Editor’s Note: Since publishing this case study, Coach Joe Meloni was fortunate to accept a new role as Head Strength Coach for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
Joe Meloni, the Director of Sports Performance for AAA hockey program Windy City Storm, was looking for the piece in his high performance training model that could provide his athletes with elite-level data while prioritizing trust and holistic development.
As any coach who works with elite hockey players ages 15-22 knows, especially for younger athletes, buy-in comes from showing athletes that you care, and that you can help them. And, it’s about helping them as people first, and athletes second.
However, so much of the “data-driven” solutions out there seem to turn athletes into just a block of numbers on the screen. Coaches like Meloni need exactly the opposite. For him, it’s about how he can help his athletes in the long-term, as hockey players and people. And ideally, doing so in a way that empowers them to build habits that will serve them on the ice too.
OWN IT founder Justin Roethlingshoefer knows that this is one of the principal problems in how the industry approaches the use of data. “The traditional model using data in sport settings keeps data behind an iron-clad wall that only coaches have access to,” Roethlingshoefer says. OWN IT exists because it should be the opposite. It’s about the players first.
Meloni’s elite summer camp, which brings together 22 of the top AAA and Junior hockey players in the nation, provided a perfect setting to begin implementing the new system.
The OWN IT system provides a wearable device to each athlete and, through education around the power of personalized data and HRV (heart rate variability), combines that with a proven system to help athletes build healthy habits around all areas of performance.
“I chose OWN IT because I saw a chance to take higher level kids and expose them to meaningful behavior change. The price was right for the athletes, and I was excited to receive the data science coaching from Justin Roethlingshoefer and his team of experts.” Meloni said.
Help Young Athletes See The Value in Prioritizing Health and Recovery
“The level of conversations I’ve had is astounding. I’ve got 15-year-olds who are asking me what HRV is and how they can understand it to recover better,” Meloni said.
“This is where the OWN IT habit suggestions make a massive difference. The kids get nudges via the app to act on positive habits they’re working on throughout the day (i.e. no screens before bed, 80% of hydration before 3 PM, etc.). I can be in a hundred places at once. Automating good habit suggestions, and delivering them to their phone, which is where they spend all their time, is really impactful for these kids.”
It’s about more than enhancing recovery and performance for Meloni and his athletes, though. OWN IT, Meloni believes, has changed the developmental paths for many of his athletes.
“There was one day when the youngest, smallest, and least talented kid hit PRs in everything. Record vertical jump. Heaviest deadlift. Weighing the most. Most muscle mass. That’s what can really change an athlete’s career. The kid sees everything as a piece of the puzzle. It has to be an all-encompassing approach.”
Meloni continued, “The not naturally gifted players are seeing all the work pay off. It’s like a proud Dad moment. It’s like finally! Dude, it’s happening!”
This goes beyond hockey — both for Meloni as a coach, and the athletes who are using the habit prompts to better recover and take care of their long-term health and development. It’s more than hockey, it’s a lifestyle that will stay with them forever, however improving at your sport is a byproduct of the consistency they develop. Of course, the two go hand-in-hand. A key pillar of the Own It system is that by prioritizing health, peak performance is a byproduct.
OWN IT Showed Athletes The ‘Why’
Using OWN IT, Meloni could let the data speak for itself. This empowered the hockey players to make adjustments on their own.
It’s often repeated in performance training that if the athletes understand the why behind something, they’re likely to be inspired and motivated to change. Meloni understands this. It’s not about telling athletes what to think, but how to think. This way, they have frameworks to make the best decisions for themselves when nobody is watching.
“With this generation of athletes, you can’t just say, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ OWN IT helps me show the why to every athlete, at a time when they’re ready to hear it. Without it, I truly don’t have time to sit down with every athlete and explain all the things we’re doing and why.”
Sometimes, the most challenging athletes to grow aren’t the ones who don’t work hard enough, but the ones who consistently are under-recovered.
“A lot of kids are work work work — ‘I’m gonna outwork everyone.’ That’s great, but not sustainable if you’re not recovering in the off hours. OWN IT guides the athlete on how to recover harder — not holding them back from working harder. If they start seeing the effects of not getting insufficient sleep, missing their hydration goal, and missing their post workout meal to a lower HRV score, it creates a positive environment for change the following day.
The low score doesn’t mean they can’t perform or work hard that day. It means they need to focus harder on the recovery modalities after the work is done.”
Meloni believes, and the data show, that the system has totally changed how the athletes treat their own development. “It’s a lifestyle changer. Kids are changing how they view, operate, and chart their personal journey and development.”
So what did the recovery data say? After 8 full weeks of Meloni’s summer training, athletes saw improvements in:
- Sleep time (26 min. increase)
- Sleep efficiency (7% increase)
- HRV (6% increase)
- Resting heart rate (9% decrease)
- Recovery improvement (22% increase)
These recovery metrics suggest that, despite entering a grueling offseason regimen, these athletes were seeing improvements in their ability to recover and perform because of their access to OWN IT. Now the bigger question is — did their performance improve as a result of their bodies being more recovered and primed for performance?
To track their results, Meloni has been using two tests to measure performance improvements — 10 yard flys and standing vertical jumps. Through 8 weeks of using OWN IT, these athletes have seen a:
- 16% increase in their 10 yard fly times
- 2% increase in their standing vertical jumps
By giving his athletes a way to understand and change their recovery habits to fuel better performance, Meloni is seeing guys start to take a more professional approach to their training AND recovery.
How The Right Dose of Data Changed a Culture
“There are bragging rights for higher HRV. Their sleep has improved,” Meloni said with a note of pride in his voice. They’re sleeping longer, getting higher quality sleep, and seeing the results in real time. The culture shift is amazing. It’s creating positive habits and a desire to recover.” OWN IT is making recovery — typically the least sexy topic in all of performance training — cool again.
As any elite coach knows, if you want athletes to make progress, one of the best ways is to spark competition. OWN IT has this built-in.
A culture where sleep quality and recovery are prioritized and competed for just as much as sprint times and one-rep maxes is every coach’s dream. And more importantly, it’s a recipe for accelerated development. After all, improving sleep habits is one of the most effective methods to enhance performance.
Culture takes time to create, but it also gets passed down. Any players that come into the Windy City AAA program integrate right into this same culture of recovery and data. A focus on recovery, sleep, and HRV is the standard.
As these athletes move beyond the AAA and Junior Hockey ranks, and into the NCAA, Canadian Major Juniors, and eventually professional hockey, the habits they develop from OWN IT will stick with them for the rest of their careers. Like compounding interest, small habit changes applied at a young age can have huge effects down the line.
Windy City shows us that, although this is a big advancement in technology, athletes at the youth level are ready to begin taking professional level care of their bodies with the right system in place. In fact, that stage of development is a critical time to develop life habits that promote recovery and overall wellness. That’s why college programs like the University of Miami Football as well as programs like Windy City have seen tremendous results with OWN IT.
Want to see how OWN IT fits for your organization to use recovery to fuel performance? Contact Bill Kerig, General Manager of Youth and Amateur Sports, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find some time to take a peek at the platform and talk through how your athletes will be impacted.