Teamwork Makes The Dream (Dinner) Work
Nutrition is important, especially if a high-level athlete wants to maintain her form and sustain the energy necessary to compete on the world stage. And, teamwork plays an integral part of winning gold medals as a member of a USA Basketball team.
So, what happens when a nutrition exercise is combined with a team-building exercise?
The 2017 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Cup Team found out the evening of June 10.
The 12-member team, which is currently training in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in hopes of claiming the USA’s seventh-straight FIBA U19 World Cup gold medal later this month in Italy, was split into four groups, three of which were tasked with creating a healthy, Italian-inspired dinner.
“The point was to get together and see who can and can’t cook,” joked University of Connecticut sophomore guard Crystal Dangerfield, who helped create homemade granola bars using melted chocolate as the glue to keep the nuts and fruit together. “It was really for team bonding. We had a lot of fun, and we got to see who had skills in the kitchen. I burned the chocolate twice. Not once, but twice! It smelled awful. But, we all had fun.”
The fourth group was led by the team’s athletic trainer Jeff Kawaguchi (Pacific University), who helped his trio of athletes create healthy recovery snacks.
“I thought it was a really good idea,” said Kawaguchi. “I’m sure they have nutritional information running around in their heads, but when you put it in front of them it really stands out. The team that I was with, they started to read labels and understand what certain terms meant. So, I thought it was really helpful for them. I thought it was a great activity.”
USA assistant coach Charlotte Smith’s (Elon) group created appetizers and sides, which included her (now) famous green beans, bruschetta and a pasta salad.
USA head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio (Pittsburgh), who is quick to point out that her husband does most of the cooking in her home, had the unenviable task of guiding her three athletes through planning and cooking the main course.
Each group planned a portion of the meal, created a shopping list and headed to the store to get ingredients. A funny thing happened in the grocery store aisles: people who previously never paid much attention to shopping for groceries began reading labels, asking about organic versus non-organic items and comparing prices.
From there, it was off to USA Basketball women’s national team director Carol Callan’s house to start chopping.
“For my group, it was all about teamwork, because we had the full entrée, the main dish,” said University of Texas sophomore Joyner Holmes. “So, we decided to cook two different pastas with shrimp and chicken. It was me, Ty (Harris), Jeannie (Boehm) and coach. We really worked together well to cook the pastas. I didn’t know how they were going to go, but they came together really well. And then we cooked up the shrimp and chicken for people to put on top of the pastas.”
USA assistant Kamie Ethridge (Northern Colorado) led the dessert group, which topped angel food cake with strawberries and gelato and also concocted an additional brownie-like dessert.
“I enjoyed the other dishes,” said the 6-foot-3 Holmes. “The dessert was really good, and coach’s green beans were really, really good!”
Indeed, everyone enjoyed both the preparing and the meal itself. And, like any good meal, not only was it gobbled up in a flash, everyone came back for seconds.
“Right now, being mindful of good nutritional habits is probably not as big of a deal,” added Kawaguchi. “But as they get older and as they want to prolong their careers, it becomes more important. Even after the two-a-days (at the U19 training camp), they’re all tired. But, those things, every little thing that they can do, helps. And, nutrition is one of them.”
“Good nutrition is important being an athlete, because you’re going to need to eat healthy things, you’re going to need to right and keep your diet correct if you want to continue playing basketball,” said Holmes. “I learned that when I got to college. They keep you on a strict diet so that you can perform at a high level, and I think that’s why it’s important for us to eat right.
“Knowing about good nutrition is important,” said Dangerfield, who admits to not having much experience in the kitchen, but enjoyed the process nonetheless. “Especially being out here right now with two-a-days. Our bodies are fatigued, and being able to eat the right foods that will fuel our bodies is important.”
While many of the participants won’t be cooking again anytime soon, everyone had a good time and learned something along the way. And by that measure, the night was a success.
“It was really fun, we had a good time,” stated Holmes. “I really enjoyed it. And I learned that you can get out of your comfort zone. You don’t always have to eat alfredo. You can go to the healthier side, but it can still have a good taste to it with a better nutritious balance.”
The USA U19 World Cup Team will continue with daily practices at the United States Olympic Training Center through Friday, July 14, before departing for Italy and a three-game exhibition tournament against Italy, Latvia and Spain, July 17-19. The team tips-off FIBA U19 World Cup play July 22 against Mali at 12:30 pm EDT. Fans can catch all the action live online at YouTube.com/FIBA