Unlike the popular myth, the University of Florida didn’t actually invent the famous sports drink Gatorade, but they are the reason behind the name. History has become twisted in a fun legend and caused most people to believe a fun story that isn’t quite the truth. This legendary company has been around since the mid 60’s and has its ties to the University of Florida, but it has its own history that actually begins with Florida State University.
Foto by Jeff Taylor (Flickr: SAM_0118) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Dr. R.A. Johnson, the Florida State University football team’s physician, created his own sports drink he titled Seminole Firewater. The drink consisted of a blend of sugar, salts, and lime flavoring and served to help keep the football players better hydrated and reduce cramping. During an annual seminar in 1964 that was attended by physicians and athletic trainers, word of his mystery drink got out. A representative of the University of Florida heard what it was and learned that it’s success was due to sodium and potassium in the drink replenishing what players lost from sweat during practices and games. He returned to Gainesville and began testing the drink on University of Florida players where it met immediate success. The drink was dubbed Gatorade after the University’s mascot, the Florida Gators. The drink was patented in 1967.
In 1969, Florida Gators coach Ray Graves noticed his opponents, Kansas City Chiefs, were suffering from some serious side effects after training in the blistering Missouri sun. He was quick to offer some advice, telling them how Gatorade was able to combat all those side effects. The team gave it a try and immediately noticed a difference. They went on to keep the sports drink on their sidelines through the entire football season and went on to win that years Super Bowl against the Minnesota Vikings. As the years went on, word spread about this popular sports drink and it to soon began taking a seat on the sidelines to more and more NFL teams. Finally, in 1983, the drink received the honor of becoming the official sports drink of the NFL.
Almost two decades after the discovery of the popular sports drink, Barrington, Illinois became the home to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. This research center studies areas of exercise, hydration, sports nutrition, advanced testing for athletes, as well as the home of Gatorade development and testing. Due to its success and constant research and development, the drink went on to become the official sports drink of the NBA, AVP, PGA, MLB, Major League Soccer, as well as other professional organizations and teams. In 2001, after it was determined that race car drivers were suffering from dehydrations, Gatorade and the GSSI began working with auto racing organizations to develop a drink that could take the 130 degree heat in the cars on the course. The end result was GIDS, Gatorade In-car Drinking System, which is now a mandatory part of racing equipment.
As for the future, Gatorade and GSSI will continue studying and researching ways to help athletes improve their performances while achieving proper hydration and nutrition. Weather it’s new flavors, new drinks, or the sharing of scientific research, the company continues to work hard to further their mission to allow athletes to always preform at their best.