Bedford student athletes benefit from nutrition education

Gold Award Girl Scout Nolette Perry talks with a soccer team about the importance of good nutrition to their athletic performance. (Courtesy photo)

BEDFORD – In most sports, the emphasis is all about winning. What often gets left out is how to ensure athletes – even ones in elementary and middle school – eat nutritious meals to be in top condition and perform. A Gold Award Girl Scout has addressed this need with her project, Power U, a program to teach students, as well as their parents and coaches, about healthy eating for better performance.

Nolette Perry, 18, of Bedford, earned the highest honor in Girl Scouting, the Gold Award, with her work on this project. The award is available to Girl Scouts in grades 9-12. Perry spent nearly 90 hours in service of her project.

It was the problems in her younger years with nutrition that led Perry to this work.

“Knowing my struggles in the past, I realized nutrition is not talked about in sports or school,” she said. “If you eat a donut before a game or practice, compared to having an egg scramble, you may not feel as satisfied or even sluggish. It can impact school, sports, or everyday activities. I wanted to do something with the sports teams to educate them about nutrition, so they would have the knowledge they need later on in their sporting career or everyday life.”

She worked with students in grades 4-8 who participated in the area rec and travel soccer teams. Working with Alyssa Fernandes of Wellness Workdays and Plymouth State University, who is a registered dietician and nutritionist, Perry surveyed the students about their knowledge and their questions about eating well, helped them learn about food types and how they affect performance, and gave them suggestions for quick snacks and healthy meals. She designed and made a tag for sports bags to remind student athletes about what to eat and when, and created a website to support her work.

Simply knowing when to eat is not always easy for students, whose lunch breaks may be very early or late in the school day. Because of this, some teachers allow students to graze through the day. Perry gave the students guidance on how often they should eat, educating them on what carbs, fats and proteins are, and their roles.

“I didn’t go into avoidance,” she said, “I didn’t want to trigger anyone with that. I just wanted to make sure what they eat is going to sustain them so they are not hungry or get dehydrated at practice and games.”

Fernandes is proud of Perry’s work. “I am particularly impressed with her time management skills and professionalism as well as her courage and passion in pursuit of her plan,” she said. “Her attitude throughout this process proved her confidence in herself. She never questioned if she could, she was always focused on how she would, whether that meant presenting to a board of directors, managing a group of youth athletes, or working during her vacation to prioritize her goals.”

Perry started her Girl Scout experience in second grade, joining as a Brownie, and participated in several troops through 12th grade. As a last hurrah with her good friends in Girl Scouts, the troop saw the musical “Wicked.” The troop earned enough through cookie sales to pay for a trip to London in 2020. She fondly remembers sleepovers at a planetarium in Vermont in her younger years, as well as camporees, summers at Camp Farnsworth, earning her Silver Award in 2018, and helping her community with various service projects.

The Girl Scout Cookie program also taught her valuable life skills. “Hard work and determination,” she said, were among the many lessons she learned. “If you talk to someone, they’ll talk back to you or make someone’s day. As we got older, we would talk to our troop leader – do we want to do a booth today? Do we have enough cookies? It is worth going out with 150 cookies? I got to learn about the back end of business – do you have enough inventory, enough variety of product? If you don’t, how do you get more in time? Will a troop trade some cookies with you?”

Perry graduated from Bedford High School last spring, having earned membership in the National Honor Society. She was also vice president of the American Sign Language Club, and was active in sports – particularly rock climbing and skiing. She is about to begin her freshman year at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, studying nutrition and dietetics. She hopes to help student athletes meet their goals through nutrition, and imagines the possibilities of working with pro sports teams, Olympians, and possibly even astronauts in the field of nutrition.

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Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good. The Gold Award is earned by girls in grades 9-12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges. Since 1916, Girl Scouts have answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change. They earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities.

Nolette Perry has answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change, and her Gold Award is a testament to her remarkable dedication to improving her community and the world.

About the Girl Scout Gold Award

• Gold Award Girl Scouts on average spend one to two years on their project.

• A Gold Award project must be sustainable after the girl’s involvement ends.

• The average age of Gold Award Girl Scouts is 17.

• Since 1916, more than 1 million girls have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent.

• Gold Award Girl Scouts are entitled to enlist at a higher pay grade when they join the military.

• University research indicates that noting you are a Gold Award Girl Scout on a college application is influential in the admissions decision-making process.

• Thirty young women from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2021-2022 membership year as part of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.

• The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable.