By Justin Skelnik, Illustrations by Imran Javed, Photos by Ross Dettman
Chicago Wolves Strength and Conditioning Coach Rob Rosmis has always had a knack for helping people.
After graduating from Mississippi State University in 2001, he became a police officer in Tupelo, Miss., and Des Plaines, Ill. While working in Des Plaines, he began to moonlight as a trainer with a local physical therapy clinic in Chicago. It was then he realized he was in the wrong profession and in 2005, he decided to change career paths and open up his own hockey training facility.
"I changed my career direction towards training because I thought I had a feel for it and it was something I really enjoyed doing," Rosmis said. "Just being able to help people improve overall movement and performance was very appealing to me."
Since Rosmis opened True Performance Hockey in Rolling Meadows, he has worked with local junior teams, high school teams and, most recently, with some college and major junior players. For the most part, he worked with young hockey players, until he crossed paths with Wolves General Manager Wendell Young in the summer of 2009.
"Wendell came to True Performance and wanted to use my gym," Rosmis, 31, said. "I wasn't there at the time, but one of my employees called me and I told him to let Wendell in and I thought nothing of it."
"A couple weeks later I got a call from Wendell and he extended the offer to run training camp for the Wolves. It was something I immediately jumped at."
After running the two-week camp for the Wolves, Young decided to extend an offer to Rosmis to stay on full-time as the team's new strength and conditioning coach. It was a decision Young didn't have to think too hard about.
"It is tough to find a trainer that understands what it takes to be a hockey player," said Young. "At first, I just observed him from afar working with kids and I didn't even know him. After I finally did meet him, I observed him in training camp to gauge his thought process and see if he was on the right track and I saw that he gets what needs to be done in relation to hockey training and that made my decision easy."
Rosmis exceeded Young's expectations during the 2009-10 season and enters his second season with the Wolves armed with a new training method that is so advanced only two teams in the National Hockey League currently use the technology.
"The Polar Team2 Pro Heart Rate Monitor System is something that Wendell and I talked about implementing last season," Rosmis said. "But we knew that it was something we would have to implement at the beginning of a season in order for the players to buy into it.
"The whole concept behind the system is to see what the player's heart is actually experiencing on the ice as well as during workouts."
Every player on the Wolves has a heart rate monitor that they wear during games, practices and off-ice workouts. Using Bluetooth technology, Rosmis can monitor each individual's heart rate on his laptop computer. Charting the players' heart rate during activities helps Rosmis see how each player's heart is responding to the activities and how he should deal with each player's recovery afterward.
"One piece of the puzzle with the heart rate system is making sure each player recovers properly," Rosmis said. "The system is able to take statistics of each player and tie that into each player's heart rate and projects where guys need to be at what times. It also lets me know when a player has worked hard enough in a game or practice that he doesn't need to be doing more work afterwards."
Although Rosmis believes it will take a full year of data to see all the benefits and progress made by Wolves players, Young has seen the positives of the system after just one month.
"The heart rate system is a massive learning tool for us, solely for the fact that the guys have it on and they know they are being monitored," said Young. "That entices the guys to work harder in practices. You can move your arms and act like you are working, but the true factor is the heart rate and that is what we can watch.
"The biggest thing for me is we can now tell when a guy is getting burned out. The true tale of a burnout is when a heart rate spikes too quickly and then doesn't recover in time. We now have the technology to see that and it will tell us when we may need to pull back on the reins a little bit during the season, but especially down the stretch in the playoffs."
In addition to his new heart monitoring system, Rosmis still oversees the team's strength and condition programs. He specifically tailors a year-long plan for each player and implements them at the start of the season. He focuses on a lot of lower body work, such as hip mobility, which he says is crucial for hockey players. Players have been working out their whole careers and some want to follow their own plan, so Rosmis knows that he must adapt and educate in order to be effective.
"The players really focus most of their strength and conditioning during the offseason," said Rosmis. "Maintenance during the season is key and I am there to spell that out for them.
"I feel it is important to be a teacher and educate them on why they are doing things and why it will help prolong their careers because that is how the players buy in, and as a trainer that is all you ask for."