Less is More: Gaining the Player Prospective With Jackie Tondl, Texas A&M University

Jackie Tondl is set to begin her Senior year at Saint Louis University in the fall. At Marian High School in Omaha, Nebraska, she was a three-time 'Super State' player. She was also a High School All-American. In 2012, she was the Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year. In her freshman season at Texas A&M, she made the All-SEC freshman team and was listed in the “Top 100” of all freshman college soccer players in the country.

Jackie presents a player’s perspective in working with Coach Dudley(Nine-time state championship soccer coach at Marian High School) as her personal performance enhancement trainer for soccer during her summer pre-season to the collegiate pre-season training at Texas A&M for her junior year. Ken Kontor-publisher-Performance Conditioning Inc.


Performance Conditioning (PC): Let's talk about your goals for the summer. What are you looking for?

Jackie Tondl (JT): I came back here to Omaha with a good fitness base. The spring is our off-season when we have some practices and scrimmages. We also do Olympic lifting such as hang cleans/snatches, and we also do squats. This is a strength and power building phase. In addition, we do agility, footwork and sprinting. My goal is to be at an elite fitness level from the foundation laid in the spring off-season.

I make training hard for myself so that when I go back for fall ball, it is easier for me. I do not want to be fitness challenged because when we start in the fall, the fitness is maintenance work and I can focus more on the game itself. My goal is to be a level above what is required during fall camp. We test when we return; the test is a run of 108 yards in 16 seconds, 16 times with a 45-second recovery interval. It is hard, but I am ready for it when I go back.

PC: For conditioning, you return in a maintenance mode to avoid over-fatigue so that your skill work is of high quality?

JT: This is the philosophy of our coaching staff at A&M – come in ready. The focus is soccer and we do not take time out to run.

PC: Do you think that it is important for college coaches to make incoming players aware of the fitness expectations? Does this help you decide where to play?

JT: I do. When I was being recruited my sophomore and junior year in high school, I saw the facilities that would be available to me, so I had a general idea. But knowing more about conditioning is helpful beyond just looking at the weight room and the equipment in it. 

PC: Talk about your summer program that gets you into this maintenance mode. What do you do during the week?

JT: It is crucial that we change things up every day. In the weight room we do what I call “muscle confusion.” If you do the same stuff over and over, you make gains, but your body adapts. One day we might do legs, the next time we do legs in a completely different group of exercises. This makes everything we do harder.

I work out three days with one day off and repeat. The first day back after an off day, we go onto the field where we run North Carolinas – 200 yards (the maximum distance we ever run). These are all sprints and the session lasts no more than 30 minutes. The next day is in the weight room, the third day is back outside for high intensity sprint work with the ball as described in this article (60 ball intervals). Then we have a day rest. During the next three-day sequence, we start in the weight room, go sprints and then back to the weight room. This pattern is repeated in four-day sequences.

All sessions last approximately 30 minutes. I get a lot done in a short period of time. There's no standing around; it is in and out. Our heart rate is at a high level the entire time and I am ready to play a 90-minute soccer game. This confuses people who ask, "How can you work out for 30 minutes and be fit to play an entire 90-minute game?" You must understand that the intensity of these 30 minutes is through the roof. We do not walk, jog or stride; it is all-out sprints. We keep a fast pace and the heart rate up.

In soccer, more is better. When you consider soccer skill development, this is also true. As far as conditioning, I used to consider doing long five-mile runs. Just as the soccer game lasts a long time, so should conditioning. I learned this from my dad who runs half marathons. I soon realized this was neither soccer specific nor going to get me to a high level of soccer performance. Soccer is sprinting, cutting or jumping. Distance running on a continuous basis will make you slower. I do it just once in a while, maybe after 12 workouts. It is amazing how easy the runs are because they show me that what I do for 30 minutes gets me fit. Another thing is that I do my workout here in Nebraska during the hottest part of the day because it prepares me for the Texas heat for the start of pre-season two-a-days.

PC: So going into fall pre-season, you are ready to go and enter a maintenance phase?

JT: Yes. All the work to achieve your season's goals (such as winning championships) is done in the pre- and off-season, but not during the season. The season is all about performing. You must be rested and prepared for the games because you cannot catch up your conditioning during the season.

PC: Talk about your personal enhancement trainer, Ed Dudley. How has his coaching made you better?

JT: Ed was my coach here at Marian High School. He also worked with collegiate players and I personally understood the benefits. It was like I “drank the Kool-Aid." Once you get a taste and see how much it helps, you get addicted to it in a positive way! Ed not only knows about training, but also women's soccer. This experience is so important because it is all about building the right speed, agility, muscle, quickness specific to soccer and Ed does it. He understands my strength and weaknesses and he knows when to back off.

PC: What do you see in young soccer athletes? What should they work on?

JT: It is not realistic for everyone to have a one-on-one training session, which I enjoy. 

But I see that a lot of players are over-trained. It is not the “how much,” but “how hard,” the quality. It is better to be under-trained then over-trained going into a game. This is what I think is important in the three-on-one off system that we do.

Rest is essential. You also see a lot of knee injuries such as ACLs based on the way we are built. The focus should be on strengthening muscles such as the hamstring. Finally, it is important to realize that getting fit is a long process and that it does not happen overnight.

PC: Concussions are a big problem, especially in female soccer. Do you think that lack of core/upper body strength contributes to this?

JT: I never thought about that from that perspective, but I think that this lack of strength is definitely a factor in concussions. Women have great musculature in the hips and legs, but lack it in the core/upper body. The player gets pushed and tossed around, run into, pulled down, etc. If you have the ability to hold your own ground, you stand a better chance of not having one. I have been fortunate in this respect. I do attribute it in part to being strong. We also do a lot of exercises that incorporate the core. 

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Ken Kontor is founder and president of Performance Conditioning Inc. His company is the world’s largest single source of sports-specific conditioning information. Among the educational resources provided are Performance Conditioning Volleyball, Cycling and Soccer newsletters now in their 14th year of publishing and 15 sports-specific conditioning books and training card systems. He is a founding member of the USA Volleyball Sports Medicine and Performance Commission and was instrumental in the establishment of the Volleyball Conditioning Accreditation Program (V.C.A.P.) curriculum offered through the USA Volleyball Coaching Accreditation program. Among his contributions to this program was writing the curriculum. He has established the Off-bike Conditioning curriculum promoted by USA Cycling. In the past he has worked with USA Roller Sports and USA Triathlon producing conditioning specific newsletters. Prior to the establishment of Performance Conditioning Inc., Mr. Kontor was a founding father, executive director and publications editor of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for 14 years an organization of over 16,000 sport conditioning professionals. He was an original member of the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist committee that established the internationally recognized C.S.C.S. credential. He has traveled extensively throughout the world including the former Soviet Union, East Germany and the Leipzig Institute of Sport, Hungary and Bulgaria with the purpose of introducing their strength and conditioning methods to the NSCA membership. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association Inc. and the National Strength and Conditioning Association of Japan. He has lectured extensively on the conditioning of athletes throughout the world.