The CPSDA listserv is a “members-only” privilege, and its educational value for sports nutrition professionals, and for students of dietetics, has never been more apparent than in recent days. Timely topics and give-and-take discussions posted to the listserv range from newfound nutritional products to adulterated foods and supplements; workshops, webinars and well-researched science to scam alerts; new job postings to troubling first-hand reports from the front lines about “old school” obstructionists who prevent Sports Registered Dietitians (Sports RDs) from bringing nutritional advances to their schools and teams. The listserv is rich in content, but above all else it offers current, almost immediate news and information. And it is precisely that level of “knowledge-sharing” that keeps CPSDA members on the cutting edge of sports nutrition.
As CPSDA is about to embark upon its sixth year, the Board of Directors recently took a moment to reflect on the first foundational-building five, and is pleased to report continued growth on all fronts:
Membership in our “sports specialty” corner of the nutrition world is steadily growing, anchored at the core by more than 170 “Professional” members, those employed to feed and counsel athletes on a full-time basis at major colleges, professional sports teams, Olympic training centers and in the U.S. military. We’re confident in stating that this “core” comprises nearly all of the most advanced practice sports nutrition professionals in the United States.
College students of dietetics continue to comprise nearly half of the CPSDA’s membership, providing assurance that growing demand for Sports RDs will be met with an educated pool of job candidates that have the necessary balance of nutrition knowledge and hands-on experience to thrive in the highly charged athletic environment.
CPSDA is pressing forth on its commitment to continuing education, introducing for the first time an “Advanced Practice Workshop” on February 28th for 12 to 15 RDs who are about to begin their career in sports nutrition, or who have recently taken their first Sports RD job and wish to acquire further knowledge from a faculty comprised of the entire 9-member CPSDA Board of Directors. The “advanced” workshop is a bridge to knowledge and frontline experience. And it’s a linchpin of sorts between the CPSDA’s 2nd annual “Boot Camp” for aspiring Sports RDs, which will be held in Southern California January 19th, and the 6th annual CPSDA conference May 19-22 in Scottsdale. The Scottsdale conference will bring together more than 300 of the nation’s finest sports nutrition professionals and representatives of the companies that supply the food and nutrition products Sports RDs require to fuel their athletes.
CPSDA’s past and present leaders, all of whom volunteer their valuable time, are constantly working behind the scenes to pave new pathways to full-time careers for all Sports RDs, not only in the most fertile ground of college athletics, but also in professional sports, Olympic training centers, and in the U.S. military. Schools, teams and institutions hiring their first full-time Sports RD often seek a rare blend of “experience” and “affordability,” which has been in short supply. But the “young talent gap” has finally begun to close, as veteran CPSDA members increase the number of paid and unpaid internships and graduate assistant positions to prepare more young people for their first jobs.
Bolstering the CPSDA’s continuing education and internship initiatives with funding and nutrition science is an impressive family of sponsor partners, each and every one of whom contributes substantially to CPSDA growth. Muscle Milk makes the CPSDA “Boot Camp” possible in January; EAS Academy is underwriting the first-ever “Advanced Practiced Workshop” in February; DuPont Nutrition & Health, parent of longtime CPDSA partner Solae (soy), covers the entire cost of the “CPSDA Awards Banquet” at the annual conference each May, thereby keeping registration fees affordable for everyone. Gatorade introduced its new “Sports Nutrition Immersion Program” in the Spring of 2013, reimbursing CPSDA-member interns up to $6,500 each for costs related to working up to four months with some of the top Sports RDs in the country. The National Dairy Council assembled some of the finest minds in nutrition this year to produce a “State of the Science” fact sheet that defines best practices for feeding student-athletes. And The Hershey Company was among the original CPSDA sponsors who stepped up when help was needed most, now providing licensees Diversified Foods in Louisiana and HP Hood in New England to fill Sports RDs’ need for an athletic department staple: chocolate milk. Fourteen other sponsors also strengthen CPSDA, providing high-quality foods, nutritional products, and the good science that sets them apart in their marketplace.
Of course, CPSDA would not be on its upward trajectory without its volunteer leadership. Everyone who serves on the Board of Directors has already distinguished themselves early in their career. And they’re surrounded by so many others who get all too little recognition. Texas A&M’s Jonathan Tanguay supervises the CPSDA listserv that everyone so values, and quietly manages the trials and tribulations that invariably accompany this “live wire” before anyone ever realizes a problem has occurred. The University of Michigan’s Caroline Mandel and her committee begin tending to the scholarships and awards program six months before they’re presented at the annual conference, and work diligently to ensure fairness and integrity. Kelly Rossi from The University of Virginia has been actively involved with Board members in planning and orchestrating the annual conference. The University of Illinois’ Chelsea Zenner Burkart stepped up with virtually no advanced notice last Spring to partner with then CPSDA President Amy Bragg to help develop Gatorade’s outstanding SNIP internship program, which launched flawlessly. And while Amy Goodsen served her two-year term on the Board, few outside that circle fully grasped how much her public relations work contributed to CPSDA membership growth.
And for good measure, CPSDA’s first President Dave Ellis (2010-12) spent more time building up the organization during his years on the Board than tending to his own consulting business, and continues to blaze new trails for up-and-coming Sports RDs in ways that won’t become apparent for years. There are so many others, not the least of whom are Student Committee co-chairs Charles Hewitt and Beth Miller, who publish the CPDSDA student newsletter three times a year, along with the student co-chairs who preceded them in that capacity: Rebecca Rick, Rachel Stratton, and founding student chairs Kylene Guerra and Kristen Gravini.
The CPSDA Board of Directors is putting its first five years of construction and growth in the history books, secure in the knowledge that its national not-for-profit has a healthy membership, strong financial foundation, and a well-conceived road map designed to promote advocacy for the many advantages and benefits Sports Registered Dietitians bring to athletic programs and military personnel. The Board’s focus, as ever, is on the future, and its vision conjures up a time when college athletic programs and professional sports teams would not think to take the field without the services of full-time Registered Dietitians on staff to supervise performance nutrition.
“…there are miles to go before we sleep,” wrote poet Robert Frost. There is indeed much more to do. But there's no harm now and then in glancing back to see all that has been accomplished. There is much to be grateful for.