Nutrition knowledge and nutritional advice practices of netball coaches in the Free State
This study described the demographic background and facilities available, as well as the nutrition knowledge and advice practices of coaches that train under 16 and under 18 netball players in the first or second netball league in the Free State. A descriptive study was conducted using an online questionnaire. Ethical approval was obtained from the Health Sciences Research Ethics Committee (HSREC 185_2016) of the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State and Netball South Africa. The contact information of coaches was obtained from the Free State Netball Federation. Coaches were informed about the study and invited to participate via email. Participation was encouraged by sending out a follow-up invitation to all coaches, one month later, while an incentive in the form of a coaching course and netball equipment was offered to a randomly selected coach who participated in the study. Forty four coaches are involved in coaching u/16 and u/18 netball in the Free State, all of whom were invited to participate. Only 34 completed the questionnaire. Coaches were asked to complete and online questionnaire that was used to determine facilities available to coaches, nutrition knowledge and advice practices of coaches. The median knowledge score of the coaches was 64.7%, indicating that the coaches in this study did not display adequate nutrition knowledge. Only four out of thirty four coaches achieved an adequate nutrition score of above 75%. Despite not using similar questionnaires, the knowledge scores obtained were comparable to other related studies. Demographic background data investigated did not so show significant differences in nutrition knowledge of coaches and the team coached, age, ethnicity, gender, netball league, coaching level, number of years coaching, previous nutrition education or training received, healthcare support and facilities available to coaches. Only a small percentage (29.4%) of coaches received formal education or training in nutrition. Just over half (58.8%) of the coaches had healthcare support available, with 41.2% of coaches having no support available. The most common healthcare support available included strength and conditioning trainers (32.4%) and a physiotherapist (23.5%). Coaches best understood questions related to “pre- training/competition and during training/competition food” and “weight loss”; scoring 80.0% and 75.0% for these sections, respectively. Questions on “recovery” and “supplement and ergogenic aids” had the lowest overall median correct score, of 50.0% each. Majority of coaches (82.3%) read about nutrition related issues. The internet (55.6%) was the most popular source of nutrition information. It was expected that those who read about nutrition related issues would display a better nutrition knowledge, however, no significant difference was found between the median knowledge correct score of coaches who read about nutrition compared to those who did not. All coaches believed that good nutrition practices can improve sports performance, yet, only a small percentage (29.4%) were trained in nutrition and/or had adequate nutrition knowledge. Over half (55.9%) of the coaches reported that they provide advice to their netball players. No significant difference in knowledge scores between coaches who gave advice and those who did not give advice was found. Most of the coaches (78.1%) have never made use of a professional to give nutrition advice to their players. Of the small percentage (21.9%) that did utilise a professional, most used doctors (57.1%). Dietitians (42.9%), sports nutritionists (28.6%), strength and conditioning trainers (28.6%) and physiotherapists (14.3%) were also used by coaches. Among the coaches providing advice on nutrition, 23.5% made use of outside professionals. Of the few (21.9%) coaches that made use of professionals, mostly professionals that may not be knowledgeable to deliver nutrition advice or where nutrition did not form part of their scope of practice, were used. A large body of evidence on sports nutrition and its importance in exercise performance as well as overall health exists. The provision of good nutrition advice and information to netball players as well as other athletes is an area that clearly needs attention. Optimal strategies to increase coaches’ knowledge should be researched and/or created to provide assistance. Continued education programmes should be implemented, as part of the requirements as set forth by Netball South Africa, on a regular basis to ensure that athletes and coaches have sufficient nutrition knowledge and have access to reliable nutrition information.