Today’s post features a special guest interview with Matt Sees.

For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure, Matt has been a coach at Endeavor with me for the last couple of years. He’s been a valued member of our staff, and having played football and competed in Olympic lifting, also brings a different perspective to the training process.

I was excited to hear Matt was open to doing this interview not only because he’s a bright guy, but because I’ve watched him transition from a college football player following self-written strength programs to following those more consistent with our training philosophy and his transformation has been remarkable.

KN: Matt, thanks again for making yourself available for this. Can you give everyone a quick glimpse of your background, as an athlete and a coach?

Kevin, it’s a pleasure to do this interview. I competed in football, wrestling, and track in high school, but football was my main focus. After having success as a freshman, I earned a starting spot on the varsity team as an offensive guard and defensive tackle.

My mentor/coach at the time, Michael Belh, used to open up the weight room in-season for us twice a week calling it “The Breakfast Club.” Even though it was only my close friend Josh Weiss and I at the time, I can firmly say that those mornings molded me into who I am today. We went in, played loud music, and threw around weights. This paid off a lot for my junior and senior year, as my development in the gym helped me earn several awards for the success I had on the field.

Despite having a successful high school career, I was a defensive tackle at 5’11” and 225 lb, which isn’t very attractive to big time college programs. After a one year hiatus, I went on and played Division III football at Rowan University. I had a successful career there starting 3 years and playing with some very good players on a talented defense. While I was there, I continued to train consistently, and my weight progressed to 260lbs during my Freshman year, then 275, 280, and 290 for my Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years, respectively.

I got my first taste of coaching during high school. I volunteered to coach the “unlimited” weight class football team during my senior year. The next year I was a coach for Glassboro High School and helped with the Offense and Defensive Lines. I continued to stay involved with coaching throughout college, helping with numerous football camps during the off-season. Finally, my last coaching position before joining the Endeavor team was as an assistant wrestling coach at Lindenwold High School.

In terms of strength and conditioning, I had an interesting path to get to Endeavor. Like many former athletes, I just finished college and I was unhappy with my current training situation. Doing the Olympic lifts in a commercial gym with iron weights is slightly frowned upon.

Karl Kurtz, a former Endeavor employee, happened to overhear me talking about this and told me a little about Endeavor, notably that they play loud music and won’t throw me out for slamming weights on the ground, which was nice.

As I spent time with you and the rest of the staff, I noticed that your training philosophy was far more intelligent than what I was exposed to in the past. After constantly picking your brains with questions, I decided that it would be a great idea to submit an application to intern there. After a summer of being an intern, I was hired that fall and the rest is history!

KN: I think all of your time coaching football and wrestling made it an easy transition to get into coaching in our setting. At your “prime” in college, you were built much differently than you are now. What changes did you make in your diet to cut so much weight?

My peak weight in college was 290 lbs. Honestly, all I had to get down to a reasonable weight (e.g. 240 2 months after my last season ended ) was start eating like a normal person. After high school I met a guy name Wally who was an old school trainer who wanted to help me out. He pretty much taught me how much I needed to eat to gain the weight I wanted and it was A LOT! We are talking between 8,000-10,000 calories a day.

As an example, a typical meal that I’d eat ~5 times/day was 6 whole eggs, two giant bowls of oatmeal, 3 bagels with peanut butter, and 32oz of whole milk. I pretty much followed this strategy anytime I needed to put weight on throughout college, and ultimately it helped me transition from a 155 lb high school Freshman to a 290 lb college Senior. This is why I laugh when I hear high school kids now tell me they eat a lot and still can’t put on weight. You eat a lot? REALLY?!

Matt Sees Rowan Football

Matt, in the middle, before a college football game. Also pictured, Matt’s belly.

I dropped from 290 to 240 just by NOT doing all of the above and still lifting regularly. During my internship, one of our clients at the time introduced me to Intermittent Fasting, which, without going into too much detail, is basically fasting for ~12-20 hours every day. By following this strategy, I dropped another 20lbs pretty quickly. Finally, last spring I decided I wanted to compete in Olympic Weightlifting in the 94kg (206.8 lbs), so I did the V-Diet. The V-Diet consists of just drinking protein shakes with some supporting supplements and intermittent cheat meals for 30 days. In that time span, I dropped from 222 to 201.5.

Sees Chicken Fight-Before   Sees Chicken Fight-After

Incredibly, I was able to track down two chicken fight pictures also illustrating progress in Matt’s transformation

Several months later, I am currently floating around 210 so the cut to 94 kg will not be too difficult for my next competition. Aggressive diets work for me. I think most people struggle because as soon as they finish the diet they overcompensate by binging on all the foods they craved during the diet. I’ve been able to keep the ~80lbs I dropped off because I eat pretty clean regularly and continue to train regularly.

Right now, a typical day of eating looks like:

Morning: A homemade raw milk keifer smoothie consisting of kale, spinach, blueberries, strawberries, and flax seed.

Post workout/Snacks: Usually a banana with a protein shake mixed with raw milk. I usually have another protein shake mixed with raw milk at some point throughout the day and some almond butter for a snack.

Lunch: I will either make myself between 8-10 eggs (local farm) mixed with spinach and cheese or go get a Chipotle burrito.

Dinner: I’ll have a significant portion of beef, chicken, or pork with some type of vegetables.

Right Before Bed: A homemade raw milk keifer smoothie consisting of kale, spinach, blueberries, strawberries, and flax seed.

KN: So the key to dropping 50 lbs is to stop eating what amounts to a normal “American” breakfast for a Family of 6, at each meal. Noted.

One of the things that is most impressive about your transformation is your ability to continue setting PRs in the gym, despite being so much lighter. Tell us what a typical training session looked like for you in college and then what it looks like for you now?

In college, I was always a fan of the O-lifts, squats, overhead presses, deadlifts, and RFE split squats. My training wasn’t very structured during my early years especially compared to now. I can attribute a lot of my gains back then to increase in overall body size. Now competing in a sport where my weight stays relatively constant is completely different. Most of my training now is focused on training the neurological system to get strong rather than to gain size. My programs will usually run between 8-10 weeks then I will retest and evaluate my weaknesses to be addressed in my next program.

My college personal records (PRs) are 585 back squat, 455 bench press, 315 push press, 625 deadlift, 325 clean, 425 front squat.

Recently, at my lighter body weight, my PRs so far are 495 back squat, 425 bench press, 285 push press, 535 deadlift, 425×3 Reverse Lunge, 325 clean and jerk, 275 snatch, and a 405 front squat. I am planning on crushing most of them very soon so I will keep you posted!

405 Reverse Lunge x 2/side. That’s okay.
KN: It’s impressive that your Olympic lifts are at your personal bests, despite being less than ¾ the human being you used to be. Can you expand on what programming strategies you’re using at this point to continue pushing your development?

As I continue to push my own education, I am guilty of trying a lot of new things but, my normal training schedule is between 5-6 days a week consisting of the O-lifts, squats, pulling, and overhead pressing. I vary the intensities to help with recovery and add variation to stimulate adaptation. Right now I’m merging Olympic lifting with ideas taken from Cal Dietz’s “Triphasic Training” into my program and am pretty excited about the results I’ve been seeing.

I know I’m not the only one who came up with this “bright” idea, but I think a lot of people are headed in the wrong direction on how to use these methods, as it seems like most people completely overlook recovery. I’m working on a 5-day schedule where there’s a moderate intensity, high intensity, and volume-driven day, with2 recovery days in between. My goal is to compete at the USA Weightlifting National Championships next year, and I am well on the way!

KN: The progress you’ve made integrating Triphasic concepts into an O-lift dominant program has been fun to watch, and I couldn’t agree more with the necessity to focus on recovery as you push the intensity of your program. Are you doing anything specific to ensure that you stay healthy throughout this process?

The major differences in what I did in the past and what I do now is my pre/post-lift and accessory work. These are determined through the assessment process we use at Endeavor to help with any structural asymmetries or issues that show up in the screening process. These continue to be absolutely CRUCIAL for keeping me healthy and training at high intensities on a consistent basis.

Despite being strong, I always had nagging injuries from training in my earlier years. Since implementing a lot of the corrective strategies, I’ve basically been pain free, as I’m able to quickly address issues as they come up. Specifically, I normally start my training with some soft tissue work, a few PRI-based breathing exercises, mobility exercises, and finally very light bar work. This usually ends up taking between 10-15 minutes. Following my lift, I’ll spend about 5 minutes doing some stretches to keep my hips loose and finish with a PRI exercise focusing on diaphragmatic breathing in certain positions to achieve a parasympathetic state of the ANS and bring my body back to a more neutral position.

All of these things are extremely helpful, but I also think my diet and sleep habits help keep me healthy. I already dove into my diet, but from a sleep perspective, I try to get between 9-10 hours of sleep a night. This drives my girlfriend crazy because I am very adamant about my bedtime which is usually between 9pm and 10pm, and as soon as she can lift more than me, I’ll start taking her suggestions into consideration. I try to keep my room as dark and cool as possible, and have recently starting sleeping on an “Earthing” sheet, which has really helped with my sleep quality and overall recovery.

Matt Sees Gorilla Singlet

She may question his sleep habits, but NO ONE can question his style.

Overall, I think the transition from an athlete to a coach has given me more information to help improve not only my training, but also my quality of life in general. I have the great fortune of being the dumbest person in the room everyday coming to work with you and Jorts (Matt Siniscalchi). I am constantly in a quality learning environment and couldn’t thank you two enough. This has made my growth as a coach a lot easier than it probably should be!

KN: Thanks Matt! There’s a lot of good stuff in here that I think a lot of lifters can benefit from. We look forward to having you back on sometime soon!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Speed is one of the most coveted qualities in every sport, but especially hockey. As a result, it’s the most common training goal I hear from athletes, parents, and coaches, both at Endeavor and when I get questions through email.

A couple weeks ago I had a dad drive his 13 year old son down to Endeavor for an assessment. It was great working with the kid because, despite being so young, he was really interested in improving and dialed into the importance of not just training, but training properly.

Endeavor Banner

The main reason they decided to make the trip is because the player was a step slow for the level he was at. Again, this is something I hear A LOT, so I think providing some of the more common limitations to speed in these situations is helpful.

After going through our assessment process, we discovered:

  1. He was a giant for his age (around 5’6″ and 157)
  2. He had a 1/2″ of ankle dorsiflexion on his left side, -1/2″ on his right
  3. His single-leg stability was poor, not allowing him to perform a 1-leg SLDL (unloaded) or split squat with proper alignment
  4.   He did one chin-up, but couldn’t do one push-up with proper torso control (e.g. not letting the lower back overarch and hips sag on the way up)

In summary, we have a player that was far above average in terms of his size, had exceptionally limited ankle dorsiflexion, poor single-leg stability, and generally wasn’t strong.

Growth Spurts Compromise Coordination

To break things down a little more, it’s extremely common for kids that go through growth spurts to have coordination issues. It’d be like you standing on stilts and trying to go through your normal daily behavior. It takes the nervous system some time to repattern around new levers and a higher center of support.

Hockey Development-Physiological Factors

There is considerable variation at the timing of the development of different systems in the body

Ankle Mobility Matters

The standard for ankle dorsiflexion range of motion in the test we use is 4″ bilaterally. He had 1/2″ on one side and negative motion on the other.

Not having ankle mobility is a big deal.

It will prevent him from being able to get into a good acceleration position as he won’t be able to position his knees appropriately in front of his foot to get a strong push back. It will also cause his foot to collapse in anytime he tries to get into these positions that he doesn’t have the range for.

Optimal Skating Stance

Despite being in a skate boot, the ankle needs to move well to get into good skating positions.

When the foot collapses in, the knee tends to collapse in with it. This not only leads to compromised stability on the stance leg while skating, but it also causes players to ride their inside edge more, effectively increasing the friction between their skate blade and the ice, slowing them down a little on each stride.

Lastly, ankle dorsiflexion is tied to hip extension so limitations in ankle mobility are likely to be mirrored by limitations in hip mobility. An easy way to understand this concept is to think of your ankle and hip position as you’re walking. When you transfer your weight over your foot, your ankle needs to go through dorsiflexion (shin transfers forward over your foot) as your hip extends. A lack of dorsiflexion will cause your heel to peel up early, which prevents the hip from going through extension. Given how important hip range of motion is to the skating stride, it’s essential that we don’t neglect some of these secondary drivers of hip mobility limitations.

Strength Is the Foundation For Speed

It’s extremely rare that I see athletes that have above average strength and reasonable body composition and are still slow. There’s a reason for this. Movement is driven by ground reaction forces.  In this case, the force a player is above to drive through the ice is what propels them forward. If you can’t produce a lot of force, you can’t produce it quickly…meaning you can’t be fast.

Limitations to Improved Speed

Anytime someone comes to train with me, I try to think of their training goal in terms of what is limiting them from achieving that goal, and then what do I have the best ability to influence. For example, a player that comes to me with the same goal, but is mobile, stable, powerful, and strong may be best served by seeking out a skating coach. A player that has all the tools, but suffers from consistency issues may need help outside of training or on-ice settings (e.g. with diet or sleep behaviors).

In this case, the player has very notable (and common) limitations in areas that will directly impair his speed. If he can clean up his ankle mobility, get on a quality full body strength training program, and work on his single-leg stabilization strategies, he’ll be able to get into better skating positions on the ice, apply more force into the ice with each stride, and maintain a more stable stance leg to decrease the friction with the ice and get more out of each push from the stride leg.

Understandably, most players think they need to do more sprints if they want to get faster. This strategy works, but only to a small extent. In this case, the player would basically be maxing out his speed potential with limited ankle mobility, compromised single-leg stability, and poor force producing ability. In contrast, if he addresses these limitations first, he’ll not only be faster, he’ll have more room for improvement moving forward.

Wrap Up

Wrapped in all of this discussion is an underlying message to parents of youth players that you need to be patient. Puberty is a wild ride, and having worked with players at a variety of ages across many years, I can say, confidently, that the kids that excel early aren’t always the ones that are still ahead of the pack a few years later. Be patient and continue to emphasize good practice/training habits and having fun!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you’re interested in off-ice speed training exercises for hockey players, check out Breakaway Hockey Speed, which now comes with a full downloadable exercise database!

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“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team

“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University

Today’s Thursday Throwback is an appropriate follow-up to last week’s post on the relationship between flexibility and muscle injury risk. If you missed that, you can check it out here: Does Flexibility INCREASE your risk of injury?

This is another short, but important read, as it touches on an idea that I think every youth athlete I’ve ever worked with has been taught incorrectly. Enjoy the post, and please pass it along to any friends or family you think would benefit from reading it!

Should You Stretch After You Pull A Muscle?

Think about the times in your life that you’ve “tweaked” a muscle or slightly strained/pulled it.

What was the FIRST thing you did on your own or were told to do?

If you’re like most people, you immediately stretched the muscle.


This isn’t always the answer

The very first thing I tell my athletes if they tweak a muscle is NOT to stretch it!

A muscle strain can range from a slight over-stretch to a complete tear. Assuming the muscle isn’t COMPLETELY torn, it’s likely that there is some micro-damage to the muscle and that the muscle feels tight because it’s guarding against further injury.

This means that most people are attempting to stretch an over-stretched muscle AGAINST the muscles’ contraction.

Not only is this not an effective way to speed up your healing, but it’s probably making your injury worse!

Think about your muscle as a rubber band. Now imagine cutting a small slit in the rubber band with a razorblade.

If you stretch that rubber band now, what’s going to happen?

The small slit is going to expand, getting longer and wider.

Does making a slight tear in your muscle longer and wider seem like a smart recovery strategy?

If you tweak a muscle, DO NOT stretch it. You can ice it if you want (although I’m not convinced that ice does anything either). If you’re going to stretch anything, stretch the muscles that OPPOSE the injured muscle.

Many muscles are overworked or strained because of a relative stiffness imbalance with their antagonists, so stretching the opposing muscle can help bring you back into balance.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Ultimate Hockey Transformation Nutrition Guide-Small

Today I’m excited to feature the first of what will be an ongoing series of sports nutrition tips from Brian St. Pierre.

Brian currently works for the world-renowned  Precision Nutrition team, and has consulted with a wide range of professional and amateur athletes.

In addition to his work with Precision Nutrition, Brian authored Ultimate Hockey Nutrition and the Ultimate Hockey Transformation Nutrition Manual, the two best nutrition resources for hockey players, parents, and coaches available today.

In short, Brian knows his stuff and we’re very fortunate to have him as a guest contributor!

Enjoy his first tip below.

Tip #1: Be Prepared for Change

Your mindset at the beginning of a lifestyle change might just be your most powerful asset. How you view this process will ultimately shape the success you have, and joy you get out of growing and changing.

It is all about viewing this as a process. You will not immediately become a nutrition superstar. Just like you don’t immediately become a running, accounting, or engineering superstar. It truly is a process.

This process is not about:

  1. a quick fix;
  2. finding the “secret”; or
  3. “perfecting” your nutrition.

To truly change, you need to be open and prepared to change. To embrace it, no matter how difficult or easy it might seem.

Many of us suffer from the “I know, I know” syndrome? We hear advice that we have heard many times before, and we nod our heads along. But do we really follow this advice consistently?

Being consistent and persistent are the keys to success. No perfection necessary, just progress. Shooting for perfection, or expecting perfection from yourself, is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. It is neither necessary nor helpful.

In fact, expecting perfection leads to an “all or none” mindset. Eating something you aren’t supposed to, or not having time for your 60 minute training session is okay. It’s when these bumps in the road are viewed as “failures” and we let all hell break loose that we get into trouble.

So what if you can’t train for 60 minutes? Train for the 20 or 30 minutes you do have. So you ate a few pieces of candy? It is not a dietary disaster. Simply acknowledge it, move on, and make your next meal solid.

The point is, change is hard. And we often either don’t follow through consistently, or we beat ourselves up for any perceived failures.

Neither approach is going to get us where we want to go. So just don’t do it. Remember that this is a process. It takes time. But it can absolutely be done.

They key is to focus on progress. That slow and steady march toward your goals. Do that, and you will be there before you know it.

-Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, CSCS, CISSN, PN1

Brian is a Registered Dietitian and received his Bachelor’s in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Maine, where he also received his Master’s in Food Science and Human Nutrition. He is a Certified Sports Nutritionist as well as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

Brian worked for three years at Cressey Performance as the head Sports Nutritionist and as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, working with hundreds of athletes and recreational exercisers of all types. During this time, he also authored the High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide, Show and Go Nutrition Guide, Ultimate Hockey Nutrition and dozens of articles for publication.

Nowadays, he works closely with Dr. John Berardi as a full-time coach and a nutrition educator at Precision Nutrition. In particular, working closely with our elite athletes and fitness professionals. As part of the Precision Nutrition mission, he helps to deliver life-changing, research-driven nutrition coaching for everyone.

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“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team

“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University

One of the great parts of my job is I’ve now had an opportunity to work with the same players during the off-season for years. A few years ago, I started doing more “performance” testing as part of our intake, as well as the end of the Summer.

This not only allows me to better quantify/monitor off-season progress, but it also provides some useful information on how well the players are maintaining their progress throughout the season.

I’ve always felt that in-season training is essential to long-term progress.

If done properly, an in-season training program will help you stay healthy throughout the year, serving to help maximize your on-ice skill development by keeping you on the ice!

For younger and/or under-trained players, in-season training can also help push your physical development to allow you to transfer improved mobility, speed, strength, and conditioning to on-ice skills. In short, it can make you a better player.

At an absolute minimum, in-season training should help you prevent sliding backward so far that you completely negate all of your off-season training. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens to most players when they don’t train in-season.

Even worse, the progressive loss of speed, power and strength specifically tends to result in the player being in their worst physical condition right as the season comes to a close. In other words, when you’d want your physical development to be at its best (e.g. playoffs), it’s at its worst.

Last year I started as the Strength and Conditioning Coach and Manual Therapist for the Philadelphia Flyers Junior Team, which was the first opportunity I’ve had to train a junior team, a population typically under-served, throughout the entire season. As part of my work with the team, we did pre-season and mid-season testing/monitoring, along with pre-off-season testing for the players that stuck around to train with me over the Summer.

This data provides an interesting “case study” to highlight what a quality in-season training program can offer you.

Player 1: ’13 Post Off-Season Testing

  1. Vertical Jump: 30.5″
  2. 50-Yard Shuttle Avg: 8.36 seconds
  3. 50-Yard Shuttle Sprint Decrement: 3.2%

In short, he was an absolute animal when he left.

Player 1: ’14 Pre Off-Season Testing

  1. Vertical Jump: 27.5″
  2. 50-Yard Shuttle Avg: 9.45 seconds
  3. 50-Yard Shuttle Sprint Decrement: 11.2%

This player also wasn’t even able to do the reverse lunge test during his intake because his legs locked up on him after doing the vertical jump test. They seized after 3 jumps! Arguably the most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen.

If I had to guess, this player did less than nothing all year. If he went into the gym at all, it was probably to chase girls in between sets of benching.

Player 2: ’13 Post Off-Season Testing

  1. Vertical Jump: 28.0″
  2. 50-Yard Shuttle Avg: 8.33 seconds
  3. 50-Yard Shuttle Sprint Decrement: 8.2%

Player 2: ’14 Pre Off-Season Testing

  1. Vertical Jump: 27.0″
  2. 50-Yard Shuttle Avg: 8.87 seconds
  3. 50-Yard Shuttle Sprint Decrement: 10.8%

Player 2 is exceptionally well-developed physically and had fairly comparable numbers to Player 1 at the ’13 Post Off-Season Testing period. He also makes a fair example because the better developed kids are more likely to maintain or slightly decrease their physical developing in-season. In contrast, I have data from a lot of junior players who actually increased their vertical jump in-season.

Player 1 lost 3″ off his vertical, had a 50-yard shuttle average time 1.1 seconds (13%) slower, and his sprint decrement dropped by 8%. Player 2 lost 1″ off his vertical, had a 50-yard shuttle average time 0.5 seconds (6%) slower, and his sprint decrement dropped 2.6%.

The real problem with this scenario is that all of Player 1’s losses are reasonable expectations for improvements during an off-season. In other words, if he worked really hard, he’d get back to where he ended the previous Summer. I refer to this as the Yo-Yo effect. Train -> Detrain -> Train -> Detrain. Overtime, there’s no actual progress made.

In contrast, had he better maintained his development in-season, as Player 2 did, he could build on his progress the following Summer to continue pushing his development.

The reality is that most players at the youth and junior levels simply don’t have the necessary resources to have a quality in-season training program (As a side note, this is also one of the major arguments for why some players benefit more from college than playing major juniors: more favorable practice:game ratio and a consistent year-round training program).

This is exactly why I included in-season training programs for players at the U-14 through Junior levels in my new product Ultimate Hockey Transformation. A quality in-season program sets you up for continuous success throughout the season, and gives you an advantage over your competition every year. You can get faster, more powerful, stronger, and better conditioned EVERY year, while your competition continues to spin their tires. Click the image below to find out how!

Ultimate Hockey Transformation Pro Package-small

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To your success,

Kevin Neeld

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

Get Ultimate Hockey Transformation Now!

Year-round age-specific hockey training programs complete with a comprehensive instructional video database!

Ultimate Hockey Transformation Pro Package-small

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“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team

“…if you want to be the best, Kevin is the one you have to train with”
– Brijesh Patel, Head S&C Coach, Quinnipiac University