For nearly 20 years, Jeremy Hoy has been training athletes as a strength and conditioning coach in the Pittsburgh area, ranging from youth teams, to junior hockey teams, to Robert Morris University teams including both Division I hockey programs, to higher-level athletes including numerous minor-league and NHL hockey players. He is an essential member of the Pittsburgh hockey scene, but one that often flies under the radar of a casual hockey fan.
His role is incredibly important in not only developing athletes to be the best they can be, but also helping with injury prevention, team building, and more. He has had a long-standing, high reputation in Pittsburgh among the athlete, and especially hockey community. Recently, it garnered some national attention.
This week, it was announced that he will be the strength and conditioning coach for the 2018 U-18 US Women’s National team. He will be traveling to Russia in January for this year’s U-18 Women’s World Championships. This honor comes as a result of years of hard work and dedication to learning about the ever-evolving sports performance world and the newest technologies and best practices. It has also come as a result of him building his network through every athlete, coach and team he has worked with.
He has a passion for helping athletes and teams perform at the highest level possible, through a combination of nutrition, team-building, mental strength, physical strength, durability, and recovery. It all stems from his upbringing.
“I’ve always been an athlete,” Hoy said. “My dad was a coach of most of my sports (teams) growing up. I grew up on a farm so a lot of it was learning that nutrition was important. We ate a lot of healthy, home-grown products. … So (my parents) brought me up in an environment understanding that a good diet and good nutrition is good for you. And then (with) my dad being a coach, I kind of fell in love with the coaching side of it. I knew I wanted to do something with sports in college.”
Hoy’s first experience working with athletes came as an athletic trainer, but he soon determined that healing injuries was not his passion. Instead, preventing injury through good physical training habits and conditioning was more intriguing.
“I’ve always enjoyed working out and pushing the human body,” he said. “I’m fascinated by it. I thought about going into medicine at one point. Physical therapy was too slow for me, and I just naturally kind of made my way into conditioning.”
After graduating with a degree in exercise science, he obtained an internship in Lake Placid, N.Y. at the USA Olympic Training Center. That was his first opportunity to work with team USA and gave him a taste of what working with some of the best athletes in the country was like. The experience opened the door to becoming a strength coach at the rink now known as RMU Island Sports Center before it was owned by the school.
He first worked with the Pittsburgh Hornets, the rink’s main team at the time. The Hornets have now progressed to become the Pittsburgh Pens Elite program. Working with these teams allowed him to build a network of not only athletes, but hockey people in general throughout the Pittsburgh area over a number of years. Once the rink was purchased by RMU, he utilized the network to eventually work with the Division I hockey programs.
While he was developing his career and creating his own business, Finish First Sports Performance in Pittsburgh, he always had Team USA in mind.
“I never lost sight of wanting to be involved with the Olympics, so I stayed involved with USA Hockey,” he shared. “I’ve been teaching more and coaching more on the men’s side doing their educational clinics at the different coaching levels, 1 through 4 in the Mid-Am District.
“That kind of led to some opportunities, and having been involved with and having some success with Coach Paul (Colontino) and that program (the RMU Women) carved my path to get involved with them (U-18 Women’s National Team).”
Hoy went on to attend a women’s summer development camp for USA Hockey, where he was able to again expand his network and connect with the numerous coaches, administrators and other staff members throughout the organization. He was invited back to Lake Placid in August as the head strength coach for the U-18 Women’s team during a tournament, after which he was invited to be a part of the team for the 2018 Women’s Worlds in Russia.
Hoy obviously jumped at the opportunity. It will be his first time going to Russia, and an opportunity to spend time with the team and train the best U-18 women’s hockey players in America. However, he got some recent news about the team’s itinerary that was especially intriguing.
Before flying to Moscow, the team will spend a few days training in Tampa Bay. That is where the USA Women’s National Team is currently training for the Olympics. That will offer him an opportunity to share knowledge, and also receive knowledge, insights and training habits from the highest-level women’s hockey players in America.
“I’m pretty excited about that,” he exclaimed. “I’m always looking for ideas and seeing if I can, for a lack of a better term, steal any trainings that I can bring back to use with our teams here. And if there’s any way I can contribute and help out, I’ve been doing this for 17, almost 18 years now, so if there’s any way I can help out their program before they head off I’m always willing to do that as well.”
With the U-18 team, Hoy will look to bring some of the expertise he has developed working with the Colonials and other teams to a group of players that will have a short time to get familiar with one another before having to play at a high-level. That could pose as a challenge, but he is well-prepared.
“I’m different than a lot of other strength coaches in that I have a lot of experience with the team-building side of it as well,” he said. “I work directly with the coaches, and they tell me the culture they are trying to create, and I shouldn’t be any different with what I am doing in the weight room. Culture is a big part of it, and the mental aspect is a big part of it in what we are trying to do every day to get the most out of the athletes.”
Hoy has been especially interested in the mental aspect of sports performance. That was enhanced with psychology classes in school, which helped him understand how the mind works for an individual on a team. There are so many different aspects that are essential in him developing a program for teams and athletes, and the mental side is one that many do not think about when it comes to strength and conditioning.
As the field has developed over the years, which has been especially enhanced by emerging technology and research, there has been even more to consider. A new trend has been the importance of recovery.
“A lot of it (the focus) now is that they are starting to catch on to the recovery and sleep and HRV-type training which is Heart Rate Variability, which really tells you how your body is handling stress,” he described.
“At the highest levels, at this level, they are all pushing themselves, all of these girls. You can only go as hard and as well as you recover. So if you’re not fully recovered and I’m in there trying to push you, then you’re over-reaching and over-training and reaching a state of fatigue where you’re not going to perform at your highest ability.”
Things like fatigue and recovery are essential aspects of training, and things that he must constantly monitor and consider with all of his athletes. As technology has evolved, and HRV training through heart rate monitors has become more popular, there is much more to consider. This all traces back to the mental aspects, and ensuring the athletes have good psyche throughout the training process, even if technology may show they are fatigued.
As the field continues to adapt to changing technology, Hoy knows that decisions relating to things like this will need to be made, and he will have to obtain more knowledge. The field of sports performance is ever-evolving, extremely competitive, and very complex. One must have a passion and a love for doing it to have a long, successful career within it. Hoy definitely exhibits those traits.
“I really enjoy the challenge of really taking a team that may not be a team in the true sense, it could be a lot of individuals, and bringing them together through some of the team-building stuff that we do,” he explained. “Then pushing them, and getting them to buy into the culture and buying into what we want to get out of them in the weight room, and then seeing it all come together to what they are doing on the field or on the ice. So I guess it’s kind of more of the growth from the individual mindset to more of a team, knowing that they have a role as an individual but are really a part of something bigger on the team.”
Through his years of work in the Pittsburgh area, he has been able to watch a number of athletes “grow up.” There are players he has trained from a young age that have advanced to juniors, then college, then the pros. There are so many athletes that he didn’t train until they reached college at RMU that have advanced to do great things both on and off the ice. Providing guidance for athletes to be successful both in sports and life in general is very exciting for him.
As he prepares for a new chapter in his career as a strength and conditioning coach, Hoy is understandably very excited. This opportunity with team USA offers him an chance to share his knowledge with another group of high-potential athletes, and help them develop on an international stage.
On top of this, it is another opportunity to further grow his network in the hockey world, which could lead to more exciting opportunities in the future. For now though, his focus is on soaking in the experience, and most importantly helping the team repeat the success they had in last year’s tournament.
“It’s a really good group of coaches, and the girls had a lot of fun, and they were very eager to learn and train (at Lake Placid),” he reflected. “We have the best of the U-18’s that we have to offer in this country. I’m really excited that we are able to take them to Russia and showcase (them) and see what they can do on the world stage. We won the championship last year, so expectations are high. Hopefully (we) deliver another gold medal at the World Championships.”