Bigger, Faster, Stronger

April 14, 2010

IOWA CITY, IA – When Katie Dougherty was named Iowa women’s tennis head coach in November, she knew her team was set to host the upcoming Big Ten Championships. What she may not have known, was her team had begun working towards the tournament long before her arrival, thanks to Strength and Conditioning Coach Gabriela Quiggle.

“The conditioning is year round,” said Quiggle inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where she spends many mornings training Iowa’s student athletes. “They always have something to do. It’s much more than just jumping out on the court and practicing for the competition. There is always something to do in terms of getting bigger, faster and stronger.”

Quiggle, in her first year as strength and conditioning coach for soccer, women’s tennis, field hockey, women’s golf and softball, is responsible for leading workouts designed to build power, strength and endurance. A typical singles tennis match can run over two hours and its Quiggle’s job to make sure Dougherty’s team is conditioned to win the final point.

“We are now a very physical team that can outlast opponents,” said Dougherty of Quiggle’s impact on the team. “She does an unbelievable job of motivating the team and keeping them accountable. They have bought in to how important this part of their training is to our success and improvement on the court. “

And while the Hawkeyes’ success may be measured in wins and losses on the court, Quiggle just likes to see the Hawkeyes on the court.

“If my athletes are healthy and they’re progressing in strength, that’s how I measure success,” said Quiggle. “There are a lot of stats out there that people want to know about – squats, pro-agilities, 20-40s. Look at the NFL, people are all about the numbers. We do record numbers so we can gage their progress, but if the athlete is strong, healthy and injury free, that’s usually a sign of success for us.”

The journey to the court starts early. During the summer months, the team attacked a workout with increased levels of volume and intensity. While preparing for the fall season, the players met with Quiggle four times a week at 6 a.m. When the spring season begins, Quiggle balances the practice and competition load by building upon the core established in the offseason with a program based around injury prevention.

“We’re trying to get better every day. We are trying to keep them healthy, but we’re still working pretty hard. We will have a strength, power output day. We will also have an endurance day when we do a circuit or some high intensity work. With tennis, it’s all encompassing. You have to have power. You have to have strength. You have to be able to last throughout a two-hour match.”

The Hawkeye have done just that. Five times this year Iowa has won by the slimmest of margins, 4-3. It’s not a matter of fact, but as matches run long, they often come down to that final point. The fact that Iowa is undefeated in those 4-3 matches reflects the team’s level of endurance. It’s a credit to Quiggle not lost on the head Hawkeye.

“Gabby has been an integral part of our turnaround this season,” said Dougherty. “When I got here in the fall, our conditioning was one of the areas I knew we had to improve significantly. The gains we’ve made in the weight room have translated into better results on the court.”

Quiggle, however, is a former Division I student-athlete that is quick to return credit to the players and their first-year head coach.

“I think they have bought into hard work,” Quiggle said of the Hawkeyes. “Coach Dougherty has set a very, very, good standard with them. Her expectations are high in terms of work ethic. When they come in, they come in to work.

“Being a student athlete requires a special commitment. On top of their practice load, they have tutoring sessions and strength and conditioning. It’s all day, every day. These girls have to balance all that. A lot of people don’t understand that it is a year round commitment. There are no breaks, there are no off weekends, there are no off days. They are constantly working.”