This phrase was something I constantly heard as an athlete. Whether it was school, track or work – be elite. Many people do not understand the expectations that come with being “elite” as a student athlete.
Many people do not understand the expectations that come with being “elite” as a student athlete.
When I came to college, I was immediately immersed in this elite culture that forced me to adopt a mindset of greatness. With USC’s reputation as one of the top schools for both academics and track, I knew I would be surrounded by the best of the best in the classroom as well as on the track, hoping to one day graduate with two degrees and an Olympics dream in sight.
My freshman year of college, I was very eager to arrive on campus and did not really know what was in store for me. I heard myths of the “Freshman 15,” but didn’t pay any attention to them because I did not believe that it could happen to an athlete. Being away from home, I was not used to making every single meal on my own and didn’t really pay attention to nutrition because I already ate fairly healthy. So there I was, in a new space with the ability to eat all the bad things that I wanted with no one to stop me.
This newfound freedom marked the beginning of what I now call my “Nutrition Journey.” My freshman year, I gained 15 pounds. This was the year that showed me that nutrition was key to being an elite athlete. My nutritional choices not only affected me in school, but also substantially on the track. I was not able to compete to the best of my abilities and it set me back in training. I began to do research on nutrition and how important it was for athletes, which ultimately led me to invest myself in finding ways to get my body back to “normal.” Throughout this process, I realized that there was nothing around campus that focused on fueling athletes' bodies while still tasting good.
I created Good Eats for Elites during my junior year at USC with the idea that it would be just a pop-up shop for my teammates if they were dealing with the same problems as I was. It grew faster than I thought – I went from cooking three meals a day to 20. This validated that there was, in fact, a need for my business. During this time, I was also minoring in entrepreneurship in the Marshall School of Business, in addition to my communication major, so I was able to gather more knowledge while managing my business. I created an Instagram page and utilized this as the main communication hub for ordering and picking up meals. Throughout this year, I was able to gain knowledge about running a business as I continued to grow my own. I was also able to apply my leadership skills, team building and time management I learned from being on the track team to my business. In my courses, I was learning the basics of operating a business and the value of creating a feasible product while going out and conducting customer discovery to understand what is important to future customers.
Fast forward to now, I have been blessed with the opportunity to complete my master’s degree in entrepreneurship and innovation at USC this May. Additionally, I am launching my website for Good Eats For Elites where I sell merchandise, meal prep kits and soon a cookbook. This company means so much to me because of how big an effect it has had on my life. I not only see things differently, but my mindset on life has changed. I grasped that eating healthy is not just about finding the right foods; it affects your whole body and your brain. Sometimes we eat food and just think we are eating to eat, but that is not the case. Putting the proper food in your body is so essential for your mind, body and spirit. I also had a greater realization of who I am outside of my sport. As student-athletes, we are often stuck in a one-dimensional perception of just being athletes, which can lead to an identity crisis when deciding what to do after finishing our athletic careers.
As student-athletes, we are often stuck in a one-dimensional perception of just being athletes, which can lead to an identity crisis when deciding what to do after finishing our athletic careers.
Founding Good Eats For Elites has shown me that my passion for track has sparked another passion for food and a love of seeing others happy. This realization was so important to me. It has been a pivotal part of my journey as a student-athlete at USC that I hope many other student athletes can relate to in their journeys.
Thinking about the future of Good Eats for Elites, I plan to hand it over to my parents for now as I plan to go pro and focus on track more. However, I would love to see Good Eats for Elites be the top meal prep company that is used by all NCAA athletes and professional athletes, so they can not only be fueled by great food but also be educated on the importance of nutrition.
Photo courtesy of Bailey Lear
Photo courtesy of Bailey Lear
Photo courtesy of USC Athletics