EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part story chronicling the journey of Robert Morris strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Hoy’s trip to Russia with the United States under-18 Women’s National Team at the 2018 World Championships
A few weeks ago, Robert Morris hockey strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Hoy shared his journey to Robert Morris and then eventually to becoming the strength and conditioning coach of the USA under-18 Women’s National Team. At that point, he was preparing for a trip to Russia for the 2018 U-18 Women’s World Championships.
Now, Hoy is back in Pittsburgh after a memorable trip that ended with the team winning its fourth consecutive gold medal at that level. The team spent about three weeks together, starting with a training camp in Tampa Bay with the U.S. Senior Women’s National Team, and eventually bonded to become a family, playing better each game en route to the gold.
The time in Tampa was well-spent, as the girls, aged 15-17, got to interact with the best women’s hockey players in the country. The coaches and staff members from both teams got to interact and learn from each other as well during that time. It was an action-packed, but very important time as the team prepared for the tournament.
“We were there for five days for a mini training camp,” Hoy explained. “We were on the ice two times a day, up early, breakfast, very structured routine. A lot of team building stuff. I would warm the team up and then I was helping out with nutrition, the dietitian couldn’t make it based of her schedule so I was making sure they had their chocolate milk, recovery stuff, protein bars everything they need. At the same time we were packing for Russia, so that was pretty hectic.”
On January 2, the team left for the trip to Russia. They first flew to New York, then to Moscow and then took a bus up to Dmitrov where the tournament was played. The players and staff all then had to adjust to the time change, but still skated on the day they arrived as they prepared for the group play.
Over the next few days, Hoy and the rest of the staff had to manage the players’ rest and recovery. It could have been difficult given the fact that the players were so young and the staff was not familiar with their habits, but they all worked together to overcome it.
“At RMU, we are getting older girls that are used to telling us and being honest with themselves,” he said. “Their feedback is a little different. We are teaching these girls that are 15 to 17 what doesn’t feel right. Sometimes they are coming to you with stuff that is just normal, anytime you play a game that’s going to happen. We’ll check it out, we’ll investigate it, but it is getting a feel for really being in tune with them as a team.”
Hoy credits the team’s coaches for being especially flexible and understanding about the girls’ rest and recovery needs. The coaches noticed a difficulty adjusting to the time change, and knew the girls were likely having an even tougher time. At one point, they let the team sleep in and have an extra stretching and meditation session instead of an on-ice practice, to really allow for that recovery.
In the meantime, Hoy and the other support staff were in constant communication with the girls. They also watched their habits in warmups, practice and games, and monitored their flexibility and fitness levels throughout the tournament. This overall team effort from coaches, staff and players allowed for optimal performance and undoubtedly contributed to the teams’ longevity and high performance throughout the tournament.
The team began the tournament by sweeping the group play by defeating Sweden, Russia and Canada. The game against Russia was especially memorable due to the incredible crowd that they played in front of.
“Russia packed it in, I think seating capacity was like 2,500,” he remarked. “I think every game that they played they sold out. The girls loved that. Obviously playing in front of a crowd like that at any age for those girls is incredible, so they really enjoyed that and fed off that.”
After going 3-0 in the group play, they had a day off so they went to tour Moscow. Moscow is about an hour and a half from Dmitrov by bus. This allowed them to spend time with family, relax and just enjoy the experience for a bit. As it was his first time in Russia, Hoy was happy to be able to embrace the culture and see what the big tourist city in Russia had to offer.
“Russia is obviously a lot different than here,” he shared. “We went to Moscow for a day and you could see some American influence in some of the areas. Obviously it is a much older city and country period, so I think there was a lot of neat architecture and that kind of stuff.”
The cultural differences were evident throughout the trip, but a major one that stood out was the food. A trip to the grocery store highlighted some of the major differences, like the abundance of fish and absence of turkey. One of the most eye-opening differences, especially to the girls on the team, came during a team lunch.
“There was a lunch the one day where there was pasta and there was a sauce aside it that looked like it had chicken or something in it,” he shared. “We kept asking the chef, ‘What is it?’ and they do a lot of fish over there, so we kind of assumed it was going to be fish and then he said ‘Oh that’s chicken heart.’
“The girls were all standing there like ‘What, those are chicken hearts?’ and obviously there is always one that had to try it, and she ate it and she liked it. I’ve had them before, and it really doesn’t taste that much different so it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was kind of funny seeing some of that stuff.”