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Fueling the Tigers

Fueling the Tigers

By Philip Sikes // Athletic Communications

When senior defensive tackle DeShawn Williams recollects his freshman year, he distinctly remembers Strength & Conditioning Coaches Joey Batson and Adam Smotherman playfully labeling him, “Big Softie.”

Three years later, Williams doesn’t take offense to the moniker. In fact, looking back, he agrees with it.

“I was,” he laughed. “It’s good that we now have a nutritionist who helps maintain what we eat. She does a wonderful job.”

Lisa Chan joined the Clemson Family in 2012 as the department’s first full-time registered dietitian and sports nutritionist. After completing a 1,200-hour dietetic internship and combined master’s program at Florida, Chan worked at Auburn under Scott Sehnert prior to joining Clemson.

Chan is one part of Dr. Loreto Jackson’s student-athlete services team. The focus of student-athlete services is not only proper nutrition, it also encompasses life skills, mental health, community engagement and leadership development. Jackson said the paradigm shift to the holistic approach has been a gradual one, but a much-needed one.

“You cannot look at one issue without looking at the rest,” said Jackson. “Everything impacts a student-athlete on the field and in the classroom. We cannot work in isolation…we collaborate on their welfare.”

Through the blessing of Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich, Jackson has absorbed all the facets crucial to a student-athlete’s well-being and put together a high-energy staff that includes Chan in nutrition.

“It is critical to the success of our entire athletics program that we provide the tools necessary for success,” stated Radakovich. “By ramping up our investment in our Tiger Fuel program, we are taking another step to allow our student-athletes to compete at the highest levels.”

Since Chan has come on board, Tiger Fuel has grown by leaps and bounds. Prior to her arrival, Jackson was the one who advised football players and student-athletes from all sports on proper nutrition. But she was doing that on top of her role as performance coordinator and sport supervisor.

“There’s only so much one person can do,” she said. “We have 500 student-athletes, and they need that constant one-on-one.”

That’s where Chan comes in. She is omnipresent at football, before and after weight training and at practice to ensure Dabo Swinney’s players are taking nutrition seriously. After every practice, she and Graduate Assistant Danielle Dunnagan can be found distributing cups full of fruit of all kinds – grapes, strawberries, pineapples, watermelon, kiwi and more – to aid during each player’s initial recovery period.

“I specifically put them next to the Gatorade, because I know they’re all going to grab one of those each practice,” she joked.

Chan has been able to provide much more than just fruit, however. The NCAA passed a rule in April allowing schools to distribute unlimited snacks and meals to student-athletes. Through the help of Associate Athletic Director Graham Neff and the sport supervisors, Jackson and Chan were able to help each head coach budget appropriately to account for the new rule.

Every Monday, Chan goes to a local grocery store and purchases the snacks requested by each team. Then, she handles the distribution in the WestZone weight room while Dunnagan takes care of the Olympic sports using the Jervey Athletic Center weight room.

Because everything is properly labeled as either a preworkout or recovery snack, Chan and Dunnagan don’t necessarily have to be multiple places all at the same time.

“Even if we’re not there, they can make the best decision,” she said. “It’s been good.”

It’s been better than good for student-athletes across Clemson’s entire varsity programs, especially Olympic sports whose previous access was extremely limited in nature. Now with Dunnagan’s oversight, refueling stations are within arm’s length at each and every workout.

And at football, the emphasis of proper nutrition is not only encouraged, it’s almost a prerequisite.

“We have snacks after practice and even at halftime of games to refuel us,” added Williams. “We need those things. You have no reason not to eat healthy.”

And now thanks to NCAA legislation and Clemson’s increased commitment to proper nutrition, student-athletes aren’t looking for reasons to eat poorly.