Quick Fill

November 28, 2018
By George Greene
George Greene, MS, CSCS, RSCC, USAW, became Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance at Stony Brook University in June 2016. Prior to Stony Brook, he spent two years as the first-ever Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Mary Washington, was a Tactical Strength and Conditioning Specialist for the U.S. Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, and served as Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Massachusetts.

At Stony Brook University, we decided to create a cost-effective fueling station. We got it up and running in the spring 2017 semester.

Some question whether a fueling station can make much of a difference—I know strength coaches who feel there’s no point in investing in nutrition at all with a limited budget. I couldn’t disagree more.

Providing something is always better than providing nothing, especially because good nutrition is a constant challenge for athletes. Between practices, academic requirements, and workouts, they rarely have enough time to eat. Even if your fueling station simply offers a granola bar between meals, a high-protein yogurt after a workout, or some fruit before practice, you’re still setting your student-athletes up for success.

That said, developing a fueling station does require advanced planning. It’s a department within a department that has its own budget, staffing, and scheduling considerations, so you need to devote the proper time and resources to it.

GETTING STARTED

Without your administration’s consent, your plan for a fueling station will go nowhere, so get them on board first. Fortunately for me, the fueling station was my leadership’s idea.

When I was hired at Stony Brook in June 2016 as Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance, Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron and former Deputy Director of Athletics Donna Woodruff told me that one of the areas they hoped to grow was performance nutrition. They asked me to present some ideas on a fueling station, including how it would look and what it might cost.

I then spent the fall of 2016 reaching out to other universities, speaking with vendors, and projecting costs to figure out how we could create the fueling station. Within our conference, I contacted the University of Vermont and the University of New Hampshire and asked them who ran their fueling stations, what types of products they provided, and the annual costs.

For vendors, I spoke with our own campus dining services, several nearby grocery stores, and local companies that carried items like granola, nuts, and cereal. As I made these calls, I maintained an Excel spreadsheet that listed all the potential items we could get from the vendors, along with the per-unit price for each. This allowed us to get an idea of our costs, while coming up with a tentative plan for our menu.

If you decide to do similar research at your school, my biggest piece of advice is to take detailed notes on the prices and other information you gather from vendors. You never know when you may want to add something in the future. I would also ask them up front if they deliver products. Certain places are pickup only, which adds another responsibility for the fueling station staff.

I’m lucky to work in a department where the administration was already convinced of the benefits of sports nutrition. But if you need to sell the idea to your leadership, doing research first can be the key to getting the green light. The more information you can present to them, the better.

COST & EQUIPMENT

Informed by my research and with the support of my administration, my performance staff and I started to tackle the logistics of putting the fueling station together. First, we had to figure out our budget.

The athletic department set aside $30,000 for the fueling station, but we had to break down how that money would be spent. To do this, we began by estimating how many athletes we expected to serve on a daily basis. Each athlete would only be allowed to visit the fueling station once per day, and we had more than 400 student-athletes total. Factoring in team travel, classes, and practice, we settled on an estimate of 200 daily visits.

Next, we set a $1.50 per-unit threshold for food items, with some products falling well under that amount. Then, I multiplied 200 x $1.50 to calculate our daily feeding budget.

Since it was our first year and we didn’t have any previous data to rely on, we were nervous about staying within the budget. The last thing we wanted to do was overspend up front and not be able to provide products to our athletes for the entire year. Sticking to our $1.50 per-item limit worked in our favor because we had the funds to add new items as time went on. We also planned for the station to be closed on weekends, breaks, and in the summer, which would help us save money.

Another expense to factor in was the physical fueling station. We bought a cart costing $6,000 that looks similar to those used to sell snacks or drinks at sporting events.

The cart came with the option to custom wrap and brand it however we wanted. We chose to decorate ours with our school colors and logos.

In addition, we compiled nutrition facts and tips that we printed along the cart’s sides and have available as handouts. Further, there’s a dry erase board next to the fueling station where we post our menu for the day and any snacking suggestions.

Once we had a cart, we had to find a good place to put it. We chose a space in the building that houses our academic center, athletic training room, weightroom, basketball and volleyball gym, and batting cages. Most of our athletes pass the fueling station at least once a day, so it’s super convenient. To choose an optimal location for your fueling station, my advice is to pick an area where you have the most foot traffic.

For our cold food items, we placed two small refrigerators at the fueling station. These units only hold what we need for the day, and we keep the rest of the cold products in a nearby storage closet that houses several large refrigerators.

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