SCAN’s Expanding the Arena - SCAN Sport RD Interview Rubric:
Our September interviewee, Kim Feeney, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, is an experienced sports dietitian within the military realm. If you’ve ever had an interest in tactical sport nutrition, read on! Kim shares helpful insights for both RD’s and RD’s to be. Her enjoyment and passion in her career are evident, and we are so excited she is sharing her knowledge with us.
- What is your name, job title, and main job duties?
I work as a Sports Performance Dietitian for the 353rd Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron, an organization that oversees the training of Tactical Air Control Party Airmen. My primary duties involve assessing the nutrition needs of our trainees and instructors, providing appropriate group and individual interventions, working on an interdisciplinary Human Performance Optimization team to improve performance, and liaising with the dining facilities. I develop and manage programs to include classroom fueling stations, hydration testing, and a nutrition education curriculum.
2. What is your educational background and how long have you been an RD? Do you have any additional credentials relevant to your position?
I completed a BS in Nutritional Sciences through Penn State and a combined MS/DI
through the U.S. Military Baylor Graduate Program in Nutrition. I have been a dietitian
for just over 7 years and have also become a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD).
3. How did you achieve your position/ how did you get started with your current position?
I served a total of just under 7 years in the Army. I had some great jobs in the military but wanted to focus more on sports nutrition so I decided to resign from service. I had the opportunity to complete an 8-month sports nutrition fellowship at Arizona State University, and near the end of my experience, my current job was posted as a brand new position. Although the position is with the Air Force, the trainees I work with often go on to embed with Army units so the combination of my experience in a collegiate setting and my time with the Army made the position a great fit.
4. What key areas of knowledge/experiences did you need to have before this job?
My job requires knowledge of fueling strategies for both individuals and teams to include individual and group interventions, menu and supplement reviews, and experience with fuel stations. The ability to read and apply research is critical in my job, as it is with many sports jobs, where everyone wants cutting-edge information and interventions. I need to be confident in what I know and comfortable with getting answers to the things I do not know. My familiarity with military customs and courtesies as well as military regulations has also been very helpful.
5. What is a typical day for you?
Every day is different! Depending on the morning, I may watch physical training sessions or just go straight into my office. I try to go down to our fueling station most mornings to supervise the trainees picking up their snack for the day as well as stop by the dining hall during lunch at least once a week. Most of my hours are spent working on projects, supervising fueling, teaching classes, and seeing patients. My population has busy schedules so the majority of my individual appointments are on a walk-in basis when they get free time. I also plan around certain course milestones, such as focusing on carbohydrate fueling strategies as they start marching longer distances and spot-testing hydration during field training exercises throughout the course.
6. What advice would you share with an RD (or RD2be) that is interested in a similar career path?
I would encourage anyone who is interested in being a sports dietitian to give adequate attention to their clinical and food service rotations – a solid foundation in both of those areas can make a good sports dietitian even better. Many of the tactical positions I see posted are looking for a CSSD with 5+ years of experience. Taking the time to get experience in a collegiate or professional environment helps a lot – my performance at work would not have been as strong without my experience at Arizona State. Finally, stay humble, work hard, and have a fun with your job.
7. What are some of your interests outside of work?
I enjoy cooking, baking, hiking/trail running, needlework like crocheting, and gardening.
8. Why have you decided to work with athletes or similar groups?
I played several sports growing up and appreciate the competitive nature and dedication to fitness many athletes have. Working in sports nutrition is an opportunity to provide some of the knowledge and resources I wish I had as a young athlete to others. Additionally, I find exercise physiology fascinating.
9. How do you deal with the daily stresses presented to you in your career?
I appreciate using humor to deal with stress or difficult situations. Fortunately, that is common within the culture of my current workplace so we have some very entertaining moments.
10. Prior to getting your credentials, did you have any experience in nutrition (ie. food service, volunteering, etc.)?
I had a few food and nutrition-related summer jobs/experiences: working in a deli, completing a National Association of College and University Food Service summer internship, two summers as a cook at a school for children with many allergies and food restrictions, and a semester working for the university dining halls. I also volunteered with a private practice dietitian, helping create content for her website and working at a booth at the American Diabetes Association conference one year.
11. What do you love about your career/job?
I love that I can have fun at work. My population is very competitive so we do several nutrition-related games/activities to get them engaged. I also appreciate the job that these service members volunteered to do and find it very fulfilling to help those who volunteered for something most of our country couldn’t or wouldn’t do.
12. Is there a course you took in undergrad or grad school that has helped you in your current role?
My graduate degree in general was very help for this role. Although I did take a sports nutrition class, the experience I received reading, analyzing, and writing scientific papers throughout the whole program has been invaluable for keeping up with the constantly advancing landscape of performance nutrition.
13. What are some of the unique nutritional considerations you must consider for the group(s) you work with?
There are a few considerations I keep in mind:
1. Regulations and policy – much like the NCAA has rules about collegiate athletes, the military has rules to follow. There on limitations on how we spent money for nutrition-related items (food, equipment, etc); there are rules on menu items that must be in dining facilities and how food is provided, how we interact with vendors, etc.
2. Energy expenditure – during some of their training events, students may be burning upwards of 4500 calories a day so we must work around time and appetite limitations to optimize their nutrition.
3. Access to food – military members spend time deployed and also train in environments that mimic deployment. Trainees will go several days at a time where the only food they have access to are military rations – no gels, chews, pre-mixed sports drinks, or other common fueling products.
4. Nutrition skills – Military members typically do not have daily access to a sports dietitian. During deployments, they could potentially go months without ready access to one. As a result, they have to learn to make their own food choices. Therefore, the nutrition interventions I perform are designed to prepare them to independently select appropriate foods in any type of environment.