steak-and-pasta Tuesday at the Cyclones’ training table.
Soccer players were the first to gather, loading up plates with noodles and sauce, dinner salads, fresh fruit, blueberry muffins, and milk. Then they lugged their dinners to the end of a table near the center of the training table’s buffet-style cafeteria on the ground floor of Linden Hall.
These were young players,
mostly first-year students, with lots of enthusiasm for dinner every weeknight
“It’s amazing,” said Chelsea Kobza, a freshman midfielder from Omaha, Neb.
good here,” said Laura Boyer, a freshman goalkeeper from Overland
Park, Kan. “There are no lines. And we can go back for as many helpings
“It’s Linden love,” said Meghan Schlenker, a freshman defender from Schaumburg, Ill.
That’s not to
say everything is perfect at the training table.There’s no soda
and no gooey desserts. And discouraging words are sometimes heard about
the food, especially from older athletes who
The size and scope of the Sports Nutrition Center, as it’s officially called, is a matter for the budget. Laurie Gustafson, ISU’s associate athletic director for business operations, says the Cyclones have about $130,000 budgeted for training table this year.
Denise Harklau, the Cyclones’ head women’s trainer, said the investment is worth it.
It includes pre-game meals, sack lunches when they’re needed, later hours to accommodate practice schedules, a breakfast club for football players who need some extra help gaining weight, and special meals during the calorie burn of two practices a day.
And it helps the Cyclones eat better. “That nutrition is a very important part of being healthy and being able to perform well,” Harklau said. “Kids have a tendency to skip meals. This is a way to get at least one good meal a day.”
Think about it. These student-athletes have classes and homework. They have practices and weight training. They have travel schedules.
Harklau said it’s easy for student-athlete to settle for a bagel, a bowl of cereal, or a value meal “and not get the nutrition and calories they need.”
Mark Coberley, the
Cyclones’ head men’s trainer, said student-athletes, depending
on their size, will burn 400
Coberley said a 180-pound basketball player has to consume about 4,000 calories a day just to keep up.
But the point of training table is not to count calories, Coberley said. It’s about helping student-athletes be bigger, faster, stronger.
And so, said Don Knock, ISU’s director of football operations, “We don’t want them to miss a meal.”
The training table staff serves about 150 students every fall evening but cooks for about 450.
Many of the athletes eat two to three times what an average student might eat, said Mary Ellen Metzger, a dining service manager who directed ISU’s training table for eight years before moving to another campus post this year.
But making the most of training table is more than just piling the buffet line with enough food to provide some of the 4,000 to 6,000 calories student-athletes need every day.
That might have worked in the ’60s when ISU established a training table in the Towers residence complex. Back then, the meals were served family style, seven football and men’s basketball players to a table, a gallon of milk in the middle, and platters piled with pork chops delivered from the kitchen, said Carol Petersen, ISU’s assistant director for residential dining.
That won’t work today. Students are more sophisticated eaters, Metzger said. They’re used to eating out. It’s not about how mom used to cook it. It’s about how the restaurant down the street – or the fancy new campus dining center – serves it up every day.
So the training table tries to offer more and more choices. Metzger said there are at least three entrees every evening, including a low-fat option such as pasta or a grilled chicken breast. Within the last two years, the kitchen has added a char broiler and a smoker for different meat options. And there are always vegetables, fruits, cereals, and carbohydrates to choose from.
And now Petersen said there’s starting to be some talk about one day developing a new training table facility on campus.
Andrew Skoglund was already on his second plate of pasta.The 7-foot-1, 260-pound basketball center from Minnetonka, Minn., also had steak, garlic bread, and potatoes to eat up.
This night, Skoglund judged the steak “a little on the dry side.” But that’s about as critical of training table as he was going to get. He likes the place.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “It’s ready to go. And it’s all you want.”
Plus, he said he gets to see some more of his teammates.“Hanging out is fun, too,” he said between bites. “Talking over dinner and telling all kinds of stories – it’s all sorts of fun.”
Hiawatha Rutland, a senior football running back from Bradenton, Fla., who’s been eating at the training table for 4 1/2 years, wasn’t thrilled with another plate full of “yesterday’s spaghetti.” But he said his complaint really was small potatoes. Training table is something to appreciate.
I love it,” Rutland said over his steak, spaghetti, Frosted Flakes,
watermelon, milk, and Powerade.
About the Writer | Mike Krapfl is managing editor of The Tribune in Ames.