by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
As a follow up to my previous column post on rugby nutrition, this offering will address planning and overseeing pre-game team meals. For discussion purposes, let’s narrow our focus to team meals inside hotels. A major advantage to taking meals within the team hotel includes the ability to hold technical meetings and distribute information. Having everyone in one central location is important leading up to competition. Team managers have to consider the costs and benefits of such a decision but experience tells me that it is the right place to spend team funds.
Central to the success of team meals, regardless of location, is the timing of the pre-game meal coupled with proper nutritional content. Pre-game meals should be consumed approximately four hours prior to competition kick off. Meal menus should accommodate any vegetarians or lactose intolerant athletes within the team. These considerations, in addition to the overall quality and quantity of the meals, should be kept in mind when planning to feed your players. Even when meals take place inside the team hotel, focusing on the details of the pre-game meal ensures that the team can “get in and get out” and therefore stay on a match day schedule.
A common occurrence that can derail the flow of a team pre-game meal is running out of food in the buffet line. There are two successful tactics to avoid this. One involves stationing a staff member at the buffet to notify the hotel catering staff as to what items need to be replaced prior to them running out. Another, more internal tactic, is to coach your players to take smaller portions during their first trip through the buffet line. This has a two-fold effect. It helps to ensure that everyone gets through the buffet with minimal delay and it also reduces waste by encouraging players to initially take less, and if necessary, come back for seconds. The menus should vary to mirror match time. For instance, with a morning kick off, the pre-game meal should include breakfast type items while an evening match should reflect a dinner menu. There isn’t a single set menu that will ensure optimal performance for your team.
Below is a sample menu of a morning kick off, pre-game meal menu:
Teams can substitute out oatmeal for breakfast potatoes and expand or reduce the number of menu items available to the athletes. In name brand hotels, menus similar to this will run in the neighborhood of twenty-five dollars per person.
For an afternoon or evening match, consider selecting from the following to feed your team:
Because players’ food tolerances vary so much, these menu suggestions are straight down the middle of the options available from hotel catering. Pricing for a buffet style menu such as this will be in the neighborhood of thirty-five to forty dollars per person. Although this is considerably more costly than what a team may pay per head at a buffet style restaurant, the convenience of not having to load the bus or team vans is considerable.
Coaches and team managers should constantly review and assess how they prepare their team for competition, including planning team meals. Providing the players with the best chance to be successful is at the core of coaching.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand (Bay of Plenty), the U.S. (The Old Blues), England (London Harlequins), and Wales (Pontypridd) for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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