Loyola’s football team is in the Class 8A state semifinals for the third time in three years and eighth time in nine seasons. But the Ramblers have experienced success in every varsity sport throughout this millennium. That can, in part, be attributed to the school’s commitment to its strength and conditioning program, led by Jeff Lindeman, who arrived in 2006. A native of Florence, Kentucky, and a former two-sport college athlete, Lindeman took a winding road to Wilmette. He ultimately landed at Loyola on the recommendation of head football coach John Holecek. Lindeman’s son, Logan Lindeman, is a freshman football and basketball player at Loyola.
MAROON & GOLD: Loyola is lucky to have a full-time strength and conditioning coach at the school such as yourself. How would you describe your job?
JEFF LINEMAN I train athletes at Loyola. Using a team-based system, I create the workouts and make sure everybody is following the program and doing everything correctly. There is a physical education class we created five or six years ago for student-athletes. It’s taught by a teacher, but I am there, too, to monitor them. Kids also come to weight room on their free periods to work out.
M&G: What is your exercise philosophy?
JL: We want to develop a functional athlete. It’s movement-based training. We not only want them to be strong, but to be agile. Speed training is a big component of what we do, and I think that is what separates us from a lot of other high schools. We want you to be a complete athlete.
M&G: You’re from Kentucky, where you went to high school. You played football and baseball in college, finishing up at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. What’s your background in strength and conditioning?
JL: In college, I ran a health club, and that spurred my interest in wanting to do something with sports for a career. After college, I worked for a fitness company in Los Angeles, and then I moved to Chicago. I worked at Northwestern with Larry Lilja from 1997-2001 as the head strength and conditioning coach for baseball and assistant strength and conditioning coach for football. I learned how to do what I do now under Larry. When I was in college, there wasn’t a degree for something like this. I got all of my knowledge from my experiences.
M&G: How did you hook up with Loyola?
JL: After Northwestern, I worked with Athletico, and that’s where I met John. We hit it off, and we were on the same page as far as our philosophies. When he got the job at Loyola, he wanted to bring me with him. I got there in August of 2006 and was a contract employee under Athletico. Loyola hired me as a full-time employee about three years later.
M&G: You mentioned you formulate training programs for each sport. How do you train a golfer?
JL: Every sport has different demands. For golf, you don’t need to do a bunch of sprint work. Instead, we focus on flexibility and strength. In football, our training differs from linemen to skill players. For sports like soccer and lacrosse, we concentrate on endurance conditioning, same with basketball.
M&G: What are some of the biggest individual physical transformations you’ve seen while at Loyola?
JL: [Senior tight end] Charlie Gilroy is a perfect example of someone who has completely changed since arriving as a freshman. He was an average kid, lanky and wasn’t impressive physically at all. But he worked his butt off and listened and continued with the program. Now, he’s a Division I recruit. [2013 graduate and Holy Cross redshirt senior offensive lineman] Jimmy Murray is another one, same with [2015 graduate and Northwestern redshirt freshman tight end] Eric Eshoo and [2015 graduate and Northern Illinois sophomore defensive tackle] Ben LeRoy. Ben was a big kid when he came to high school, but he had no body control or any idea how to work out. He didn’t know how to do a lunge or a proper push-up. His power clean was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. It was crazy to see how much he changed in those four years. That’s why I really enjoy working at this level. It’s rewarding watching the kids develop.
M&G: How supportive has the school been to you?
JL: 100 percent. From the all of the coaches to the administration, it’s been great. Everybody is on board. [Girls head basketball coach] Jeremy Schoenecker, [boys head basketball coach] Tom Livatino, [boys head baseball coach] Nick Bridich, [girls head lacrosse coach] John Dwyer have bought in to what we are doing, but I could go on and on and on.
M&G: People might also know you as the person who takes care of the footballs on Loyola’s sideline. How did you end up doing that?
JL: Six or seven years ago, we played Brother Rice in pouring down rain, and I was there helping with equipment issues. John came up to me and asked me if I could make sure all of the footballs are dry. I said sure, and here I am still doing it. It’s kind of funny how it happened, but it’s been fun. It’s been a great 12 years here at Loyola. We have created a culture where each year is better than the last. The kids see the results and know it works. They see how they can become successful. I see myself staying here for a long time.