The athletic development of adolescent rugby players is of great importance, since progressing to elite teams depends upon the physical state of a player as a result of training programmes and match play from a young age. Lifelong relationships with food are established during adolescence. Therefore as a young rugby player the importance of good nutrition is enhanced further to provide sufficient energy and nutrients for training, in addition to growth and maturation.
One of the barriers to good nutrition is the ability to prepare and cook healthy foods. Both clubs have a great focus on providing players with necessary life skills, of which one is the ability to cook quick, cheap and healthy meals from a young age – enabling players to eat well around training when they leave home.
Recent developments for Yorkshire Carnegie lead to working in partnership with Hollins Hall, Marriot Hotel. I was involved in the organisation and delivery of Culinary Master Classes where players were shown by the head sous chef how to cook a tasty Chicken Cacciatore. After the first hurdle of buttoning up the chef whites, players learnt how to de-bone a chicken! Although this may seem less convenient than buying a pack of chicken breasts, with the amount of food these players need to keep up their energy requirements, it is essential to provide ideas for cheaper ways to prepare food. While preparing the other ingredients, in addition to practicing their knife skills, players were provided with an awareness of portion sizes and how this contributes to the overall nutritional content of the meal. Once ready players presented their dishes to a taste panel, where all meals were scrutinised, but thankfully all passed the test with flying colours!
It was a great opportunity to work with the players outside of the rugby environment. In addition to cooking alongside a professional chef, players were provided with an insight to working life in a hotel and the large number of work opportunities available beyond rugby.