“When I came here to Seattle, I began working with the Seattle Reign, our national women's soccer league and the Seattle Storm, our WNBA team. And that's where it became abundantly clear that these women at the elite levels of professional sports, were not getting really any kind of high performance support, whether it be nutrition, strength training, recovery, massage, athletic training, or sports medicine. I mean it just there was just nothing for them. And I actually was a volunteer, that was the only way. In the beginning, I gave my time so that they would have the support that they required.”
Eventually Kleiner made the payroll. While she is unsure if she was the first nutritionist to take on women’s national sports teams, Kleiner knows she is at least one of the first.
“It's very gratifying and opening the door to those who come along with me and after me is super important and has also been some of the most fun. I created an internship at many of the teams that I've worked with and allowed younger professionals to get the experience and the exposure that they need to really understand where the rubber meets the road when you're working with the athletes.”
While she knows female athletes have come a long way since her career first started, Kleiner recognizes there’s still much work to be done. Whether it’s in supplement marketing or media representation, Kleiner can often be heard delivering the same message: Don’t make assumptions.
“We are physiologically different —nobody wants to deny that. In fact, that's why we need data on women to begin with. But the equity between the two is very important, that we see as much women's sports on TV and online that we see with men's sports. The argument that there isn't the audience for female sports can hardly be made when it’s not being televised. And what we know from this year is that the viewership for national women's soccer events for the Women's National Basketball Association has very high viewership — now that they're actually available to watch on channels Nationwide. Let them prove themselves, don't make assumptions that people don't want to watch female sports, that it's not as interesting, it's not as fun, it's not as exciting. That is just not true.”