A husband and wife team on campus is combining the fields of strength and conditioning and sports nutrition to keep athletes in top physical condition at Texas State.
Coach Aaron Burkart is in his third year with Texas State as the head football strength and conditioning coach. Previously, he served two seasons as the director of football strength and conditioning at James Madison University in Virginia. Sports nutritionist Chelsea Burkart was the first sports dietitian hired by Texas State’s athletics program and provides nutrition consultation to athletes.
“At its basic form, strength and conditioning is what prepares the athlete to be able to do what they came here to do, to be able to play at the best they possibly can,” Aaron Burkart said.
Strength and conditioning are specifically for the improvement of athletic performance and injury prevention, according to the English Institute of Sport.
“I would say the number one goal when it comes to strength and conditioning is to prevent injury,” Aaron Burkart said. “A lot of people would balk at that and say, ‘Well I thought it was bigger, faster, stronger.’”
Techniques like plyometrics, as well as sport specific movement training, are combined with weightlifting to create a more explosive athlete on the field. Aaron Burkart said the training also increases mental toughness.
“On top of the bigger, faster and stronger there’s a mental side to it,” Aaron Burkart said. “Putting them in difficult situations and them gaining confidence from the success they have in those situations, fighting through things that are difficult and not easy to do. I believe those are big positives that come from strength and conditioning.”
Chelsea Burkart said the body requires a steady and healthy diet to fuel itself through such high-intensity stress.
“An athlete is going to get bigger, faster and stronger because of genetics and because the human body adapts to the stress of training,” Chelsea Burkart said. “You can only get bigger, faster and stronger to a certain ceiling. The body doesn’t build and rebuild out of nothing, it builds and rebuilds out of the food that we eat.”
Chelsea Burkart’s approach isn’t an immediate upheaval of an athlete’s diet but begins with small, unintrusive changes to help encourage the player to come to her.
“Try to start with some little things versus trying to overeducate them on the things they shouldn’t be doing,” said Chelsea Burkart. “Empower them with small changes or things they could be doing that impact their energy levels, stamina and ability to recover which helps them in the classroom and the field of play.”
Chelsea Burkart leads her athletes down the proper nutritional paths by joining her athletes on excursions to the grocery store and teaching cooking lessons.
Training for these athletes goes beyond the season. Aaron Burkart works with his players year-round, spending more time with them than anyone else on the coaching staff.
“Football season only runs through the fall, other than that, they’re mine,” Aaron Burkart said.
Training during the offseason is different than in-season training and requires different levels of fueling, something Chelsea Burkart said she must adjust for.
“I have to talk about what to eat before, during and after practice, how does nutrition periodize from in season to out of season, preseason, you know, when they have different training volumes and training intensities,” Chelsea Burkart said.
The process of preparing an athlete for play takes time and thought before a plan can be developed and put into action.
“We’ll spend months trying to make sure every day is utilized to the best of our ability,” Aaron Burkart said. “It’s not as simple as some people think. It’s a long-term process and there’s a lot of thought and scientific method that goes into it.”