Monday I was in Chicago at the Gatorade Headquarters with seven other amazing Sports Moms for an exclusive opportunity to learn about about how Gatorade fuels young athlete performance. As Moms, we are primarily the ones getting kids to and from practice and games, managing schedules, handling the emotions, and washing out the grass stains. We are also responsible for the care and feeding of our athletes and face it, when it comes down to knowing the nutritional and hydration needs of our athletes on game day as opposed to our own nutritional needs, we are really under educated.
Today I am just going to give you a quick overview of our day with the Gatorade team. I literally took PAGES of notes on the how, why and when of fueling our athletes, how Gatorade fits into that and my thoughts on the Gatorade products which I will be sharing with you in more detailed posts over the next few weeks. Be sure to like the Sports Girls Play Facebook page or follow Sports Girls Play on Twitter so you don't miss a thing!
We started our day with introductions and breakfast with the President of Gatorade North America, Sarah Robb O'Hagan. Sarah is a sports mom of three, a runner and super smart business woman. We had a great time sharing our own backgrounds, including how many kids we each had, the sports they play and what our websites were.
Next we met with their marketing department and got background on the history of Gatorade and its branding. Basically Gatorade was developed in 1965 in an effort to help college football players at the University of Florida (thus Gator – ade) maintain athletic performance throughout practice and games (watch the history of Gatorade commercial on YouTube – love it!). In Gatorade's early years they focused primarily on athletes – testing them, finding out what they needed from a sports drink and formulating Gatorade to help. As the sports drink market grew, Gatorade in their own words kind of “lost its way” – marketing itself broadly to the general consumer and as a result, sales stagnated. After all, Gatorade is formulated to aid the body in the preparation, during, and immediately after EXERCISE. Gatorade is not formulated as a drink you kick back and consume during a movie or as a replacement for water. In the past few years Gatorade has re-focused its efforts on athlete and education of the athlete's core team – the coaches, trainers, and while they are young – the parents.
Throughout the course of our sessions with the marketing team we shared our preconceived impressions of Gatorade. We shared with them how we do or don't already use Gatorade in our kids' daily lives. We asked them tough questions about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS – which, oh by the way, Gatorade no longer has), sugar, dyes and not knowing which product would be good for our kids when, how much, and why. Gatorade was hoping for those types of questions from us and responded giving us the ability to ask our hard questions directly to the scientists and product developers.
At lunch we met with Wanda Pratt, the Mother of NBA rising star Kevin Durant. You can watch her video spot as part of the Gatorade Become campaign below:
Wanda's presentation to us was very inspirational and I loved how she shared stories of her son's younger days. I especially liked the one where he stormed out of practice because his coach gave him conditioning he didn't like. He walked to his Grandmother's house and by the time he got there the coach had already talked with Wanda who had talked with his Grandmother. The way the coach and the parent handled the situation was right-on the money and about an hour later – after his Grandmother mentioned something about how piano might be a good thing to take up – Kevin returned to practice – and did every one of the tasks coach had asked for.
She answered all our questions and reassured us that one day, our athletes would thank us for all our support and everything we have done for them in order for them to follow a dream.
We spent our afternoon in sessions with scientists from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), where they have tested over 10,000 athletes! The majority of the scientists at GSSI are former athletes and coaches – like the two who did presentations for us – Lindsey Baker and Lisa Esposito. Lindsey has a Ph. D. in Exercise Physiology from Penn State and she knew her stuff! Wow! The sessions on Teen Athlete Insights and Nutritional Needs as well as the Science of Gatorade were fascinating and this is where I took the most notes. Even if you take Gatorade out of the equation, the information the scientists shared with us is VITAL stuff for coaches, athletes and parents! If you want your athlete to succeed, you have got to pay attention to what is going in their bodies. For example – how do you teach your athletes to determine if they are dehydrated or not?? Check back on a future post for this really easy way!
Finally we finished up the day in the sampling room. We made our own Gatorade flavors – like mine at the right, which is Char's Cherry Berry Pomegranate Potion – and learned more about the research that goes into coming up with new Gatorade products. We learned about each of the various Gatorade product lines and who they really are for – like the new G Series FIT which is more for the older athlete (ahem, 40 something Moms) who work out but don't need all the extra calories that a college soccer player may need. We tasted them all and told the team exactly how we felt about each product – trust me, there were some serious faces being made and the honesty was on the table!! We told them if we would buy them or not – I found two products that I was completely unaware of that are excellent solutions for two of my own athletes (more on that in a later post) and fell totally in LOVE with the Gatorade Natural line.
Speaking of the Gatorade Natural line, they are natural versions of the Gatorade Thirst Quencher line and low-calorie G2 that are made with all natural flavors, colors and ingredients! And they taste AMAZING. Unfortunately they are only available in certain markets and only through Whole Foods stores. If you want this line available in more areas and outlets, please let the Gatorade team know. All the moms in our group did!
Like I said, I took so many notes and have lots to share with you about sports nutrition and your kids over the next few weeks, so check back in. In the meantime, feel free to check in with the other Gatorade Sports Moms and read their accounts of the experience, too.
The Gatorade Sports Moms are: Char Polanosky from Sports Girls Play (that's me) with 3 kids, Lorraine Williams from Track Mom with 1 daughter, Lori Falcon from My Wooden Spoon with 3 boys, Carmen Staicer from Mom to the Screaming Masses who has 6 kids, Lisa Douglas from Crazy Adventures in Parenting also with 6 kids, Kimberly Kauer from Tippy Toes and Tantrums with 2 kids, Alyssa Banko from Mommy Warriors who has 4 kids (two sets of twins!) and Stephanie Wagner from And Twins Makes 5 with 5 busy kids.
Disclosure: I'd like to thank Gatorade for this truly educational opportunity! Gatorade provided me with all my transportation to and from the event, my lovely stay at The Wit Hotel, my delicious meal at Spiaggia and some nice Sports Moms swag. However, all opinions and insights shared in this post are my own derived from the information provided to us and my own experience.