Women are rising through the ranks of professional football, gaining powerful positions in a sport which was for a long time mostly dominated by males. There are more and increasing numbers of women breaking the boundaries in the game however, what stories are there that go that aren’t being covered in the media? What are the women who are shaping and shaping the NFL currently? To answer these questions is the goal for The Next Woman Up series. In addition, the informal Q&As will be edited down and condensed to make them more clear This is a platform for women who have made an impact to share their stories in their own words. Without further delay we present:

Mindy Black, Jacksonville Jaguars

Position director of Performance Nutrition

What was the way you begin your journey in a profession within the NFL?

I began my career in the field of sports nutrition around two decades ago. I completed my nutrition degree and was immediately put into working in hospitals. After a period of six months, i decided that this wasn’t my path and I was determined to work with people who were healthy. I was fortunate that the University of Florida had an internship program in the Department of Sports Nutrition. It was a long number of work and not enough funds however it did give me an opportunity to get a foot in the door which is why I applied. I was offered the job and in just six months, I was hired full-time. In the beginning 5 years of my professional career I was working in the University level.

I am from an extensive family of entrepreneurs and I knew that I would like to own an own practice of my own. I started it and worked with everyone from high school students as well as Olympic players, PGA tour guys -anyone working in a separate manner. I was approached by Tom Myslinski, then the Jaguars chief strength and conditioning coach called me to say they were in search of the services of a nutritionist. My name kept appearing in the search results. He askedme “Would you be willing to come in to talk about my work?”

The first time I visited the place expecting it to be a 30-minute discussion but 5 hours after, I’d spoken to him as well as the general manager, director of coaching — in fact, every person in the buildingand I got an appointment. I came in once a week to do consulting. After two years, was hired full-time. Since April 2014, I’ve moved as a consultant having a whole department that includes an assistant and we’re growing every year, just a little. It’s been wonderful.

At the time that you started playing full-time with the Jaguars what was your job responsibilities take on?

Let’s imagine you have 100 people approximately 30 are extremely interested in eating right and 30 are at the middle that require a hint of direction but are the basics covered and the last third are genetically crazy people who have been eating chicken wings and burgers for throughout their lives and don’t believe in the benefits of changing. You pick your battles. When I started out I knew how to approach my job since I had worked with 500 athletes one time on the University of Florida. Instead of creating meals plans for each athlete, we would seek out the red flag players — those who have cramps or straining their hamstrings or experiencing injuries — and consult with the trainers and strength staffs and I would try to seek the guys out, gain their trust and aid them find a solution for their nutrition.

In the other time, I’d assist cook in the kitchen with meals that can be beneficial the players. Instead of eating chili cheese dog before practice, I would suggest finding more healthy options. Also, on day of games, there’s lots of players with digestive problems. While many aren’t willing to admit to having nerves, many players will suffer from GI which makes them angry that they believe it’s due to the food they had eaten the prior night. There is a great deal of teaching and helping determine what will help in the event that they are aware of this occurring every day.

You mentioned expanding your department. What’s your day-to-day schedule now that you’ve added support?

The third part of my day is spent with the coaching team as well as trainers and strength coaches along with a lots of administrative tasks now. Another aspect is staying in the kitchen during meal times and observing where the players are. If I am at breakfast and notice someone eating two bacon pieces I’ll talk to him to observe what’s happening. Then , the final step is going out to play and researching the latest hydration and nutrition products, or conducting tests.

What kind of changes are there, if any, that occur when a new coach is hired?

The first month of the year is figuring out where the new team is with regards to nutrition expertise. In the beginning, many coaches have had the opportunity to work with dieticians however there are people who think that we create lots of smoothies. It is then a matter of determining what they’re comfortable with. There are coaches who are open to all healthy alternatives and some who are more traditional who claim, “Well, we used to have fried chicken for dinner.” It is important to choose your losses and wins and figure out the best option for you.

I can imagine how it could be difficult at times. Do you have a specific time of the year that you are at your busiest?

There are two crucial seasons in which I try to help players learn. In the case of the rookie class I make sure to be prepared of the moment they arrive following the draft, as the entire process of joining the NFL is completely new to the players. If you are able to earn their trust in the beginning and then, nutrition will become an integral aspect of the process. In the beginning and throughout the season I will not just talk to them, but we also organize a cooking contest and supermarket tour so that they can get real-world tips to succeed when it comes to diet. The importance of building relationships with your children is because they’re used it through the seasons.

The other time that I’m the busiest is when the season is over this is not what you’d expect. The pace is higher because the players go home for training, so they’re working to achieve their goals. Are they leaning out or growing muscles? Do I have to find an experienced chef? A meal-prep company? I assist them with anything they need in those few months to ensure they return back prepared to play.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect of your job?

In the beginning, before each team had a dietician on its team, it was all about training not only players, but also coaches and GMs as well about everything we did. Nowadays, we’re all everywhere and are involved in a myriad of things. As an perfectionist, I want to create the most effective nutrition program available in the nation. Therefore, it’s a difficult task to keep the perfect balance and do what’s right at the time. If the plane delays for four hours, the only alternative for feeding 150 passengers within one hour is chicken wings. It’s not always the best choice however at certain points the calorie will be one. Sometimes, I must figure out the best option for me and not think too much.

Are you a student? Do you know mentors that have helped you along your way?

I’ve had a variety of teachers throughout my life However, the ones who have had the most influence on me have been my parents. I’ve never been told that there are certain roles that are only available to certain genders. I was taught that I could do anything I’d like to do however whatever I decide to pursue, I should be doing it to the very highest of my abilities. When you’re taking the trash out or working on an assignment for school, you must be 100% committed to the task because your name is associated with the project. Particularly in this kind of job your only chance to get up the ladder is to give your all and perform better than everyone else.

There have been people in my career who were away from the football world It’s been beneficial to look at their perspectives. When you’re working in football it’s like a bubble, and you don’t realize that there’s a whole world to explore.

Have you got any tips for women looking to make a career out of the NFL?

If you are in love do it, however, you must be a tough shell and be ready to work hard. It’s lengthy hours, and you could be a bit overwhelmed if you suffer from FOMO since you’ll be missing birthday celebrations, holidays, and other things. It’s worth it if enjoy the work.

What’s the next step in your life?

I’m extremely happy where I am at the moment, frankly. I am a huge fan of the Jaguars. We’ve been fortunate to have a variety of women participate in our program. If in 10 years’ time I could observe women in different positions in the league who have been through the Jaguars I believe it would be a great reward for me.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

This is my program and I’m very satisfied with the way it has grown from being a mere department. This department not only assists players, but the other departments of our club, too.

The next woman up: Mindy Black, director of Performance Nutrition for the Jacksonville Jaguars