(The Rock Report) – Would you put regular gas into a Formula One car and expect it to compete for a championship? The answer is… of course not. When Ruben Mendoza recently lobbied for a training table for Notre Dame athletes, he wasn’t just making excuses. In the Irish Eyes article Mendoza opined that nutrition was the missing link in terms of performance. He shouldn’t have to make this case, it’s an obvious point and puzzling that the last Athletic Director wouldn’t take action to fix the situation. Or, given White’s history, maybe not.
Elite athletes, which is what Notre Dame football players are, need a high level of nutrition during a debilitating season and need it to develop quickly in the off-season. As Mendoza says, the demands are different.
And just as important, they need to eliminate unhealthy foods that are all too easy to come by in the dining hall. It doesn’t take too many days of poor eating to start impacting the body and between the standard college off campus diet and the dining hall, the bad options seem to outweigh the good options.
And Notre Dame football has a greater need for a training table (or some like solution) than most schools. Consider:
- When Alabama or USC has a hole on their defensive or offensive lines they turn to the JUCO ranks and pluck out a Terrance Cody, Notre Dame doesn’t have that luxury. USC did the same thing this year tapping defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo, who at 6-foot-2, 330 pounds is already developed. Plop Terrance Cody on this year’s Notre Dame team and you would fundamentally change the prospects for the Notre Dame season. Notre Dame can’t go that route, Notre Dame has to develop its players and get them ready early. We have two red-shirt freshmen, a sophomore and a junior on our defensive line. The margin of error with that kind of inexperience is razor thin and a tired or weak player is going to wear down and make mistakes.
- Notre Dame players don’t just have less time to develop, but they have less time all-around because of greater study commitments, which tends to result in less lifting and more junk food consumption.
- Notre Dame can’t bring in 34 players in a class like Alabama and deal with the attrition, we’re basically stuck with what we have.
- The talent pool for defensive linemen with grades is notoriously shallow meaning it’s the area where we are most likely to have recruiting misses and therefore an area we are likely to need development sooner rather than later.
In other words, we’re already working at a big disadvantage and can’t afford another disadvantage from a development or fitness standpoint. Not to mention, it’s a liability in recruiting.
Let’s be realistic, there’ no way linebackers with pot bellies and defensive ends and offensive linemen with muscle mass like a middle aged weekend warrior can compete on a high level. And that’s what we have at certain positions (someone sent me the pictures from Hawaii, which I wont’ share here.) Part of the problem could be lack of oversight, we’ve heard the Mendoza staff gives kids great leeway because of their busy schedules. And that’s a problem, because we’re talking about college kids and I’ve never seen a big group of kids press themselves to the limit without someone pushing them. In general, for all but the most highly motivated athletes, kids will slack to the extent that you let them.
There’s been a heated discussion on NDNation over whether Weis’s teams are soft; whether they’re tough enough to win at a high level. It’s a question some ND followers are starting to ask.
Bert Berry’s comments following the Blue-Gold game added fuel to the fire:
“I would say, from a defensive standpoint, that the one thing they need to do is get in shape. A lot of these guys, particularly the younger guys, were getting a little winded out there, and when you get winded that’s when you find the mental breakdowns. A lot of times, that’s just due to a lack of being in shape
, so they just need to do a little extra running. They seem to have a lot of talent out on the field. It’s exciting to see [Robert Blanton], and the offense looked good. There were some plays out there where they looked very solid at running back. The one place where I saw glaring need was in the endurance level, on the defensive front in particular.”
Does Notre Dame need a training table? Tough to say given Notre Dame’s history of integrating players with the student body, but we need some solution. Consider two of our peers:
The Galen Center serves as the prime dining facility for USC’s varsity sports, providing training table, pre-game meals and dinner to the Trojan athletic teams.
• UF is the only school to have two fulltime sports nutritionists
• One-on-one nutritional counseling (performance nutrition, weight loss/weight gain, health issues, injury rehabilitation)
• Individually designed meal plans and recommendations
• Nutritionist-designed Training Table meals, a dining facility open exclusively to student-athletes
• Body composition measurement and dietary supplement evaluation.
On the plus side, Swarbrick is already looking into the issue and evaluating options (he’s already distinguished himself from his predecessor with regard to proactivity) and Mendoza expressed some hope that change is coming.