Skip Navigation

Joe Meloni ’18 Parlays Keene State Degree Into His ‘Dream Job’ At Elite Level Of Ice Hockey

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
Joe Meloni '18
Meloni’s first stint in college was not a good fit, but “transferring to Keene State allowed me an opportunity to finally study in a field that I knew in my heart I wanted to make my profession.”

Joseph Meloni ’18 is a firm believer that “If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

So, as the head strength coach for the USA National Team Development Program (NTDP), the premier junior hockey destination in the world, it is safe to say that for this Keene State graduate work is a relative term.

“I’ve had an interesting journey figuring out what to do with my life,” Meloni says. “But it certainly worked out. My education played a big role. Find something that you truly are passionate about, and dive headfirst into that. Study something that will put you in a position to have a truly enjoyable career.”

At Keene State, Meloni, who is from Falmouth, Massachusetts, but who lives in Northville, Michigan, earned a degree in exercise science, which is part of the College’s Human Performance and Movement Science Department and one of more than 40 areas of study.

He has parlayed that degree, other life and work experiences, and the many connections he has built into a “dream job.”

Each year, he said, 40 of the best US-born players try out for the development team. If they make it, they spend two years in the program competing in the United States Hockey League playing against top Division I college teams, and internationally. All of the program’s players, Meloni notes, commit to Division I programs, and a high percentage of them are drafted into the NHL.

Last year, Meloni worked with several players who were drafted into the NHL, including some first-rounders: Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, Gabe Perrault, and Oliver Moore. He has also worked with some top players in college hockey: Rutger McGroarty, Cutter Gauthier, Frank Nazar, and Trey Augustine being a few.

“Hockey is a unique sport and training has to be tailored to that uniqueness,” he said. “It’s important to understand how the demands of the sport, specifically the skating stride, factor into player development. This involves utilizing specific mobility, movement, plyometric, and exercise selections that closely resemble the planes and vectors that players need to be powerful and efficient skaters.”

Joe Meloni On The Job
Sport-specific training for hockey includes mobility, movement, plyometric and exercise selections that closely resemble the planes and vectors that players need to be powerful and efficient skaters, Meloni said. (Photo by Rena Laverty @renalaverty

Meloni’s first stint in college was not a good fit, but “transferring to Keene State allowed me an opportunity to finally study in a field that I knew in my heart I wanted to make my profession.” And it was a chance to play for the College’s club hockey team.

The Keene State club ice hockey program has since been elevated to NCAA varsity status and will begin competing as a Division III independent entry during the 2024-25 season. It will then join the Little East Conference in 2025-26 when the conference adds men’s ice hockey as its 22nd championship sport.

At Keene State, Meloni said, things just clicked and possibilities came into focus.

“Joe was very positive and an incredibly hard worker; he became such a solid player, solid athlete, and solid student while he was here with us,” said Bobby Rodrigue, KSC’s ice hockey coach.

“Throughout high school and even during my first years of college, I did well academically, but I felt no connection to the things I was learning, save for a few classes,” Meloni said. “Being able to find and focus on something that mattered to me, surrounded by like-minded students, was a big deal. I got more practical experience and individual attention than I could have imagined. Also, it ignited my desire to immerse myself in my studies, which has carried into my life after college. Working in a field that is constantly evolving, if you are without a desire to continue to develop and adapt, you can easily fall behind.”

Meloni is employed by GVN Performance, a premier fitness and athletic development company with three training gyms in Chicago and one in Michigan, where Meloni is based. Brian Galivan, director of sports performance for NTDP and the owner of GVN, hired Meloni. “I owe so much to him,” Meloni said.

Before this role, Meloni was instrumental in building the strength and conditioning program at Windy City Storm, a nationally competitive AAA team based in Chicago. He also spent three years at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Woburn, Massachusetts, where he learned and developed his training philosophy from Boyle and his staff. Sarah Testo, Keene State’s head strength and conditioning and women’s soccer coach was part of the first intern classes at Boyle’s business, Meloni said.

“I owe a lot of thanks to (Keene State) professor Testo,” Meloni said. “She helped connect me with Mike before I graduated. She knew I played hockey and that I was interested in working in hockey sports performance. She went out of her way to make sure I got the internship, and I later got hired there. During these years I gained thousands of hours of coaching experience, working with everyone from 8-year-old soccer players to 65-year-old personal training clients.”

Off the ice and away from the training center, Meloni enjoys cooking, golf, Jiu Jitsu, reading, and video games. Sometimes it can all feel surreal, he said of getting to travel and to help train and prepare future hockey greats. A lot of wonderful mentors, and a lot of sacrifices, he said, “But the reward for my dedication is worth it, and Keene State will always be an integral part of my journey.”

Learn more about Keene State’s exercise science major.

Related Stories

Contact Keene State College

229 Main Street
Keene, New Hampshire 03435