Food Culture In Youth Sports
Close your eyes and try to remember those halftimes on the soccer field. After a hard-fought first half, you and your teammates would all circle around the coach for a pep talk. But none of your teammates were interested in any of that rah-rah pageantry. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the team mom in the distance, armed with a healthy batch of sliced oranges. After 30 minutes of tough-spirited competition, those oranges were just what your team needed.
For every on-field highlight, there is a corresponding post-game memory. Another parent might have handed out cupcakes in honor of a win. Or, the team may have opted to go a pizza shop. And don’t forget the sports drinks that were always prevalent, especially during the playoff games.
Food and youth sports have always been tied together. Whether before, during, or after the game, food serves as a unifying point for teammates to bond with each other, or simply to gain more energy for the next half of play.
As Athletes Are Changing, So Is The Food
Youth sports represent a nearly $20 billion dollar industry in the United States. With the growth occurring in the industry, comes a change in how food is served, delivered, and prepared for athletes. The scale of youth sports is catching up to the college and professional ranks, one spork-ful at a time.
Youth sports facilities are beginning to mirror their collegiate counterparts. The college athletic arms race has extended to lavish nutrition centers. The professional ranks have championed large and lavishly catered spreads for pre-and-post game meals for decades. Youth teams, camps, and tournaments are getting into the fun too, utilizing local food trucks in order to enhance the athlete’s experience, while also keeping them carbo-loaded during competition.
No longer is it about providing just the food, but about creating an experience for athletes, parents and coaches alike. So how can you enhance your club’s experience when it comes to food?
There are times when regular old concessions just won’t do it for your kids. The run-of-the-mill store-bought hot dogs or candy bars will not provide your athletes with the nutrition they need.
Enter food trucks. This deliciousness on wheels can provide a quick pick-me-up to your team after a particularly hard practice. If you’re a tournament organizer, you could develop a food truck park during your larger tournaments, allowing an adjacent area to turn into a culinary wonder. Without leaving the premises, athletes and parents alike can sample what your city or town has to offer in a relatively affordable fashion as well.
Patrick Christmas is the owner of the Austin Sol, a professional ultimate frisbee team in the AUDL. He brings in different food trucks every week so attendees and players alike can try a variety of different options.
“I’ve got kids, and like most other parents at a game, food is a key part of keeping kids entertained for a two-hour event,” he said.
He’s worked with everything from gyro trucks, to banh mi, and even a truck called TX Chili Queens.
“Food is central to all human gatherings,” he said. “If you have a party, you have food.”
Christmas works to strike a food truck balance between what is hot, what is affordable and what can cater to a variety of athletes’ needs, be it gluten-free, vegetarian or otherwise.
Nothing like some old-fashioned donuts from Gourdough’s to give athletes a sugar rush after a tournament in Austin.
A Delicious Sports Complex
Back in the old days, athletes used to play tournaments in cramped sports facilities, spending hours in a gym or at a field, waiting on mom or dad to bring McDonald’s, Taco Bell, or the nearest fast food chain to the tournament area. As families and athletes travel all over the country, state-of-the-art sports complexes are becoming all the rage, with excellent dining options to boot.
There is no better example in this case than The Star in Frisco, Texas. The Star is home to some premier youth sporting events in just its second year of operation. It looks to enhance the experience for youth sports athletes and their parents with local favorites like East Hampton Sandwich Company, artisanal pizza spot Cane Rosso, and funky ice cream shop Cow Tipping Creamery as well as national delectable desserts like Nestle Toll House Cafe. Some of these restaurants are even a little healthier than the normal popcorn and frito pie you might find in a concession stand.
By playing tournaments in these sports complexes, not only are athletes excited from a culinary perspective but being able to train in spots where the professionals train can only help in their development.
Tournaments and long practices can be chaotic, and sometimes restaurants near the sports complex just won’t do it, especially if there are long lines. Not only that, but you may have athletes with a variety of dietary issues, or you lack the time to pore over each menu item at a particular restaurant. This is where catering comes in. It’s relatively easy, customizable, and can help your athletes get the nutrition they need, along with some delectable treats if you so choose.
Championship Catering, out of St. Louis, is a prime example of just how sophisticated you can get with your catering options. From Jerk Chicken with mango salsa to full-service pasta bars, the days of rubbery chicken and burnt mac and cheese are over.
All in all, food is playing an increasingly important part in the club experience. Consider doing something a little different for your athletes at the next tournament you compete at, and give them a culinary experience they’ll appreciate.