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October 2015

Whether an athlete sits on the bench or leads the team on the field could very well depend on what he or she has for lunch.

Haley Schlechter, a nutritional sciences senior from Blandon, Pennsylvania, has a tough job, and one that often goes unnoticed. She counsels Penn State athletes on proper nutrition to optimize their performance and long-term health.

An athlete in multiple sports, Schlechter came to Penn State with an interest in sports nutrition.

“In tenth grade I knew my path,” she said. “I was interested in the power of healthy eating.”

More than 4,500 Penn State students are enrolled in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) studying a wide-array of fields, each committed to the concept of improving the quality of life for others. Schlechter, who found a home in the Department of Nutritional Sciences (NUTR), is one of those HHD students, and this is her story.

Schlechter was a member of the track and field and field hockey teams in high school. Through those experiences she learned how to improve her own athletic ability through proper nutrition.



“Then I helped other people on the team,” she said. “It changed my life. I didn’t realize how much that information is worth. Getting people to see food as fuel is critical.”

Now, Schlechter is a member of the Penn State Olympic weightlifting club and Penn State’s Track and Field.

She has been working with Kristine Clark, director of sports nutrition and assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, since May 2014. As a sports nutrition assistant, Schlechter observes Clark to develop better nutritional counseling methods; conducts one-on-one nutrition counseling to varsity athletes to improve their performance; motivates and directs varsity athletes to obtain better eating habits; prepares food for the entire Penn State football team during preseason; gathers and organizes athlete paperwork; and presents nutrition talks to large groups of athletes.

“I get to work with so many different types of athletes,” Schlechter said. “There’s always something new.”

What has surprised Schlechter most about her work is learning how many athletes have never received nutritional counseling or do not know the help is available, or how much of a difference it can make in their lives.

“A lot of times in college, this is the first time these athletes are receiving nutritional counseling, especially in weight-sensitive sports, such as wrestling or diving,” she said. “Having good nutrition could be the difference between being a starter and a bench warmer for many athletes.”

After college Schlechter plans to pursue a career as registered dietician.

“From there I see myself working in sports nutrition, in research or at a university,” she said. “It’s been a very exciting path thus far.”

In addition to NUTR, there are a variety of areas for students to study within HHD through the Departments of Biobehavioral Health, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Health Policy and Administration, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, and the School of Hospitality Management.