Few would argue the need for a professional athlete to need to work out in an effort to be in the best possible mental and physical condition. Running, lifting weights and mental conditioning are all part of the process to build that athlete. What about yoga?
Isn’t yoga an activity where you just lay on the floor and try to stretch? Surely you don’t have to be strong to do yoga?
What started as a fill-in activity at the team’s 2016 preseason training camp in Florida has turned progressed into an activity that the players participate in multiple times per week. The instructor is Energy FC assistant coach James Ritchie.
“I thought it would be a one-off type of activity in Florida in 2016,” said Ritchie. “The boys actually enjoyed it and asked to keep doing it, especially the goalkeepers. After the goalkeepers asked to keep doing it, many of the field players asked if they could join in and start doing it.”
The activity isn’t mandatory. A team-wide invitation is given and anyone who thinks they would benefit from practicing yoga is invited to attend the pre-practice sessions. The numbers vary with a consistent 3-4 players with as many as a dozen.
The benefits of practicing yoga can be seen by Ritchie.
“Some of the poses they had trouble with at the start, they’re a lot better with now. The strength and especially the balance and flexibility exercises. I can see the improvement there.”
Goalkeeper Cody Laurendi also recognizes a physical benefit to practicing yoga.
“I think the benefits are huge, especially with the surface that we play on (at Taft). It’s not very forgiving. Hitting the ground over and over again can’t be too great for your body. We need something that balances that out and yoga does that for us.”
“Core stability and in general body stability, which is huge in goalkeeping. It goes back to the things we do in yoga. I feel it and I see it.”
Ritchie echoed Laurendi’s thoughts, “Especially on the surface at Taft. The player’s bodies are constantly hitting the ground and being put on the line. It’s very explosive what they do, so it helps them with recovery too as much as anything else.”
“If our exercises help the players get to the ball just slightly quicker or stick a leg out and they can get to a ball they may not have been able to get to before then it’s worth it.”
The benefits of practicing yoga aren’t lost on the players that participate as well. Goalkeepers C.J. Cochran and Jacob Lissek join Laurendi at each yoga session prior to practice. On this day, U23 goalkeeper Eric Dick joined the crew as did defenders Sam Fink and Anthony Wallace.
Laurendi also recognizes the benefits yoga can have on the mental approach as well.
“For the mental side of it, yoga helps a lot too. You have to focus on exactly what you’re doing. You have to be mindful and not let your thoughts wander. Those qualities are similar to goalkeeping for the 90-plus minutes you’re on the field.”
The next time that one of the Energy FC goalkeepers makes the save that you can’t believe he made, it could very well be because of yoga.