The Career Experiences of Female Registered Dietitians in NCAA Division I Athletic Departments


  • Robin Hardin University of Tennessee
  • Lauren Antle University of Tennessee
  • Lauren Beasley University of Tennessee



registered dietician, NCAA, career experiences, holistic care


The National Collegiate Athletic Association passed legislation in 2014 to allow for unlimited meals and snacks for college athletes. This policy change created a need for full-time registered dietitians (RDs) to ensure student-athletes are properly fueled and monitor their dietary habits. RDs are now considered to be a key member of the college athlete holistic care team, and this has created a unique professional niche for RDs. There is a lack of research exploring the experiences and challenges of this emerging profession in college athletic departments. Nine RDs working in NCAA Division I athletic departments participated in semi-structured interviews to examine their career experiences. Three themes were constructed from the data analysis: (a) professional transition; (b) nutritional education; and (c) (dis)respect. The respondents discussed their participation in sport or volunteer experience was what pushed them to pursue a career as a sports dietician. One of the primary functions of their position is to build trust with the student-athletes and provide them with nutritional education so they will develop healthy eating habits. The respondents also struggled with a lack of acceptance of the importance of their position on the interprofessional care team. Some had positive experiences with administrators, but most had negative experiences and a general lack of understanding of the professional expertise they had.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

  • Robin Hardin, University of Tennessee
    Dr. Robin Hardin is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, & Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee.
  • Lauren Antle, University of Tennessee

    Lauren Antle is a registered dietician and the associate director of sports nutirition at the University of Tennessee. 

  • Lauren Beasley, University of Tennessee

    Lauren Beasely is a licensed master's social worker and a doctoral student in the Department of Kinesilogy, Recreation, & Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee.


-21 NCAA Division I Manual (2020). Retrieved from

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2015). Board certified specialists in sports dietetics.

Acosta, R. V. & Carpenter, L. J. (2014). Women in intercollegiate sport: A longitudinal, national study, thirty-five year update, 1977-2012. Unpublished manuscript. Retrieved from

Agee, J. (2009). Developing qualitative research questions: A reflective process. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 22(4), 431-447.

Anderson, E. D. (2008). "I used to think women were weak": Orthodox masculinity, gender-segregation, and sport. Sociological Forum, 23(2), 257-280.

Arvinen-Barrow, M., & Clement, D. (2015). A preliminary investigation into athletic trainers’ views and experiences of multidisciplinary team approach to sports injury rehabilitation. Athletic Training and Sports Health Care, 7(3), 97-107.

Arvinen-Barrow, M. & Clement, D. (2017). P A preliminary investigation into sport and exercise psychology consultants’ views and experiences of multidisciplinary team approach to sports injury rehabilitation. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 31(1), 66-74.

Avakian, V. A., & Haber, B. (2015). From Betty Crocker and feminist food studies: Critical perspectives on women and food. University of Massachusetts Press.

Baker, L. B., Heaton, L. E., Nuccio, R. P., & Stein, K. W. (2014). Dietitian-observed macronutrient intakes of young skill and team-sport athletes: Adequacy of pre, during, and postexercise nutrition. Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 24, 166-176.

Barkley, L., Taliaferro, L.A., Baker, K., & Garcia, J. (2018). The holistic athletic healthcare model: Addressing the developmental, social, and cultural needs of collegiate athletes. Journal of Higher Education Athletics & Innovation, 1(3), 26-47. doi: 10.15763/issn.2376-5267.2018.1.3.26-47

Beasley, L., Magliocca, J., Smith, Z., & Hardin, R. (2019). The Role of Social Workers in NCAA Division I Athletic Departments. North American Society for Sport Management. New Orleans, La.

Berg, B. K., & Warner, S. (2019). Advancing college athlete development via social support. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 12, 87-113.

Black, C. J. (2003). Translating principles into practice: Implementing the feminist and strengths

perspectives in work with battered women. AFFILIA, 18(3), 332-349.

Braun, V., & Clark, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101.

Burns, R. D., Schiller, M. R., Fada, R. D., Merrick, M. A., & Wolf, K. N. (2004). Intercollegiate student-athlete use of nutritional supplements and the role of athletic trainers and dietitians in nutrition counseling. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 104, 246-249. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2003.11.013

Burton, L. (2015). Underrepresentation of women in sport leadership: A review of research. Sport Management Review, 18(2), 155-165.

Burton, L., Barr, C. A., Eink, J. S., & Bruening, J. E. (2009). "Think athletic director, think masculine?": Examination of the gender typing of managerial suhroles within athletic administration positions. Sex Roles, 61, 416-426.

Burton, L. J., Grappenforf, H., & Henderson, A. (2011). Perceptions of gender in athletic administration: Utilizing role congruity to examine (potential) prejudice against women. Journal of Sport Management, 25, 36-45.

Burton, L. J., & Hagan, E. M. (2009). Examination of job description in intercollegiate athletics administration: Application of gender typing of managerial subroles. The Sport Management and Related Topics Journal, 5, 84–95.

Cachia, M., & Millward, L. (2011). The telephone medium and semi-structured interviews: A complementary fit. Qualitative Research in Management and Organizations, 6(3), 265-277.

Casas-Agustench, P., Megias-Rangil, I., & Babio, N. (2020). Economic benefit of dietetic-

nutritional treatment in multidisciplinary primary care team. Nutricion Hospitalaria, 37(4), 643-886.

Claussen, C.L., & Lehr, C. (2002). Decision making authority of senior woman administrators. International Journal of Sport Management, 3(3), 215-228.

Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association. (n.d.). About CPSDA.

Commission on Dietetic Registration (2019). CSSD eligibility requirements.

Commission on Dietetic Registration (2020). Registered dietitian (RD) and registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) by demographics. Retrieved from

Dejesse, L. D., & Zelman, D. C. (2013). Promoting optimal collaboration between mental health

providers and nutritionist in the treatment of eating disorders. Eating Disorders, 21(3), 185-205.

Denzin, N. K. (1978). Sociological Methods. McGraw-Hill.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2011). Introduction: The discipline and practice of qualitative

Research (pp. 1-20). In N. K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln. The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (4th ed.). Sage.

Eliot, K. A., & Kolasa, K. M. (2015). The value in interprofessional, collaborative-ready

nutrition and dietetics practitioners. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(10), 1578-1588.

Fenig, S., Levav, L., Kohn, R. and Yelin, N. (1993). Telephone vs face-to-face interviewing in a community psychiatric survey. American Journal of Public Health, 83(6), 896-8.

Fink, J. (2008). Gender and sex diversity in sport organizations: Concluding comments. Sex Roles, 58(1-2), 146-147.

Gobo, G., & Molle, A. (2017). Doing Ethnography. Sage.

Gurau, J., Cronk, A., Pelliccia, M., & Vandenbussche, K. (2013). Role of the nutrition professional in high-risk obstetrics inpatient teams. Canadian Journal of Dietetics Practice and Research, 74(2), 75-79. doi: 10.3148/74.2.2013.75

Grappendorf, H., Pent, A., Burton, L., & Henderson, A. (2008). Gender role stereotyping: A qualitative analysis of senior woman administrators’ perceptions regarding financial decision-making. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 1, 26-45.

Hardin, R., & Pate, J. (2013). Playbook vs. textbook: Academic transitioning of NCAA FBS Division I football student-athletes. Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 7(3), 229-244.

Hardin, R., Taylor, E., Siegele, J., & Smith, A. (2017). The glass door: Early-career women in

collegiate athletics. In A. Milner & J. Braddock (Eds.), Women in sports: Breaking barriers, facing obstacles, Volume 2 (pp. 243-263). Praeger.

Hardin, R., Veraldo, C. M., Taylor, E. A., & Jilka, D. (2020). The relationship between job satisfaction and burnout: Athletic academic counselors. Journal of Student-Athlete Educational Development and Success, 2, 103-137.

Hardin, R., Waller, S. N., & Dzikus, L. (2019). NCAA athletic directors’ perceptions of sports chaplains: An exploratory study of the value of collegiate sports chaplains in the United States. Journal of Contemporary Athletics, 13(4), 281-296.

Hark, L. A., & Deen, D. (2017). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Interprofessional education in nutrion as an essential component of medical education. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 117(7), 1104-1113.

Hoffman, J. (2010). The dilemma of the senior woman administrator role in intercollegiate athletics. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 3, 53–75.

Holway, F. E., & Spriet, L. L. (2011). Sport-specific nutrition: Practical strategies for team sports. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(sup 1), 112-125.

Hosick, M. B. (2014). Council approves meals, other student-athlete well-being rules. Retrieved from

Huffman, L., Waller, S., & Hardin, R. (2016). The sport chaplain’s role in the holistic care model for collegiate athletes in the United States. Practical Theology, 9(3), 226-241.

Hull, M. V., Jagim, A. R., Oliver, J. M., Greenwood, M., Busteed, D. R., & Jones, M. T. (2016). Gender differences and access to a sports dietitian influence dietary habits of collegiate athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13(38), 1-16.

Hull, M. V., Neddo, J., Jagim, A. R., Oliver, J. M., Greenwood, M., & Jones, M. T. (2017). Availability of a sports dietitian may lead to improved performance and recovery of NCAA division I baseball athletes. Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(29), 1-8.

Innes, S. A. (2001). American women and culinary culture. University of Iowa Press.

Johnson, J. (2013). Embracing collaborative health care training for optimal patient care. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113(9), A65. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.06.229

Jortberg, B. T., & Flemming, M. O. (2014). Registered dietitian nutrionists bring value to emerging health care delivery models. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(12), 2017-2022.

Josselon, R. (2014). Introduction to qualitative psychology. Qualitative Psychology, 1(1), 1-3. doi: 10.1037/

Kamphoff, C. (2010). Bargaining with patriarchy: Former women coaches' experiences and their decision to leave collegiate coaching. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 81, 367-379.

Knoppers, A., & Anthonissen, A. (2008). Gendered managerial discourses in sport organizations: Multiplicity and complexity. Sex Roles, 58, 93–103.

Kreider, R. B., Wilborn, C. D., Taylor, L., Campbell, B., Almada, L., Collins, R…, & Antonio, J. (2010). ISSN exercise & sport nutrition review: Research & recommendations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7(7), 1-43.

Leung, L. B., Yoon, J., Rubenstein, L. V., Post, E. P., Metzger, M. E., Wells, K, B…, Escare, J. J. (2018). Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 31(1), 38-48. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2018.01.170157

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E.G. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. Sage Publications.

Lindlof, T. R., & Taylor, B. C. (2011). Qualitative Communication Research Methods. Sage Publications.

Mailliet, J. O., Schwartz, D. B., & Posthauer, M. E. (2013). Position of the Academy of Nurtition and Dietetics: Ethical and legal issues in feeding and hydration. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 113(6), 828-833.

Mazerolle, S. M., Burton, L., & Cotrufo, R. J. (2015). The experiences of female athletic trainers in the role of the head athletic trainer. Journal of Athletic Training, 50(1), 71-81.

Mazerolle, S. M., & Eason, C. M. (2016). Positive factors Influencing the advancement of women to the role of head athletic trainer in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Divisions II and III. Journal of Athletic Training, 51(7), 550-556.

McHenry, L. K., Beasley, L., Zakrajsek, R. A., & Hardin, R. (October 2020). A Call for Collaboration in the Provision of Holistic Athlete Care. Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Orlando, Fla.

Merriam, S. B., & Tisdell, E. J. (2015). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (4th edition). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing Company.

Moran-Miller, K. E., & Flores, L. Y. (2011). Where are the women in women's sports? Predictors of female athletes' interest in a coaching career. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 82(1), 109-117.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (2020a). NCAA Demographics Database [Data visualization dashboard]. Retrieved from

National Collegiate Athletic Association (2020b). NCAA Financial Database [Data visualization dashboard]. Retrieved from

NCAA Academic Affairs and Membership Staff (2013). 2013-14 NCAA Division I Manual. Indianapolis, IN: National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Pate, J., Stokowski, S., & Hardin, R. (2011). Third time’s a charm: The case of Tennessee’s four junior football players who endured three different head coaches in three seasons. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 4, 354-369.

Patton, M. C. (2002). Two decades of development in qualitative inquiry: A personal, experimental perspective. Qualitative Social Work, 1(3), 261-283.

Pecukonis, E., Doyle, O., & Bliss, D. L. (2008). Reducing barriers to interprofessional training: Promoting interprofessional cultural competence. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 22(4), 417-428. doi: 10.1080/13561820802190442

Pent, A., Grappendorf, H., & Henderson, A. (2007). Do they want more? An analysis of NCAA senior woman administrators' participation in financial decision making. Journal for the Study if Sports and Athletes in Education, 1(2), 175-194. doi: 10.1179/ssa.2007.1.2.157

Peshkin, A. (1988). In search of subjectivity: One’s own. Educational Researcher, 17, 17-21.

Pollio, D. E., McDonald, S. M., & North, C. S. (1997). Combining a strengths-based approach and feminist theory in group work with persons ‘on the streets’. Social Work with Groups, 3-4(19), 5-20.

Porter, J., & Collins, J. (2020). Do images of dietitians on the Internet reflect the profession? Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, ahead of print. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12793

Raney, L. E. (2015). Integrating primary care and behavioral health: The role of the psychiatrist in the collaborative care model. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 172(8), 721-728. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.15010017

Raphaely, D. (2003). An analysis of the senior woman administrator position within NCAA athletics departments. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. University of San Francisco.

Saldana, J. (2015). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Sage.

Samuelson, M., Tedeschi, P., Aarendonk, D., De La Cuesta, C., & Groenewegen, P. (2012). Improving interprofessional collaboration in primary care: Position paper of the European Forum for Primary Care. Quality in Primary Care, 20, 303–312. Retrieved from

Schimmel, C., Etzel, E., Wrisberg, C. Watson II, J. C., Connole, I. J., & Shannon, V. (2014). NCAA athletic administrators’ preferred characteristics of sport psychology consultants: A consumer market analysis. Sport Psychologist, 28(4), 406-417.

Shaw, S., & Hoeber, L. (2003). “A Strong Man Is Direct and a Direct Woman Is a Bitch”: Gendered Discourses and Their Influence on Employment Roles in Sport Organizations. Journal of Sport Management. 17, 347-375.

Siegele, J., Hardin, R., Smith, A. B., & Taylor, E. A. (2020). “She is the Best Female Coach”: NCAA Division I Female Swimming Coaches’ Experiences of Sexism. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 13(1), 93-118.

Siopis, G., Colagiuri, S., & Allman-Farinelli, M. (2020). Dietitians' experiences and perspectives regarding access to and delivery of dietetic services for people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Heliyon, 6(2), e03344. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e03344

Smith, A. B., Taylor, E. A., & Hardin, R. (2017). Career entry and experiences of female graduate assistants in collegiate athletics. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 10, 234-260.

Smith, A. B., Taylor, E. A., Siegele, J.., & Hardin, R. (2019). NCAA Division I senior woman administrators’ perceptions on barriers to career mobility. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics 12, 479-504.

Smuts, J. C. (1926). Holism and evolution. Macmillan.

Staurowsky, E. J., & DiManno, J. (2002). Young women talking sports and careers: A glimpse at the next generation of women in sport media. Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 11(1), 127-161.

Strauss, A. L. (1987). Qualitative analysis for social scientists. Cambridge University Press.

Streubert, H. J., & Carpenter, D. R. (2011) Qualitative Research in Nursing: Advancing the Humanistic Imperative. Wolters Kluwer.

Taylor, E. A., & Hardin, R. (2016). Female NCAA Division I athletic directors: Experiences and challenges. Women in Sport in Physical Activity, 24, 14-25. doi: doi/10.1123/wspaj.2014-0038

Taylor, E. A., Siegele, J. L., Smith, A. B., & Hardin, R. (2018). Applying career construction theory to female NCAA Division I conference commissioners. Journal of Sport Management, 32(4), 321-333.

Thomas, D. (2000). The dietitian’s role in the treatment of eating disorders. Nutrition Bulletin, 25, 55-60. doi: 10.1046/j.1467-3010.2000.00012.x

Tiell, B., & Dixon, M. (2008). Roles and tasks of the Senior Woman Administrator (SWA) in intercollegiate athletics: A role congruity perspective. Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 2(3), 339-361.

Tjale, A. A., & Bruce J. (2007). A concept analysis of holistic nursing care in pediatric nursing. Curationis, 30(4), 45–52.

Turner, D. W. (2010). Qualitative interview design: A practical guide for novice investigators. The Qualitative Report, 15(3), 754-760. Retrieved from

Walker, N. A., & Bopp, T. (2010). The underrepresentation of women in the male-dominated sport workplace: Perspectives of female coaches. Journal of Workplace Rights, 15(1).

Walker, N., & Sartore-Baldwin, M. (2013). Hegemonic masculinity and the institutionalized bias toward women in men’s collegiate basketball: What do men think?. Journal of Sport Management, 27, 303-315.

Waller, S., Dzikus, L. & Hardin, R. (2008). Collegiate sport chaplaincy: problems and promise. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 1, 107-123.

Waller, S. N., Huffman, L. T., & Hardin, R. L. (2016). The sport chaplains’ role in the holistic care model for collegiate athletes in the United States. Practical Theology, 9, 226-241. doi: 10.1080/1756073X.2016.1221642

Warner, M. F., Miklos, K. E., Strowman, S. R., Ireland, K., & Pojednic, R. M. (2018). Improved access to and impact of registered dietitian nutritionist services associated with an integrated care modle in high-risk, minority population. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,118(10), 1951-1957.

Whisenant, W. A. (2008). Sustaining male dominance in interscholastic athletics: A case of homologous reproduction…or Not?. Sex Roles. 58, 768-775.

Wrisberg, C., Withycombe, J. L., Simpson, D., Loeberg, L.A., & Reed. A. (2012). NCAA Division I administrators’ perceptions of the benefits of sport psychology services and possible roles for a consultant. Sport Psychologist, 26(1), 16-28.

Zakrajsek, R. A., Martin, S. B., & Wrisberg, C. (2016). National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I certified athletic trainers’ perceptions of the benefits of sport psychology services. Journal of Athletic Training, 51(5)., 398-405.

Zamanzadeh, V., Jasemi, M., Valizadeh, L., Keogh, B., & Takeghani, F. (2015). Effective factors in providing holistic care: A qualitative study. Journal of Palliative Care, 21(2), 214-227. doi: 10.4103/0973-1075.156506




How to Cite

Hardin, R., Antle, L., & Beasley, L. (2021). The Career Experiences of Female Registered Dietitians in NCAA Division I Athletic Departments. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 14(2).