The NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament aka March Madness is one of the most popular and electrifying events in the United States. This 68 team single elimination tournament generates billions of dollars in revenue for the NCAA and is often referred to as the “pinnacle of sports in March”. In 2020, this tournament was completely canceled due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This year, the show was back on. However, things were much different this year than from years past as the teams had to deal with a number of different COVID protocols. The Chomps team wanted to explore what it looked like to train and stay fueled during March Madness this year so we sat down with the Head Performance Coach for Villanova’s Mens Basketball Team & CHOMPIAN, Coach John Shackleton, to get the inside scoop. Check out the interview below:
Q: Coach Shack, tell us about the tournament in the past vs. the tournament this year. What were some of the biggest differences?
A: The biggest difference about the tournament this year was the logistics of everything. This year the entire tournament was operated at one site in Indianapolis. In a normal year, we would go from the Big East tournament back to Philadelphia to train at Villanova and then head to wherever the next location was. This year, after the Big East tournament, we had to quarantine for 2 weeks and then headed directly to Indianapolis and entered into a “bubble” there with all of the other teams.
Q: So how did this new style affect or restrict your training?
A: The first week was pretty difficult to get our normal training in because every team was in one location. They only had about 6 rooms that were curtained off for all 64 teams to use for training. Each team was only allotted about 45 minutes for training and you had to sign up through a mobile app to reserve the training space.
Q: How did you adjust your training due to these restrictions?
A: Personally, I wasn’t concerned about intensity or maximizing my training sessions. I was really just happy to get up everyday and move. You get stiff being locked up in a hotel room for the Big East tournament and then again for March Madness so a lot of my training was focused on mobility and full body maintenance workouts. I didn’t really push the limits too much during this time.
I did spend a lot of this time really trying to focus on nutrition and hydration. The bubble is challenging mentally, so if you’re not eating right it can intensify any mental issue you might be dealing with.
Q: Were there any obstacles or for maintaining a healthy diet during the tournament?
A: Yes, there definitely were. I usually have the ability to chat with the chefs and get whatever we need for meals and nutrition. I always ask for grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, and organic veggies. This year we were kind of stuck to a set menu.
Also, there was a lot of sitting around and lag time compared to years passed. Because we were in this bubble with all of the teams the logistics became more complicated. We were often waiting for a bus or the police escort and it would throw off our schedule for eating. Luckily, I had plenty of Chomps to snack on during these intermediary periods.
Another challenge was some games weren’t until 10 pm so we wouldn’t be back at the hotel until 1 am. We do our pre-game meals 4 hours before the game so by the time you get back your body is starving for some fuel. This was another instance where you really need a convenient healthy snack that is packed with protein. Chomps came in clutch once again in this instance.
Q: So what types of things were you eating during the tournament?
A: So, like I said, there was a set menu but the chefs did do a pretty good job providing us with high-quality foods. Most of the meals had chicken and fish (a lot of salmon). All of the meals had rice, potatoes, and veggies included as well.
When I travel I always bring almonds, cashews and of course Chomps. Because I wasn’t working out as hard and was burning less calories I wanted to try to keep my sugars low. Having sugar free snacks like Chomps made this much easier.
Q: So, obviously, you’re a big fan of Chomps. Tell us about what you like about Chomps? Do you have a favorite flavor?
A: Of course! So I had first come across Chomps when one of our athletic trainers started the Whole 30 diet. He would bring in the Chomps and would always tell me about how they are the only meat sticks he could find that were Whole 30 approved. So I checked them out and loved them.
I’m always looking for grass-fed and free-range foods that don’t have any GMOs, added sugars, or artificial ingredients. Chomps has all the bases covered there. They are my go-to healthy snack for post-workout or in-between meals when I need some protein.
I like all of the different flavors but the Cranberry Habanero is probably my favorite. My boys love the Sea Salt Beef! I like adding them into omelettes for them to replace the sausage or other meats I’d normally use.