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From Plant-Based Diet To Game Day Routine, Here’s What Makes Yoeli Childs Great

BYU’s Yoeli Childs at BYU's basketball practice facility in Provo on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU’s star forward Yoeli Childs has had anything but a smooth senior year. From an egregious suspension handed down by the NCAA, cramps, to a gruesome finger injury, there has been a lot of hurdles that Childs has had to overcome in his final season with the Cougars. His ability to overcome those obstacles has been because of his routines away from games that help him be great.

Yoeli Childs’ Diet: Plant-Based

Two years ago, Childs became a vegan and it coincided with his rise as one of college basketball’s best big men. He’s made some tweaks to his diet, but he makes sure he is eating as healthy as possible.

“I’m not a vegan still but I try to eat a very plant-based diet,” Childs said to KSL Sports. “Me and my wife (Megan Childs) we do a lot of meatless stuff and just try to be really plant-based. You can be vegan and eat Oreos and stuff, so we try to eat really healthy and have most of our food coming from fruits and vegetables.”

The perspective Childs gained in regards to his diet comes from his first season at BYU and he knew he had to make improvements if he wanted to be a great player that he is today.

“When you come in as a freshman, you don’t realize the toll the season is going to take on you. It’s a lot more physical,” Childs said. “High school is not a super physical game and you get here as an 18-year-old and you’re playing with the big boys. [During] my freshman year towards the end of the season, my body was hurting and I wasn’t expecting it. So I realized the importance from some of my older guys — Kyle Davis, LJ (Rose), Jamal (Aytes), Eric (Mika), all those dudes just really taught me the importance of getting treatment after every practice.”

Getting Yoeli’s mind right

“I’ve met a lot with our sports psychologist, Dr. Craig Manning, he’s unbelievable,” Childs said. “He’s worked with the Warriors, the Bucks, the Cavs, and Olympians all over the world. That’s where I get a lot of my mental training. In terms of understanding the concepts of controlling the controllable and really going out there and worrying about what I can control. Not worrying about the refs or if shots go in or not, things like that. That’s been really huge for me.

“Also, just focusing on your teammates. Like in life, when you practice service and you go out of your way to help other people your life gets better. It’s the same thing in basketball. You go out of your way, you try to help your teammates you stop worrying about yourself.”

The impact Childs has had on his teammates has not gone unnoticed, especially from fellow senior Jake Toolson who transferred to BYU after a season where he was WAC Player of the Year at Utah Valley University.

“I’ve been telling everyone that I think this has been the funnest [sic] year of basketball I’ve ever played,” Toolson said. “Our team is so unselfish and we really care about each other and we really love each other. Then we all feel this is our time to sacrifice for one another and do everything we can to win. And by ‘Yo’ [Yoeli] coming back giving up all the things he had on the table, he set the bar for what this team is about. It’s about your brothers, your teammates, sacrificing, and doing everything we can to really give it our all we have so we have no regrets.

“Besides all the things he does on the court, he’s a great teammate and he’s somebody that makes the people around him better.”

Game Day Routine

Every athlete has their routines they go through to make sure they are at their best during a game day. Some might consist of a specific food to eat, clothes they wear, or what music they listen to. Childs doesn’t have anything out of the ordinary, but it’s working as he’s averaging 21.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game and is now one of the top 10 candidates for the Karl Malone Award which is given to College Basketball’s best Power Forward.

“After shootaround, I do an extra 30-minute workout. Just getting my touch in and getting a bunch of three-pointers up and working on my free throws doing that type of stuff. Then I come up to the training room, I usually contrast bath, use our boots that kind of just push some of the swellings out of your legs. Then I get down and do another 30-minute workout before our shootaround just to make sure my touch is right and that all the spots where I’m going to get the ball feel good.”

Mark Pope on Childs’ growth as a basketball player

BYU head coach Mark Pope who’s in his first year with the Cougars knew he had a star on his hands when Childs announced back in May that he would be returning to BYU for his senior season. But now he’s seeing Childs grow in areas that go beyond just games.

“I couldn’t be more impressed with him right now. He’s grown a lot in that area [work ethic],” said Pope. “He’s grown in a lot in his understanding of the impact that he can have on a team in a locker room and on the bench and in practice.

“My guess is that he’s always had a really, really prominent voice. But maybe he hasn’t understood the really deep impact that his voice has on other guys and I think he’s got a way better sense of that. The fact that he shows up to practice is really important. And then all of the non-stat areas that are showing up right now. As we were struggling in the last 15 minutes at San Francisco, one of the highlights was Yoeli Childs in transition defense was unbelievable. Like he was making an incredible effort, full runs, great wall, great communication, that’s an area where he’s really grown.

We count on him to be a defensive stopper for several different positions and he’s been able to do that. I think his passing has grown and all those kinds of things have taken a big jump.”

(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

What impact will these routines have on Yoeli potentially becoming an NBA player?

One of the big reasons Childs turned down pro opportunities with six-figure salaries overseas was to have a shot at becoming an NBA player. Both Mark Pope and Chris Burgess, Childs’ frontcourt coaches have a history in the NBA and made a compelling case for him to come back to BYU and improve. Even though the NBA is a goal of his, he’s not getting distracted from the task at hand with his team.

“I think I just try to take every day serious and every drill serious. I really focus on controlling what I can control and getting better. I can’t really decide what teams are going to like me or how my career is going to pan out. But I can control getting better every day and year to year just improving and I’m just going to continue doing that,” said Childs.

Goals in his final year at BYU

Mark Pope has given some cryptic comments in the past week or so about what BYU is capable of accomplishing as a team and the goals that they have, which according to Pope can be “scary” at times. Childs isn’t shying away from those goals and believes his work ethic and the rest of the program is helping them get closer to those goals.

“Our goal number one, as corny as it is, is to get better every day,” said Childs. “We let everything else take a back burner to that. Our priority is getting better today in practice, getting better in this individual drill in practice, getting better in the weight room and taking care of those things.

“Our biggest goal is probably whatever you think we can do this year, we’re thinking a little bit bigger. That’s all I’ll say about that.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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