For a long time, Jennie Lakip never dared to dream that she’d be a professional soccer player. But after years off from her college career and a few unexpected turns in life, she returned to the sport with the goal of going pro. At 30 years old and with two kids, she kicked off her career playing in Liga Promerica, Costa Rica’s professional soccer league, first with Dimas Escazu, and now with LD Alajuelense.
After an ACL tear took her out of the game, she stagnated in her recovery — until she started pliability work at the TB12 Performance & Recovery Center in Tampa. We talked to Jennie about her unique career path, the impact of pliability, and the role of confidence in her recovery.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about your career. What brought you to soccer, why did you take such a long hiatus, and what brought you back?
I grew up in a sports family, and was always following in my brother Brady’s footsteps. I followed those footsteps all the way to BYU, where we both played soccer. There, I had a good career, but lacked belief in my ability to play professionally.
Over the following eight years, I got married and had two kids. As a wife and mother, I began learning a great deal about who I was and what I was capable of. My husband slowly taught me how to believe in myself, giving me the confidence to dream and want more. My athletic drive was still strong, even years after my college soccer career had ended.
It wasn’t until two unexpected events — my dad passing away and me becoming pregnant with our second child — that I felt a shift in my perspective. I began to wonder if I was doing what I loved or if I could do more. So, soccer made a comeback in my life. For the first time ever, I began dreaming of playing professionally. After my son was born, I trained to get back in shape. One year later, I made my professional debut.
In my first game, I scored two goals and felt more than ever before that I belonged. I was capable of playing soccer again. However, [in another game] while chasing down a player that I lost the ball to, I planted my right leg to change direction and my knee hyperextended forward, [tearing my ACL].
How did TB12 make a difference in your ACL recovery?
Starting my career at age 30, my biggest concern was injury prevention. I’ve learned that my body is older and does, in fact, need some extra attention. My physical therapist gave me a great start to the early stage of my recovery. However, once I was on my own, I ultimately lost confidence in what my knee was supposed to be doing.
Five months post-surgery, I wasn’t able to reduce the swelling in my knee. I felt discomfort and pain with movement. I was desperate to make progress but too scared to push myself. I needed guidance and assurance that my knee could handle being pushed past my comfort levels.
Then, my Body Coach, K.C., started work on my pliability. From the beginning of my very first session, I saw improvements. The tissue work K.C. did improved my range motion and relieved most of my pain and discomfort! After two sessions back-to-back, I committed to coming back as often as possible.
K.C. has a standard routine to work out any leg tension and continue conditioning my muscles to be more pliable. After the soft tissue work, we do a short workout, practicing proper mechanics and good ROM. This is when I really see the benefits of the pliability work — and I believe it’s because my muscles are the most pliable in that moment. Between the pliability work that I did on my own and the sessions with K.C., I progressed by leaps and bounds each week.
You’re based between Georgia and Costa Rica, so you do a lot of remote pliability work. What’s the difference between working remotely and coming into a TB12 Center?
The more I practice self-pliability, the more I learn about how my body responds to certain situations and the demands that I place on it. I can see where I hold tension or where my body compensates, which allows me to anticipate the results of and even correct improper mechanics.
Hands down, the best results I get in terms of pliability work is at a TB12 location working with my Body Coach. Their soft tissue work is unique and difficult to replicate on your own or with other massage therapists. Still, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I can maintain on my own when I can’t visit TB12 in person.
Confidence seems to be a huge connecting thread in your career. Where does confidence live in your rehab journey?
The mind is where the power comes from. Our bodies need to be told by the mind that we can bounce back, push forward, and fully recover.
K.C. began instilling this in me from the very beginning. He’s talked a lot about the importance of believing in my ability to do anything, from a simple exercise to playing in a game. And as I have focused on this idea, I’ve seen my recovery progress exponentially.
How has the TB12 Method affected you outside of injury recovery?
My body simply feels better! I have fewer days of soreness, achy muscles, and lingering issues. I’m more focused on hydration and good sleep. My body recovers faster from training and I feel more capable of taking on the things that I need to do.
As a mom, energy levels are a huge deal! So, obviously, preparing my body to handle the stresses of my job as a soccer player allows me to better handle the responsibilities and joys of being a parent.
When can we expect to see you back on the pitch?
I’ve been cleared to play again and am currently back in Costa Rica preparing for the start of our season in August! I’m thrilled to be back, and am so grateful for the huge part that TB12 played in my recovery. Pliability will forever be my secret weapon as I continue my career for many years to come!
Bonus: ACL Recovery Tips from Jennie’s Body Coach
If you’re an athlete struggling with ACL recovery, Jennie’s Body Coach, K.C. Harvey, has your back. Here’s what he had to say about exercises to help your recovery:
“One of my favorite exercises for athletes coming off a torn ACL are clock jumps. Clock jumps help build an athlete's ability and confidence with jumping, landing, and balancing or stabilizing functionally. By adding rotation to their movement, these elements are more challenging for athletes.”