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Success Stories

Dylan Reese's Road to the NHL

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

Dylan Reese
Age: 25
Hometown: Pittsburgh
Occupation: NHL hockey player

The Challenge

Dylan Reese had just graduated from a Pittsburgh area high school in the summer of 2003 when his father Barry sent him to Athletes' Performance in Arizona. Dylan, then 18, was a seventh-round draft pick of the New York Rangers, another kid with a dream of one day playing in the National Hockey League.

Barry Reese had read articles in USA Today and Sports Illustrated about Mark Verstegen, Athletes' Performance, and the training philosophy that soon would be known as Core Performance. He figured the program could help Dylan be a more effective college player at Harvard.

At the time, NHL scouts preferred larger more physical players, and Dylan, a skinny 5-foot-11, did not fit the mold. So Dylan grabbed childhood buddy and longtime hockey running mate Grant Lewis and headed to Athletes' Performance in Arizona.

There they met Anthony Slater, who now heads up the performance specialists at Core Performance Center but at the time was working out of Arizona. Slater, who has a background in hockey, put the teenagers to work at the Athletes' Performance facility as prominent athletes from other major sports trained nearby.

The Results

Much like Major League Baseball player Brandon Wood, who began training at Athletes' Performance as a teenager, Reese benefited from the professional environment. It helped that he brought a tireless work ethic and an inquisitive nature.

The following summer, Reese followed Slater to Carson, Calif., where Athletes' Performance had opened a second training center, establishing a pattern that would continue throughout his time at Harvard.

"I come in every year with a specific game plan," Reese says. "I sit down and say, 'Here are my strengths and flaws and here's what we need to improve on.' Their attention to detail has always been my favorite part. When you're doing movements and lifts, the slightest change in stance or movement can really affect you and a lot of times people are lifting and not using the right movements and not even realizing it.

"I'm still that way sometimes. I have to retrain myself to draw in and use the core properly. Every summer I'll go out there and I'll have some movement I've done properly before and the trainers will ask, 'What happened?' The season just chews me up, but at the end of every summer I leave feeling great with everything working in harmony."

By the time Reese left Harvard in 2007, he had bulked up to 215. His college strength program emphasized size, but it left him feeling sluggish and too big on skates. So when he returned to Athletes' Performance, he worked on slimming down to 200 without losing strength.

He took a circuitous path to the NHL, playing for minor league affiliates of the Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets before making his NHL debut in March 2010 with the New York Islanders.

These days, Reese is part of a growing group of NHL professionals who follow the Core Performance program at the Athletes' Performance facility in Carson, a group that includes Islanders teammate Richard Park, George Parros of the Anaheim Ducks, and Chris Drury of the New York Rangers.

Barry Reese recently read about baseball phenom Jason Heyward, his year-round commitment to baseball from the age of 8, and the sacrifices Heyward's parents made. (Read Heyward's story here.) Reese says he sometimes thinks he should have encouraged Dylan to play more sports and not specialize in hockey until the age of 15.

"You never know; you hope what you did was right," Barry Reese says. "It's kind of obvious that everything is getting more and more specialized and everyone is looking for that edge. Some people look at young athletes and say, 'You either have it or you don't.' I don't think so. You might be born with slightly better muscles or IQ but how—or if—you reach your potential is up to you and the tools you have available."

Dylan Reese says the Core Performance program was most beneficial in helping him grow into his body quicker than he might have otherwise. He says working tirelessly each summer at Athletes' Performance is more important than having access to it.

As for the expense, which is considerable, he's always viewed it as an investment with huge upside—one that is paying off with a promising NHL career.

"I learned from my dad that if you're going to make it in life you have to invest in yourself," Reese said. "If it gives you a chance to get to the NHL, you'd be crazy not to commit the time, money and effort to do it."

Key Takeaways

  • Surround yourself with other professionals; a strong work ethic is contagious.
  • Identify your flaws and work on turning them into strengths.
  • Reassess your movement technique often—a long season can take its toll on your body.
  • Invest in your future by investing in your body now.

About The Author

Pete Williams – Pete Williams is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com and the co-author of the Core Performance book series.

Read Full Bio

Tags: Success Story, Sports Performance, Motivation, Hockey, Build Muscle