Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Nutritional Knowledge: Are Undergraduates Smarter Than High School Coaches?

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Nutritional Knowledge: Are Undergraduates Smarter Than High School Coaches?

Article excerpt


An alarming trend in the United States is the use of nutritional supplements by young athletes. It has been estimated that between 42% and 56% of adolescents use dietary supplements (Kim & Keen, 1999; Krumback, Ellis, & Driskell, 1999; Massad, Sheir, Koceja, & Ellis, 1996; Sobal & Marquart, 1994). These widely available over-the-counter products, often marketed as natural substances are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yet are widely available. In seven years (1990-1997) dietary supplement sales increased from 3.3 million dollars to 9 million dollars (Klebnikov & Moukheiber, 1998).

Research has also shown that young athletes are very willing to take risks with dietary supplements to improve their fitness or attain their athletic goals, even if doing so risks their overall health (Hoffman, Fraigenbaum, Ratamess, Ross, Kang & Tenenbaum, 2008). In fact, in one study 95% of adolescent athletes believed that dietary supplements posed minimal, if any health risks (Krowchuk, Agnlin, Goodfellow, Stancin, Williams, & Zinet, 1989). Further, high school athletes are using these nutritional supplements because they are often mislead into thinking supplements will enhance their athletic performance (Garzon, Rutledge, Meadows, & Ewald, 2006). The fact that young athletes use supplements and are often misinformed about the risk and benefits of their use suggests that we need to determine who is responsible for educating young athletes and how nutrition education is best accomplished.

Prior research examining this question has determined that parents, coaches, and athletic trainers typically provide adolescents with nutritional information. However, it must be noted that many schools do not employ an athletic trainer thus many adolescents do not have access to this source of nutritional information. Therefore, parents and high school coaches hold a very influential position. Moreover, young athletes often look to their coaches as their best source of information about nutrition and nutritional supplements (Graves, Farthing, Smith, & Turchi, 1991; Reel & Galli, 2006; Sobal & Marquart, 1994). Research has indicated that athlete's do not have adequate nutritional knowledge, but the more important question is do high school coaches have a level of nutritional knowledge to enable them to effectively educate young athletes on nutrition and its effects (positive and negative) on daily health and athletic performance.

Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare the nutritional knowledge of high school coaches and undergraduate college students in order to determine whether or not high school coaches have sufficient nutritional knowledge to provide appropriate and accurate nutritional information to the athletes they coach.



There were 133 participants in this study (n = 62 undergraduate college students; n = 71 high school coaches). Table 1 presents the demographic characteristics of the sample.


Nutritional knowledge was assessed by Parmenter and Wardle's (1999) Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire (NKQ). The instrument has been shown to meet psychometric criteria for reliability (Cronbach's alpha = .70-.97 and construct validity, P = .001). Further, validity and reliability studies have been conducted on the questionnaire as a whole, as well as, each section individually (Parmenter & Wardle, 1999). The NKQ is divided into the following five sections: Dietary Recommendations (DR), Sources of Foods (SOF), Choosing Everyday Foods (CEF), Diet-Disease Relationships (DDR), and Total Score (TS). Correct answers in each section carried a point value of one and each section had a corresponding maximum score (DR = 11, SOF = 69, CEF = 10, DDR = 20 and TS = 110). The five sections were used as the dependent variables. The independent variables were current high school coaches and undergraduate students enrolled in various physical education courses offered at a Division I university in the southeastern United States. …

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