Coaching a Healthier Lifestyle

Robert Waterbury

In his seventh year as a junior high school coach in track & field and cross country, Sam Whan (’16 MA ’22) has been looking for ways to help his student athletes improve themselves both on the track and off. He identified better nutrition as an area of need.

While earning his master’s degree in coaching leadership at Loras College, he was able to begin taking steps to change that.

“One of the things I noticed was a massive deficit in their nutritional plans and knowing what they were doing with their diets,” he said. “I tried to piece together how I could help give them something more tangible. While I couldn’t provide an individually tailored diet plan, I could at least give them a start with guidelines.”

For his Loras capstone project, Whan developed a nutrition guide aimed at high school athletes to help steer them toward smart, healthier choices tied to their training.

“During my evenings when I had some time,. My first hurdle was trying to find quantitative research for my target age group of ages nine to eighteen, but I was able to find research on seventeen to twenty year-olds and combined that with additional resources, including those provided by Loras,” he said.

The final result was a collection of infographics that offered categories of food options that students could pick and choose from for their meals. He presented his final results to the students and coaches. The guides will also be offered to parents before the next season to help ensure the athletes have the necessary support to use them effectively.

In addition to coaching, Whan is the director of choir for sixth through twelfth grades in Aledo, Illinois. He earned his undergraduate degree in music education at Loras and is passionate about helping students grow, which led him back to his alma mater for his master’s degree.

“I love teaching and being involved in music,” he said. “Any chance I can better myself to help others is my passion. When I saw the online option for the coaching leadership program, I knew that I had to do it. The professors were both critical and caring to really help me grow and improve. I never felt like I was alone in the endeavor. They checked in regularly. I knew Loras was going to provide the communal feel I wanted.”

Both of his academic efforts at Loras have been positive and his second turn was one he would repeat.

“I had an awesome time with it. I worked full time and was able to complete it in a year and a half. It was probably best to do it while I was still coaching so I had that real-world implementation as I was learning,” he said.

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