Penn State’s Jimmy Dowd Jr. has always been an “athlete devil.”
The runner-up at University Park lived up to the hype in his first year with the Nittany Lions, leading all defensemen in points with 10 on a pair of goals and eight assists.
However, to prepare for the college game, Dowd Jr. enlisted the help of a professional at an organization near his home at the Sports Performance Lab.
A native of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, Dowd Jr. began training about half an hour from his home at the Sports Performance Lab the summer before his first college hockey season.
Although Dowd Jr. worked with strength coaches earlier in his youth career, joining the Middletown Township-based training center was a no-brainer.
âWhen I heard about its first opening, I was like, ‘Damn, I love this. âWhy not be one of the first guys? Dowd Jr. told The Daily Collegian.â My # 1 priority over the summer is strength training and conditioning, and being able to do it is amazing. “
The Sports Performance Lab uses data-driven science and an individualized approach to âhelp athletes take it to the next levelâ. This is exactly what the director of strength and conditioning, Andrew Watkins and his company, provided Dowd Jr.
The goal with Dowd Jr. was to make him fuller and increase his ability to skate longer, harder and more effectively on the ice. In order to do this, in part, it took a little time to focus on what were once weaknesses for Dowd Jr.
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As non-conference play continued into Week 3, a few Big Ten teams rocked the national standings.
âThe transition force and the rotational force, these are the things that I saw that Jimmy could improve the fastest or in the shortest amount of time,â Watkins told The Collegian. âThat’s exactly what he did. Jimmy showed up every day, ready to do the job and ready to go.
In early summer, Dowd Jr. does a body assessment through the Sports Performance Lab for Neuro-training and Body Fat Compensation. From there, he trains for four weeks, then is reassessed, only to train again and be reassessed at the end of the summer.
This calculated approach to fitness keeps athletes like Dowd Jr. engaged mentally and physically. The Sports Performance Lab focuses on mental play with daily neurological training – especially timing, pace, and coordination.
As a result, Dowd Jr.’s brain has become sharper and more adept at making decisions.
“A great thing where [neuro training] comes into play is when you’re tired on the ice, âsaid Dowd Jr.â The first thing that turns off is your brain when you’re tiredâ¦ [neuro training] helps you so much, helps you scan the ice more, like you are always alert, you know what’s behind you, what’s in front of you.
“Doing this every day is pretty awesome.”
Mike Greene co-founded the lab. Greene worked in sports science for about eight years. Now a general manager, the former college baseball player was motivated to start Sports Performance Lab due to a “scary” weightlifting injury at the age of 15.
âEverything in my sports career started to deteriorate after this injury. I’m helping this injury not be assessed properly, âGreene told The Collegian. âThat’s why we created Sports Performance Lab, so hopefully that doesn’t happen to the kids walking around our facilities. “
Compared to other sports training facilities, Greene said the Sports Performance Lab is much more comprehensive. The intention is to provide athletes like Dowd Jr. with opportunities to train, be evaluated and recover âlike a professional athleteâ.
It takes a little push for any athlete to be able to improve their overall performance and fitness. For Dowd Jr., that step in the right direction has been Watkins.
âThis guy is a beast. His mindset is just to ‘get better’ every day, no matter what, “said Dowd Jr.” He brings us in [that mindset] every day, and it really helped me a lot, especially at the gym.
Unlike the regular season, where priorities shift to reviewing other teams’ movies and keeping the weight off, the offseason is where Dowd Jr. dedicates himself to training. He tends to wait until the end of summer to start skating frequently, which allows him to build muscle mass.
This was the case this summer, as Dowd Jr. felt he had “definitely” gotten a lot stronger in his legs, as well as overall. At the Sports Performance Lab, athletes do not have to resort to âbroscienceâ. Instead, they can rely on Watkins and his staff for advice.
âWe take the latest and greatest science and apply it to help athletes digest content so they can move up quickly,â Watkins said. âWe like to streamline the process and take the guesswork out of it, making it clear enough for the athlete to process. We sit down with each athlete and discuss how we’re going to get there.
Doing it in a large organization is not an easy chore. Dowd Jr. often trains alongside college hockey players, other junior level players, and even his brother Anthony, who plays for the Chicago Steel.
Still, that didn’t deter Greene from providing a platform for players to “slow down the game.”
âWe allow people to have an individualized training program within a group that is specific to the functional limitations of each athlete,â said Greene.
A player with enormous core strength, according to Greene’s analysis, Dowd Jr. also possesses extraordinary brain and visual skills. His work ethic has helped make him a ârole modelâ for young athletes.
And as the Sports Performance Lab begins to grow, with its new location in Ridgefield, New Jersey, having an ambassador like Dowd Jr. representing the training organization can only be of benefit.
Fortunately for Dowd Jr., the relationship is symbiotic and his dedication is not lost on those who work most closely with him during the summer months.
âIt’s not a lifestyle for us, it’s a life,â Watkins said of his passion for his job. âJimmy has dedicated his entire life to hockey. It is an honor to work with him. The least I can do in the time I have with him is help him prepare.
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