Sports dietetics has a wide range of paths that can lead in many different directions. While working with a professional team may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about sports dietetics, it is a very small percentage of sports dietetics so getting a broader understanding of the field can be helpful. Sports dietitians can be entrepreneurs who manage a gym, someone who consults on the side or even someone who opens up research facilities for product development.
Trying to enter this field can be overwhelming. Here are some tips on how to get more experience in sports dietetics.
Look for On-Campus Opportunities
Many university sports have a full-time registered dietitian nutritionist to work alongside student athletes. I personally worked with the lead RDN for the Clemson University football nutrition department. This experience gave me a greater perspective on the importance of educating, counseling and fueling student athletes to promote optimal athletic performance on and off the field. Working with on-campus teams can give students a wonderful opportunity to determine if working for a professional team is something they want to pursue.
Join the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group
A dietetic practice group, or DPG, is a group of Academy members seeking to connect with other members within their specific area of interest or practice. As a member of the SCAN DPG, you are granted access to networking opportunities within the sports dietetics field, fact sheets for educational purposes, webinars and many other helpful resources. They also offer scholarship opportunities for students.
Regional Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Mentor Program
Members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have the opportunity to join a state affiliate of the Academy — then within each state, there are specific regional affiliates. For example, I currently live in South Carolina so I am a member of SCAND and also a member of the Piedmont Dietetic Association. Within regional affiliates, students are granted the opportunity to acquire a mentor with similar interests. By having a mentor, students can develop personal relationships with professionals who have a similar career path to the one desired by the student, like sports dietetics.
Undergraduate research is offered at most universities. It can be difficult to obtain an opportunity that specifically addresses sports dietetics but consider approaching one of your professors to ask about working alongside them to conduct research. Recently I have been collaborating with one of my professors to write up a thesis on the effects of nutrient timing on athletic performance in competitive sports. This experience will help build credibility and can be a start to building personal references to use during applications for dietetics internships.
Product development is something many professionals in sports nutrition do. I have personally worked with a few of my colleagues to develop a high protein, low calorie, caffeinated ready-to-go coffee drink that targets the sports community but also the general population. Looking for entrepreneurial opportunities offered on campus can help leverage your experiences to acquire a position as a sports dietitian. These opportunities may not be very common but can help you stand out among other dietetic internship applicants.