Dawn Scott knows all to well that international travel, foreign foods and uncommon eating schedules can disrupt months of preparation. At the last FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany in 2011, the team wasn’t being provided basic foods, so Scott went out early in the morning to local bakeries to get pretzels for the team.
When you’re the strength and fitness coach and sports science mastermind for the U.S. Women’s National Team, you do whatever it takes.
“Nutrition is crucial in between sessions and games,” says Scott, who first worked with the team starting in 2010. “I prepare menus ahead of time to make sure [the players] are consuming the right foods at the right times.”
With this year’s WWC taking place throughout different cities in Canada, Scott doesn’t expect to have a lot of problems with the food choices. But she’s also looking forward to having another helping hand on board—the team signed on a chef for the first time this year, to travel with them during the World Cup.
“She will be in charge of the kitchen and basically take over and manage the staff in the hotels,” says Scott. “She makes sure they cook and prepare the food how we want it, according to each menu.”
Scott says FIFA told the team that some Canadian hotels won’t allow a chef into the kitchen, so the new chef will also help to work around that challenge. U.S. Soccer representatives won’t reveal the name of the chef, but Scott says she came at the recommendation of Lauren Holiday and husband Jrue.
So what does a women’s professional soccer player eat? The menu is typical for an athlete—several high protein options, lots of vegetables and a salad bar, and healthier carbohydrate sources, such as quinoa or rice. But the players’ diet also includes an occasional cheat meal to keep them from getting bored, plus options that are higher in carbs or sugars, like cereals and bagels. A smoothie station is also a popular choice, with choices of greens like spinach and kale, cherries, beets, coconut oil, chia seeds and other superfoods to blend into a shake.
Though she tries to eat a diet “as whole as possible” and packed with veggies, defender Kelley O’Hara’s go-to meal is breakfast.
“If it’s before a game, I go all out on breakfast—eggs, a smoothie, potato hash and bacon,” says the 26-year-old. “Then my meals get smaller throughout the day and post-game, I refuel with water and chocolate milk, because it’s got protein and carbs.”
Other players have other special dietary needs or restrictions like Christie Rampone, who follows a gluten-free diet, so there’s always a suitable carbohydrate option available such as spaghetti squash or potatoes.
“We have a large team of staff that travels with us, and the chef will help us do more than we’ve done with the food in the past for the World Cup,” says Scott. “That let’s us leave nothing to chance—if we make small gains in a lot of areas we can make big improvements overall with all of the athletes.”