Liberty’s Athletic department opens new athletes-only dining hall in Carter Tower
The brand-new Training Table on the 2nd floor of Carter Tower in Williams Stadium is exclusively for the use of select NCAA athletes, unlike the old table in the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall, that allowed use for any athlete.
The Training Table moved this semester to focus more on giving athletes the best possible nutrition for their recovery after practice or games. But due to limited space, only four teams (men’s football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball) were given access to the new dining facilities. A nutritionist pores over each aspect on the menus that will be served to the student-athletes.
“Sodexo being behind our facility makes it a team effort,” Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Welfare and Performance Chris Casola said. “The concept of Champion Performance is making it a holistic approach to developing our student athletes. We are looking at the student-athletes in every way, including nutrition.”
Nutrition is the pillar of the Training Table – athletes need food that will fuel their body while allowing it to recover correctly. Dinner is served Sunday through Thursday at the Training Table, and although the athletes can put their own plate together based on what they have discussed with the nutritionist, at least one vegetable is required.
“We are making sure that there are lean proteins and lean carbs,” Director of Sports Nutrition Danielle Gillen said. “The nutrition staff has a presence at the Training Table so that the athletes can learn how to build their performance plates. We want them to trust us, so that they compete at the level they want to compete at.”
They not only want to provide the athletes with the resources they need to perform, but they want to encourage them so that they can take what they learn to other meals. The nutritionists ensure that athletes will know how to choose the foods that will fuel their bodies, as opposed to slowing them down.
“Some of these athletes don’t realize how a certain vegetable will help their recovery due to the vitamins in them,” Gillen said. “So just showing them that we are here to make sure they are eating well, but we also care about their recovery too builds that trust.”
Searching for the foods that will meet the needs of all the student-athletes means that Gillen meets with the Sodexo staff to go over the menu weeks in advance. The goal is that if there is a practice before their dinner time, then they will have the specific nutrients their body needs to recover before the next game or practice.
Although every update to Training Table requires NCAA approval, Liberty wants to add more NCAA teams to the dinner schedule, as well as add more space to
“The goal is that this is something that will be available to all student-athletes,” Casola said. “Hopefully, more than just dinner. Across the country, all Training Tables do something different, but NCAA compliance has a limit to the things we can offer to the athlete.”