TAMPA — Last year, the USF athletic department hired Tampa native Alexa Rodriguez as the Director of Nutrition. Her job is to make sure student athletes are properly fueled on and off the field.
Rodriguez got to meet the football team last season before the pandemic shut down spring football, but she continued to work remotely to make sure the players were eating the right foods. She made meal plans and shipped care packages full of foods that the players could eat while they stayed in shape. For most players, this is their first experience working with a nutritionist.
"A lot of them have come in and they don’t know what a carb is. They don’t know what a protein is," Rodriguez said via Zoom. "They have no idea. So that education really does start at ground zero."
Alexa met with each player individually to discuss their goals in terms of losing or gaining wait, but the communication stays constant.
"Are you eating every two to three hours? Are you eating regularly? Are you getting eight hours of sleep every night? Those check-ins with the guys are pretty consistent." She says it's important to keep reminding players to do the necessary things off the field, so they can translate them to success on the field.
"Having those reminders as to how you will gain weight, or for our guys who are losing weight, how do you do so without impairing your performance."
Most players haven't worked directly with a nutritionist, but defensive tackle Blake Green is happy there's one on the practice field every day.
"She gave us a meal plan. We all sat down and she helps us get to where we want to get," Green said after practice. "Some people have to gain wait. Some people have to lose wait. I feel like she’s doing a really great job and is a great addition for us to help us get better."
Second-year head coach Jeff Scott said the coaching staff can only hand out so many protein shakes, and having Rodriguez around the players is a huge help.
"She does an incredible job. She’s working around the clock and really providing- number one, providing education to our players," Scott said after practice. "That’s the number one thing you can do, because we can’t we with them all the time."
Rodriguez said she wants to teach student-athletes healthy habits that won't stop when their playing day are over.
"It’s having those small changes, so that way they do them even after they’ve left here."
The USF Spring Football Game is Saturday, March 27th at Raymond James Stadium. Last week, kickoff was rescheduled for noon.