Your Eating Plan When Taking the Summer Off Athletics

Taking the summer off sports is not necessarily a negative. Being year-round competitive can take its toll on you mentally and physically. When you can regain balance in your life, you will be more motivated and driven to compete when the season begins again. Make sure you are remaining active and aren't glued to the couch this summer! Do actives that get you out of the house, and are different from your competitive sport. Most important, you must learn how to adopt a way of life that is positive around the food you eat. You may be on break from the intensive sport realm, but it doesn't mean you should take a break from eating healthy. Whether you want to stay on a healthy track, or need a strategy for learning how to eat healthy for sport and life, these tips are for you!

Plan ahead to make meals simple at home

Start creating a running list of meals you'd like to try. You need the staples: yellow onion, garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes, canned tomatoes (low sodium and ideally in a BPA free can), uncooked brown rice, uncooked quinoa, herbs, salt and pepper, and lean meats or meat substitutes. When you always have these items in your grocery cart, you can start just about any recipe. From this jumping off point, you have the availability to add in the extras needed for meals you'd like to try. I suggest meals that make it easy to make larger amounts, so you can practice meal prepping. 

Favorite meal prep dinners:

stuffed bell peppers

pan seared chicken, roasted vegetables, and quinoa

turkey chili or turkey meatballs

butternut squash curry, roasted vegetables, and brown rice 

Stock up on healthy snacks

Lets face it, you're going to eat snacks whether you like to admit it or not. You might as well have healthy ones ready at hand! Keep lots of fruit like apples, bananas, berries, and tangerines. Peanut butter with low sodium, low sugar, and high in protein can be added to just about any snack to keep you fuller longer. Hummus and carrots, nuts (my favorite are cashews!), trail mix, dried fruit, and meal replacement bars are really easy to take to go. Make sure every time you leave the house you always have a snack with you. This will help curb the afternoon energy crash, and prevent the creeping thoughts junk food. Ice cream, candy, fries, and salty snacks that you can buy when you're out running errands, shopping, or with friends are too convenient and too temping. This doesn't mean you can't treat yourself every once in a while! But consistency is key, and you want to be able to choose the times you splurge, rather than be forced to buy treats because you are starving!

Favorite snacks to go:

Clif Bars

cashews and dates

peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwich on organic whole wheat bread high in protein and low in sugar

apples and tangerines

Know what to order when going out

When I go out to eat with friends, family, or for work, I always look at the menu ahead of time. Not only does this get me excited about the meal because I'm a major foodie, but it gives me a chance to see if I need to customize a dish to fit my needs. For many, going out to eat means splurging. However in today's society, we eat out much more often than we ever did in the past. This means going out to eat cannot be seen as a splurge each time, and summer could mean even more opportunities for eating out. Especially if you're taking the summer off of athletics, you need to have a game plan. I stick to plate modeling, and look for dishes that consist of a lean protein, healthy carbohydrate, and have plenty of vegetables. Where do I find this on a restaurant menu? In the rice bowls or in the lean protein offerings. I will typically ask if they can add roasted or grilled vegetables to each dish. While training is low or non-existent, it is important that at almost half of your calories at lunch and dinner are coming from vegetables. 

Favorite meals choices going out:

brown rice bowls with plenty of vegetables

curries with vegetables, lean meat, and rice

turkey and avacado sandwiches, add extra vegetables (splurge with fries or potato chips)

Realistic summer meal breakdown


oatmeal or plain greek yogurt with berries and honey or organic maple syrup 

organic whole wheat bread high in protein and low in sugar with peanut butter

Out to eat lunch:

Roasted brussel sprouts appetizer (shared with family or friends)

1/2 chicken salad sandwich and tomato soup 

Afternoon snack:

apple and peanut butter 


Grilled chicken, roasted asparagus, and mashed sweet potatoes with salt and peper




Carlene Sluberski: How to Balance Academics as a Student Athlete

Learning new strategies to stay on top of your game is extremely important as a developing athlete. But what about trying to balance life as a student athlete? That can often add a new challenge to an already full schedule. These tips can apply to someone new to athletics, those thinking about becoming an athlete, those transitioning to college, or student athletes who need extra support on how to balance their current world. Carlene Sluberski has been in unique positions while creating her wrestling career. She first competed at the United States Olympic Education Center (USOEC) where the main focus was to bring in athletes in to live, train, and compete full time. This program was located at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. She later transferred to  finished her degree and wrestle at Brock University in Ontario, Canada. The lessons she learned from her journey has helped her understand what is required in order to fulfill her own passions and achieve her goals. Carlene is currently working on her masters degree and is a graduate assistant wrestling coach at the University of the Cumberlands. 

When does a athlete make time to prioritize academics?

There is always time. It may not be conveniently blocked off at one time, but it's there. Weekends are always good to catch up on work, but once the season starts, weekends are usually spent traveling, so any spare time should be utilized to get school work done.

While I was at the USOEC, I did not do a stellar job at balancing wrestling and school. I did not have an academic plan, and I was taking classes just so I could wrestle. I didn’t have any sort of guidance from an advisor either, so my intelligent 18 year-old self decided I could properly advise myself. Up until that point in my life, I had never had so much freedom of choice (and apparently for good reason). Naturally, all I cared about was wrestling and socializing. I was not thinking about getting a degree so I could get a job and be an adult. I’m not sure how I managed to spend 3 years at the USOEC with little achieved academically other than general credits. Someone recently described this time in my life as “the scenic route.” I don’t recommend too much of anything I did here, it was all about wrestling and very little emphasis on the academic aspect. The general mentality at USOEC was that wrestling is the top priority, and that became my mentality too. Surround yourself with people and teammates that make both wrestling and academics their priorities. 



Tips to stay organized

Get a calendar and fill it out at the beginning of the semester. Talk to your professors or teachers ahead of time and show them you care about your studies. You will be traveling often for sport, and those relationships you build with your educators will be valuable when you have to miss assignments. If you take the time to talk to them, they will be more willing to make adjustments and work with you to help you succeed academically.

Work-life-social balance

Prioritize your time! Get the important things done first so you have free time to enjoy other social aspects of college and school. Like so many aspects of wrestling, It comes down to discipline. Know what you need to do, and come up with a plan and get it done. If you want to have free time you have to make it happen.  

I wouldn’t trade all the friends and memories I created for the world while at the USOEC. However, at that time in my life I needed A LOT more guidance and chose not to get it. Luckily for me, I transferred to Brock University and found a family in a team that I loved. I was able to save my academic life through the use of my newly acquired time management skills. Academics became a top priority, and the environment I was in reflected those values. 

How to make time for yourself so you don’t burn out from the study-athlete life?

Having a support group outside of your wrestling community can help keep you grounded. Wrestling and athletics can begin to take over all aspects of your life so balance is important. Find the types of hobbies or social actives that keep you sane and make it a part of your life. For me, it couldn't be wrestling all day everyday and I enjoyed time with friends who didn't wrestle or know much about wrestling at all. Most days I didn't want to talk about anything wrestling related at the end of the day. This gave me the mental break I needed to train at my best. 

In short, don’t do what I did the first time around. Get help as soon as you feel like you’re falling behind or lost in the shuffle because school is important! It really just takes the discipline to devote enough time to your academics. It’s all a balancing act and you have to find the strategies and resources that will help you succeed.

Carlene Sluberski is a 2x National Team Member and Junior National Champion. She was part of the USOEC program at Northern Michigan University from 2009-2012. She has her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from Brock University where she wrestled 4 years on the team. In 2014-2015, Carlene was named Female Athlete of the Year. She is currently seeking her masters degree in teaching and is a graduate assistant for the women's wrestling team at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky. 




Monique Cabrera: Encouraging New Athletes to the Wrestling Room

Male or female, how do you encourage a new wrestler when they step on the mat for the first time?

For the past decade, I have been coaching boys and girls high school wrestling. It has been easier enrolling girls to wrestle than boys because I myself am a woman, and wrestled for the high school where I am currently coaching. Feedback has been vital in order to encourage boys and girls to wrestle for the first time. It helps me understand how I can best support their goals and keep them coming back to the mat. Typically, I ask a new athlete why they want to join the sport. There are various reasons to why a young teen wants to join wrestling: from getting into shape, to being more confident, and my favorite to be a part of a family. Over the last five years I have reiterated to high school athletes that wrestling isn't just a team, but a family and a culture to help shape and support becoming a better individual all around.

Instilling values in a new wrestler

Wrestling isn’t just a sport but a lifestyle. How you approach wrestling is how you will most likely approach the rest of your life. I believe student athletes get value from others' experiences who they can relate to. With the support of past captains and alumni, I encourage many to visit the team and share how wrestling has influenced their everyday lives. They preach the importance of staying committed to yourself to get a task done, just like staying committed to finishing a wrestling season. Discipline is needed beyond high school when you decide to go to college, into the military, or to the workforce. Finally the values we have created speaks to supporting, inspiring and lifting each other up on and off the mat through sportsmanship and trust. Our student-athletes continuously do community service and volunteering their time and knowledge to younger kids who choose to participate in wrestling. They are involved in their local community centers and help put on bully boot camp seminars which are free in the Los Angeles area.

Monique's coaching values 

Over the course of my wrestling and coaching career, I have had amazing coaches. Thomas Griffith, Ray Castellanos (current boys coach at the South El Monte H.S.), Lee Allen, Donnie Stephens (Cumberlands), and Terry Steiner. These coaches have supported not only wrestling, but girls wrestling. I have been face to face with quite a few coaches who have told me “I don’t get paid to coach girls,” or “girls do not belong on the mat unless their keeping stats." This is why the coaches I've named have been stand outs for women's wrestling and great influences for me. I needed both the good, the bad, and the ugly coaches in order to develop my style and to have a better understanding of how to develop a girls league in Southern California, but still support boys wrestling at the same time. Wrestling is a win-lose when sport in a match. However, when it comes to promoting, developing, and growing a sport like wrestling, it must be a win-win for both the boys and girls wrestling programs. We have been able to do this successfully at South El Monte High School.

How coaches should encourage new kids to try the sport

The biggest success I have had was having my captains and returners talk to friends and peers to join them at Open Mats during the off season to try the sport to learn at their own pace and to see if they ultimately like it. At the same time We have partnered with BTSLA to run a youth wrestling program where we have our returners and captains volunteer coach and work with the 6th-8th graders that will be joining South El Monte High School soon. This creates a community and team culture so they are accepted and welcomed as incoming freshmen.

What goes around comes around

I am honored to give back to my community and the high school that I came from. When I wrestled for South El Monte High School (2002-2005) I was the only girl until my junior year. Myself and Teri Milkoff were the only two girls who placed at girls regionals and state while being part of an all boys team. In 2014, thanks to the support from my high school coach Ray Castellanos, I was given the platform to create an official girls team. This allowed me to become the first head coach for girls wrestling in the San Gabriel Valley and Southern California Region. I have been lucky to have the support system from my colleagues when I invite, instruct, and coach both the boys and girls on the team. The influence you have on your athletes, male or female, will affect how they decide to give back to this sport. 

 photo by dana barsuhn

photo by dana barsuhn

Monique Cabrera wrestled in California and was a state placer. When she wrestled for Menlo College, she was varsity captain and a 2x WCWA All-American. She placed 7th and 8th at the Senior US Open in 2007 and 2008. She is currently on her 4th season as the head girls coach at South El Monte High School where she also heads the local Beat the Streets LA youth program. 



What You Learn as the Only Girl on the Boys Wrestling Team

 rose martines

rose martines

As the fastest growing sport in the US, wrestling is attracting new females to the sport. States are beginning to follow the lead of examples like California, Texas, Hawaii, and Tennessee and are sanctioning wrestling in order to have all-girls teams. However, this still means many girls across the US who want to wrestle must compete against the boys. This poses a challenge for the athlete, the parents, and the coaches. I was very fortunate growing up and competing in California during an era where the state was pushing for all-girls competition, and I was rarely the only girl on my team. Because of this, I brought in ladies who were the only girls on their high school team to speak about their experiences and give their own advice. Forrest Molinari grew up wrestling in California, and today is a resident at the Olympic Training Center. Rose Martines started wrestling her Junior year in Oregon, and will complete her Senior year as the only female on her high school team. Neither athlete a female wrestler come before them as the example for how to be the only girl on the boys team, they were the trend setters. As we continue to encourage girls to try this amazing sport, we are going to need the experiences of others to forge a path for those to come. 

Why did you choose wrestling when there were no examples of females competing already on the team?

ROSE: I have played roller derby since I was about eleven years old, and have grown to enjoy physically challenging contact sports. In high school, I began developing an intrigue for trying new things and throwing myself completely into it to understand other worlds. To put it simply, I like a good challenge, especially one where I learn about what is meaningful to other people. I had done a lot of personal development my sophomore and junior year, reading books and listening to audios about leadership, ambition, and being your best self. This built my general mentality to strive for nothing less than my best. In my science class we formed a group; my male classmate wrestled and my female classmate was a stat girl. I heard about wrestling everyday and thought about joining, the guy was pretty supportive. Then the girl told me about how some of the creepier guys on the team were talking about if there was a girl how much they would like it. I was creeped out my sophomore year because of that, but I was still interested. By junior year I had built enough self confidence to not really care even if people were thinking creepy things, I was excited and wanted to try it. I went up for the meeting and I could tell they weren’t sure if I was going to be a stat girl or a wrestler. The coaches had us go around and say our name and grade, and if we were thinking of being a wrestler or stat girl. I said my name was Rose Martines, I was a junior and I wanted to be a wrestler. I had no experience. The coaches and wrestlers didn’t know how to handle me, and neither did I honestly. They gave me the same directions and I followed them and did my best. It all began to fall into place. I think the aspect of being no other female wrestlers really to look to was inspiring to me. Of course it terrified me, but it was also thrilling to try something new that made other people uncomfortable. I could grow and prove to myself that I am strong, and make a statement for other girls. I remember googling how to be the only girl wrestler and there was a Wiki How for it.

FORREST: Funny thing is, I actually wanted to play football my freshman year of high school but I was way too small for it (I weighed about 95 pounds). So I started wrestling instead. I didn’t know the first thing about wrestling, but I loved every minute of it. Throughout my four years of high school, there was maybe one or two other girls on the team aside from myself each year. I had played baseball for years before high school, and being on an all boys team seemed normal to me. I practiced with boys who were better than me everyday so I could learn faster. Lucky for me, they were willing to help me because I worked hard and was eager to learn since I was our varsity 103 pounder.

What do you think girls should know about being on an all boys wrestling team?

 Rose martinez

Rose martinez

ROSE: Guys have a general different kind of humor where everyone makes fun of each other but will still love you at heart. One of the biggest lessons I learned during my first year was how to take crap from people and not let it get to me. At the end of a grueling practice, we typically have conditioning and buddy carries for strength training. I couldn't always do it the right way, but would be doing it the best that I could. One coach would joke about how I looked like a limping grandma carrying the guy. He is like that to everyone, and he and I have a lot of respect for each other. I had to learn that in those moments, I was doing the best and earning respect by trying, even if it seemed or felt pathetic.

FORREST: In my opinion, being on an all boys wrestling team makes you a better wrestler as a girl. It pushes you harder and makes you a lot more gritty. I was held to the same standard as the boys when I was in high school and I believe that is what gave me a strong foundation for my wrestling career.

What advice do you have for other girls who would like to wrestle on an all boys team?

FORREST: I say go for it! Show up everyday and be the hardest worker in the room. Show them you mean business.

ROSE: People may think it’s weird, but secretly they all have an immense amount of respect and admiration for trying wrestling. I would suggest having an honest conversation with the coach about why you want to do it, that you are willing to learn and push yourself, AND BE COACHABLE. Being the only girl on an all boys team is completely doable, and is happening all the time all over the country. Just trust yourself, and know that you are amazing and strong. You are competing against guys who are biologically predisposition to be stronger than you. You are doing the same training and skills that they are doing, but it is so much cooler that you are doing it because girls have another level of barriers to overcome. If people think it's weird, they just do not understand and you have to be okay with that. Do it for yourself.

 forrest molinari: submitted photo 

forrest molinari: submitted photo 

What kinds of lessons have you learned about yourself?

FORREST: I’ve learned so much about myself and about life through wrestling. I really couldn’t imagine what my life would be like today if I hadn’t started wrestling. I have learned what my core values and morals are, what kind of person I want to be and how I want to live my life, what my goals and standards are, and strengthened my faith.

The best part is the memories and friends I’ve made from this sport and how it has blessed me to live this amazing life traveling and competing all over the world.

ROSE: Because of wrestling, I better understand people, teamwork, dedication, commitment, discipline, respect, and heart, which are all skills and qualities that every job looks for. Wrestling has taught me to always be strong, have confidence, push limits, poke at sexism, do my best, and respect everyone and everything I work with. It has taught me to dream big and commit to your goals. It has taught me that I am tougher than I ever thought, and can do things I never imagined myself doing. It has taught me so much and I am most especially grateful for all of the meaningful relationships I created with my teammates and coaches. 

How have you implemented these lessons for your wrestling career?

FORREST: I can look back over the years and see where I learned life lessons and how wrestling contributed in those moments to help me grow. It wasn’t always easy and I learned a lot of lessons the hard way but that has made me who I am today and given me the confidence to pursue my goals with no doubts in my mind.

ROSE: Wrestling has helped shape who I am and who I will become. I joined because I began to find that so many of the people I looked up to or respected, had wrestled at some point in their life, so I knew that there was something about the mental challenge that prepares you for success and discipline outside of sports as well. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was because of how I was able to fully throw myself into it, and the world of the sport. I think by putting your all into something like wrestling, helps you know in the real world that there is always more that can be done; you can always organize a little more thoroughly, speak more genuinely, pursue more passionately, test yourself and dig deeper. You know that somewhere there is more, even if all seems lost, if you have the will, and the passion you can find a way to make something happen.

Forrest Molinari graduated from Benicia High School in 2013 in Benicia, CA. She attended King University and upon graduating, became a resident at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. She is currently a National Team Member for USA Wrestling at 65kg, a 3x WCWA All-American, and a 2018 World Cup team member. 


Rose Martines joined her high school wrestling team in Oregon as a junior, with no prior experience. Her experience in contact sports was playing roller derby for five years. She was the only female on her team and competed against mostly male opponents. She committed herself to morning workouts, extra help after every practice and daily tracking of her weight and everything she ate. Both junior and senior year, Rose received the Heart and Effort Award, and her senior year she was awarded the Outstanding Female "Citizen-Athlete-Scholar" award from Rotary. 


Emma Randall: The Problem with Specializing in Sport too Early

Why early specialization is happening

There is a lot of pressure for young athletes to be successful. Being successful on the playing field has education, career, and social implications. The better the athlete, the greater the scholarship amount to play a collegiate sport, the greater chance of continuing on a professional level. The better the result, the more recognition the athlete or the parent receive from those around them. The notion that sport is fun, which instills healthy active lifestyles and teaches life skills has been put on the back burner. The idea that multi-sport athletes produce whole athletes with better overall skills, is second to specialization. It is believed that single-sport sport specific skills produces the highest quality. Here's the danger with this mentality: it feeds the mindset that if specializing at 18 is good, then specializing at 13 is better. And if this is the case, then we should begin specializing our children in one sport at 8 to get an earlier start ahead of peers.

What are the consequences 

The overemphasis on being successful has been detrimental to sports. The need to be successful, as well as specialization, has lead to overtraining in which athletes are investing entirely too many hours for their age. The ten thousand hour rule (Malcom Gladwell's rule which insists investing 10,000 hours in anything makes you a master in that area) only reinforces this idea: “If I am going to be successful, I have to fully invest myself to the task with deliberate practice for at least ten years. The later I start my ten years, the later I achieve my goal.” The repeated motions of sport or even the amount of time in sport can lead to severe or career ending injuries at a younger age. The amount of pressure in the form of expectations of success from self, parents, coaches, and even social media can lead to anxiety, fear of failure, and even burnout. When we over identify in one role in life, such as the role of an wrestler, we limit our sources of joy, confidence, and support. If were to loose our identity as a wrestler because of injury, not making the team, or losing a state title, we start to wonder am I really a wrestler? If I am not, then who am I? Where do I fit into this world? What talents or skills do I have that I can be confident in? Who can I turn to for support? This is dangerous for anyone, let alone a young athlete when their mental health is at stake.

How to combat the problem

It starts with education to the stakeholders involved. Parents rarely choose to do something they know will hurt their children. Coaches rarely make choices that would set their athlete back. Providing coaches and parents with the pros and cons of specialization allows them to make an educated choice on how to act, instead of following today's social norms of youth sport. Believing early specialization means more success is a dangerous narrative.  As a parent, encourage your athlete to be diverse. Just because she wants participate in one sport, doesn’t mean you can’t encourage her to build hobbies and social activities around other positive areas of her life. If your athlete pushes back, make it a family event which provides a well needed break from sport. As a coach, encourage your athletes to try other sports and hobbies and provide down time if it’s a year round program. Value the whole person and not only the athlete's success on the mat or playing field. Shake up practices with warm-ups that include different sports and skills that are unusual for your sport. Utilize cross-over training sessions with other teams in which your team jumps into volleyball or basketball while the next week they jump to learn your sport's skills. If you see an athlete continually exhausted or injured, encourage them to take a mental and physical break. It's easy to believe that by allowing a week or two away from sport, they will easily walk away. In reality, the athlete will come back more motivated and healthy to do a sport they love.

Emma Randall is a current member of Team USA’s coaching staff, and was a coach for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Emma earned her B.A. and M.S. in Sports Psychology from Lock Haven University. She is the Developmental National Team coach for USA Wrestling in the Cadet and Junior age divisions and in 2016 earned her USA Wrestling Gold level coaching certification. She is one of 68 coaches to hold that certification and the only woman. She is an avid advocate and is dedicated to the growth and development of females in sports.