In this installment of the Next Woman Up series, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Mindy Black discusses growing the organization’s nutrition department, the importance of educating rookie classes from the jump and more.
Women are rising up the ranks throughout professional football, earning positions of power in a space that for too long was ruled almost exclusively by men. We’re seeing more and more women breaking barriers in the sport, but what are the stories beyond the headlines? Who are the women shaping and influencing the NFL today? Answering those questions is the aim of the Next Woman Up series. While the conversational Q&As are edited and condensed for clarity, this is a forum for impactful women to share experiences in their own words. Without further ado, we introduce:
Position: Director of Performance Nutrition
How did you get your start in a career in the NFL?
I started my career in sports nutrition about 20 years ago. I graduated with a nutrition degree and went straight into hospital work. Within six months, I realized that wasn’t for me and that I wanted to work with healthy people. The University of Florida had an internship in its sports nutrition department. It was a lot of hours and not nearly enough money, but it was a foot in the door, so I applied. I got the job, and within six months, they hired me full time. For the first five years of my career, I was at the university level.
I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and knew I wanted to have my own private practice. I opened it and was working with anyone from high school athletes to Olympic athletes, PGA tour guys — anyone who was working independently. Then Tom Myslinski, then the Jaguars’ head strength and conditioning coach, contacted me and said they had been looking for a nutritionist and that my name kept popping up. He asked, “Would you mind coming in to chat with me?”
I went to the facility thinking it was going to be a 30-minute chat, and five hours later, I had talked to him, the general manager, head coach — pretty much everyone in the building — and I had a job. I came in once a week to do consulting. Within two years, I was hired full time. So since starting in April 2014, I went from being a consultant to having an entire department with an assistant, and we’re growing each year a little bit more. It’s been great.
When you first signed on full time with the Jaguars, what did your role look like?