As the Wild comes home to resume its playoff series against the Jets, a man named Jay Schroeder also has made plans to return to the Twin Cities.
His availability is significant for three members of the Wild: winger Zach Parise, Matt Cullen and defenseman Nate Prosser. But Schroeder isn’t a hockey coach. Frankly, he doesn’t care what sport you play. He doesn’t even care if you play sports. He has one goal if you work with him: to wring every drop of potential he can out of your body.
Parise, Prosser and Cullen stay in constant contact with Schroeder, a 62-year-old trainer and de facto life coach for the trio for years.
Schroeder helps them maintain peak health and recover from injuries during the grit and grind of an 82-game season plus playoffs. The Wild’s third intense-as-it-gets game in five days comes with Sunday’s Game 3 in St. Paul. Four more games might come in the next 10 days. Everyone on the ice will be trying to keep their bodies in one piece while playing to their maximum potential — and three Wild players will know who to call.
“If you twist your knee and you text him, he can send you back things that you can do for it,” Prosser said.
Schroeder is not a typical physical trainer you’d see in a team locker room. He works to maximize the three’s potential using a training method based on Russian techniques he read about while recovering from a motorcycle accident — EVO training, with EVO standing for evolution.
Just what is EVO training? Schroeder, who lives in Gilbert, Ariz., sounds part philosopher, part motivational speaker when he describes its seemingly pacific mission.
“We challenge each of the areas that are important to a human being,” Schroeder said. “I call it PIPES — physiology, intellect, psychological, emotion and spirit. All those things, if they aren’t challenged or up at the same level, then you can only perform to the level of the lowest functioning one.”
But there’s nothing easy about getting to that point. EVO training is arduous — emotionally and physically.
“It’s really tough stuff,” Cullen said.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Prosser said. “You’re just like, what am I feeling? What is this?”
A box, wires and electrodes
Schroeder has worked with Prosser for six years and nearly a decade with Cullen and Parise. They keep him close because the training requires intricate adjustments to the exercises they do.
EVO training essentially tries to readjust the human nervous system and the brain’s communication with the rest of the body. In his training with the Wild players, Schroeder attempts to get the brain to send signals to certain muscles to act differently in certain situations. For instance, the brain may want to contract, or shorten, a quadriceps when a player is performing a squat. Schroeder may try to get it to expand.
One tool Schroeder uses to accomplish this is called Force Velocity Training. It involves attaching electrodes on the ends of wires from extending from an ARP (Accelerated Recovery Performance) machine to a person as he is working out, to send different information to the muscles and to the brain. When your brain wants a muscle to do one thing and the electricity is telling it to do another, it can create some tense, painful training.
This is where the emotional and psychological aspect of the training comes into play — to overcome the pain temporarily to consistently achieve peak performance. And it’s not just muscles. The training also involves blood flow, metabolic and organ function.
“You challenge each of those areas at the same moment in time,” Schroeder said, “and that’s how we participate in sport.”
The players said the exercises they go through are designed to make them fail — to push their body to limits they have never been. Cullen said sometimes he has up to four electrodes attached to him at a time. They do lunge jumps, lunge holds, wall sits and more, but the exercises vary person to person.
“It’s challenging physically but I stuck with it for a long time and to me I think it’s the best out there,” Parise said.
There is only anecdotal evidence that EVO training has its desired effect and no widespread research that supports its use. A spokesperson from the Mayo Clinic said the institution declined comment for this story.
Cullen, who scored the Wild’s first goal in Game 1, attributes his lengthy career to working with Schroeder. Because of Schroder, Cullen said, he is able to skate with the speed necessary to stay in the NHL at 41.
“I don’t fully understand it and I think people are pretty quick to dismiss it. They don’t understand it, but for me it has been a huge part of being able to stick around and play in this league,” Cullen said. “If I wasn’t introduced to it, I don’t know if I’d be skating the way I still can.”
Parise, who has a goal in each playoff game, said he noticed he was getting injured more during a brief hiatus from EVO training.
“There’s just not an emphasis on the heavy weight, so when I got out of it and started doing something else, all of a sudden I’m maxing (weight) while doing squats and I blow out my knee and I’m done for the year,” Parise said. “That’s why I ended up going back.”
Added Schroeder: “I didn’t help make Zach a better hockey player. What I helped Zach to do is to display it over and over and over and over again without having the extreme ups and downs and the negatives of things that occur.”
Schroeder said he considered Prosser to be the “poster child” for EVO training because through the training he has been able to maximize his ability and stay employed in the NHL.
“(Parise and Cullen) are much better hockey players than Nate is. I’m sure Nate would admit to that,” Schroeder said. “But Nate is able to sustain and make a living playing a game that he truly loves and enjoys because of his hard work and discipline to following what we’re talking about.”
Prosser used this training to recover from a sprained MCL a few years ago and it helps him heal nagging injuries. He’ll work out with an ARP machine, about the size of a toaster, and even sleep with the electrodes attached to accelerate healing.
“I just feel strong, feel healthy,” Prosser said. “Usually toward the end of the season, you start to wear down … but my stamina has been staying up and I’ve been feeling strong.”
Schroeder has counted other NHL players, like the Capitals’ T.J. Oshie and John Carlson and the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith as clients. He said 14 NHL players employ him to be available any time they need him. Dozens of others, like the Wild’s Jason Zucker, use the ARP machines without as much consultation with Schroeder.
“I don’t work out with it or anything like that. I use it literally for warmups for games and that’s all I do,” Zucker said. “So I don’t have the knowledge of it that the other guys have.”
While admitting he has butted heads with the training staffs of some teams, Schroeder said he has found a working relationship with the teams that employ most of his clients. Parise, Cullen and Prosser said there is not conflict with the Wild.
“Ultimately this is a results-driven business,” Cullen said. “If you’re in shape and you look good on the ice, that’s the ultimate goal of training.”
So what is the goal this week? How best to get the desired result of a playoff win, and what can Schroeder’s presence do to boost his Wild clients?
He will address lingering injuries and try to get their bodies to reach maximum potential every time they step on the ice. Some of the Wild’s key players feel they’ll be better off for it.
“It’s difficult,” Schroeder said. “And that’s because it’s challenging everything that encompasses a human being.”
All in the name of achieving a better state of being.
Chris Hine is the lead writer for North Score, the Star Tribune’s sports analytics beat. startribune.com/northscore firstname.lastname@example.org