High School Sports

High School Sports

Striking a pose: FSHS boys surprised to see benefits of yoga sessions

Tami Keasling leads Free State high soccer players in yoga exercises Friday at the FSHS football field. Keasling, whose daughter is on the FSHS girls soccer team, was invited by the boys coach to teach the team yoga to increase their flexibility.

Tami Keasling leads Free State high soccer players in yoga exercises Friday at the FSHS football field. Keasling, whose daughter is on the FSHS girls soccer team, was invited by the boys coach to teach the team yoga to increase their flexibility.

July 26, 2010



Free State soccer using yoga in training

The Free State boys soccer team is getting loose for the season using yoga. The team hopes the extra flexibility and balance will pay off come game time. Enlarge video

Tell the truth: You just pictured somebody, we’ll say Richard Gere for argument’s sake, sitting in lotus position, eyes closed, entranced, sort of half-humming, half-chanting, didn’t you?

You’re not alone. That’s what many of the Free State High boys soccer players imagined when first told their summer workout schedule would include an hour every Friday morning devoted to yoga exercises. They have learned otherwise. Their yoga exercises entail a wide array of stretching and no chanting.

“My mom and sister have been doing it for a couple of years now,” senior left defender Colin Phillips said after a recent workout. “I used to mock them about it, but it’s actually a really good workout.”

What, Phillips was asked, did his mother and sister say when he told them he had taken up yoga along with the rest of his teammates?

Free State soccer players strike a (yoga) pose during a session on the FSHS football field.

Free State soccer players strike a (yoga) pose during a session on the FSHS football field.

“They actually don’t know yet,” he said. “And I’m not sure I’m going to tell them.”

Phillips has no problem watching crows fly and hop, he’s just not sure he wants to eat one.

“It’s obviously going to help you be more flexible, and that’s going to prevent injuries, and you just get a good workout,” Phillips said.

The concept of yoga might be new to the Free State soccer team, but it’s not new to the sport.

Manchester United soccer player Darren Fletcher, in a recent telephone interview with the Journal-World, was asked if he had any experience with yoga.

“Yeah, I’ve done yoga,” Fletcher said. “We have a yoga instructor on Manchester United. We do it a couple of times a week. I can definitely tell the benefit. It helps you to realign your body position after physical matches and from the wear and tear over the years. It’s definitely beneficial. Some people might not think of it as something that goes with sports, but it definitely is helpful.”

There you have it. If it’s good enough for Manchester United, the world’s most popular professional sports franchise, it’s good enough for any soccer team in the universe.

Kansas University coach Mark Francis believes in the benefits of yoga, though he hasn’t incorporated it into the team’s workouts yet.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Francis said. “I’ve done it myself, not a lot, but I have done it. As a soccer player, I’m not very flexible. I imagine a lot of soccer players, especially in the hips, are not very flexible. It helps with flexibility, which probably will help with injury prevention, especially around the hips and groin, that kind of area, so I think it’s a great idea.”

Francis looked back on last season, one more time.

“We had so many injuries,” he said. “Maybe if we were a little more flexible, those could have been avoided.”

Injury prevention was the very thing that motivated Tami Keasling to volunteer her time to lead the stretches every Friday. Her older daughter, former Firebirds soccer player Logan Keasling, suffered an ACL tear in both knees.

“I wish I had made her do yoga with me more frequently,” said Tami, who said she has been doing yoga for 10 years and is not an instructor. “I honestly believe we may have prevented at least one of her ACL tears by being more flexible in the fall.”

Regan Keasling, a current member of the girls team, does yoga with her mom more often. So far, Tami gives the boys soccer team straight A’s for effort.

“This group is so impressive,” she said. “Their willingness to try things is great. You saw every one of them up in the bridge pose, which is awesome, just awesome. And they all try. They’re not just laying there waiting until I turn and see whether I’m watching them.”

All the seniors at a recent session were polled on their impressions, and all seemed to have conquered their original skepticism.

“It’s relaxing,” Chris Stogsdill said. “It really helps you stretch out your core.”

Said Marcus Mattern: “I have really bad hamstrings, and it stretches them out really well.”

Sam Corkins said he thinks it will, “help me focus. It will calm me down before games if I have nerves or anything.”

He might do it on game day.

“Probably before the games, but not during the warmups,” he said. “We don’t need the other team seeing us.”

Dylan Bergstrom said it enables him to work out muscles he wouldn’t otherwise stretch.

“I’ve seen my dad do it because he has a bad back,” Bergstrom said. “He’s a UPS driver, and he does it from the yoga channel on TV.”

Nathan Bowman said, “It’s definitely a lot harder than you would think, but it’s still relaxing at the same time.”

Triplets Will and Tony Libeer both said they thought it would be easier. James Windholz agreed.

The most difficult position?

“Up dog,” Windholz said before correcting himself. “I mean down dog. Definitely down dog.”

Kelly Barah, promoted from assistant to head coach after Jason Pendleton left for a similar position at Blue Valley Southwest High, expressed gratitude for the time Tami Keasling devotes for the players and said he thinks it will have great benefits.

“For you to get bigger and faster, you have to make that muscle stretch longer when you’re putting loads on top of it,” he said.

Keasling said she has plans to work with the Free State girls team as well.


youngjayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Yoga ROCKS! Anyone can benefit ... brilliant idea, coach!

Clickker 7 years, 10 months ago

I thought the schools didnt allow the religious stuff in there. I guess Yoga really isnt

Leprechaunking13 7 years, 10 months ago

Yoga, would not have saved Logans ACLs, however much a yogi wants yo believe it would. If she tore them both then A) she was genetically prone to have those torn or B) her Q angle(angle of the femur from the hip to the knee) was/is too great and the ligament couldn't take it. The thought is good but misplaced, no the boys team probably won't suffer knee injuries this season like torn ACLs but it's because ACL tears are MUCH more prevalent in women because of the wider hips. I think it's great that these boys are being introduced to Yoga now, but the other thing that Man U has on board is a strength coach that is top priority over their Yoga and spends time strengthing the range of motion the players have, without strength through the range of motion you have a weak muscle that has no recoil, bad for kicking! Is the yoga beneficial, sure! Is it THE best thing these boys could be doing with their practice time? Maybe not. Will it be the best thing to keep the girls team from getting a torn ACL? Absolutely not! Yoga doesn't change the Q-angle and is not working on stabalizing the knee with impact.... Sorry yogis!

Prana 7 years, 10 months ago

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50YearResident 7 years, 10 months ago

As a LHS alumni, I have to refer to these guys as "Girly Boys".

Take_a_letter_Maria 7 years, 10 months ago

I double-dog dare you to take ANY yoga class and then tell us all how "girly" it is.

Yoga may look "girly" but if done properly you will most certainly understand that you have been through a total body workout.

Prana 7 years, 10 months ago

Female athletes are 4-6 times more likely to suffer ACL injuries than male athletes. The reasons for the different rates of injury in men and women are not clear, but some theories include differences in anatomy, knee alignment, ligament laxity, muscle strength, and conditioning. PT's recommend that female athletes perform exercises to improve strength, flexibilty, coordination, and balance. Many yoga poses focus on these 4 aspects of training. There is a well-known program designed by PT's at Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Group called Prevent Injury, Enhance Performance (PEP) program. Those who participated in the program had an overall ACL injury rate 41% lower than a group of female athletes who did their regular warm-ups. This was one of the largest studies conducted in the NCAA with 1435 athletes participating. This program incorporated balance, core conditioning, stretching, etc....many of the same components found in a basic yoga practice. So, while yoga may not prevent ACL injuries, adding exercises to increase flexibility, build core strength and improve balance and coordination to your conditioning program certainly can't hurt. But, the focus of this article was on the benefits of yoga for this great group of young athletes and I applaud them for their efforts. Kudos also to the coach for recognizing the importance of cross training and for not being afraid to expose his athletes to alternative training methods! And, this is in addition to their 'normal' soccer practices.

Leprechaunking13 7 years, 10 months ago

Key word there was females, and it's not speculation that the wider the Q-angle the more likely an athlete is to tear the ACL, that is fact. The boys need strength through the core and stabilization that will transfer over during game time, last I checked soccer has no one holding a pose in a game time situation with the exception of setting up a wall. Cross training would be much more beneficial if the activity transferred to their sport more readily! However if these boys need to stop the ball and go into down-dog or cobra pose in the middle of the game I think they'll win!!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

I agree with your points about women being more prone to ACL injuries, and that yoga will likely not change that predisposition due to gender. But the main cause of ACL injuries is partaking in any activity that requires jarring stops and starts, which are quite common in basketball, soccer, football, etc., especially if the player is wearing cleats or other high-grip shoes.

However, you clearly don't know much about yoga. A comprehensive yoga practice isn't merely about stretching. One of its primary benefits is that it strengthens muscle groups that most exercise regimens, including weight training, do absolutely nothing for. It also does much to increase core strength, particularly abdominally, which is essential for top performance in almost any sport. And yes, down dog and cobra poses are among the many important poses that make up a good yoga practice.

One other benefit of yoga (and many martial arts) is that it teaches you to breathe properly and to coordinate your breath with your physical activity-- something that takes a good deal of practice, and the performance of many athletes suffers because they really don't know how to breathe correctly.

Prana 7 years, 9 months ago

Yes, a fact indeed (that is why I stated they were 4-6 times more likely to suffer ACL injuries than male athletes...). Somewhere you missed the fact that this training is IN ADDITION TO their regular regimin of training. Whether they were doing pilates, yoga or running stairs on their day off, it is certainly an added benefit. I believe what Mrs. Keasling said about helping to prevent one of her child's ACL tears is entirely true. Depending on the nature of the injury, if you are more flexible, your falls (or contact) will occur much differently than if your hips and joints are tight and have no 'give'. Since neither of us were there to see how either injury occurred, difficult to argue the point. I've taken a fall down a flight of stairs and believe I would have sustained a major injury had I not been flexible enough to 'fall' correctly. I'm also certain that Mark Francis (KU Soccer coach) and the Man U coach (who incorporated yoga into his teams training schedule) know more about the benefits of yoga, cross training, etc. than you and I do. I'm a PT who has worked with countless athletes who have sustained injuries as a result of soccer, basketball, and other sports and wholeheartly agree that while not mainstream and obviously appreciated by all, yoga is an extremely beneficial exercises for all ages and all levels of athletes. Search the internet and you will find dozens of articles touting the benefits of yoga for athletes -- all different kinds of athletes. And truly, why focus on the negatives of this article? Why not simply applaud these players for their efforts. Namaste.....

Leprechaunking13 7 years, 9 months ago

However, taking the players through a more functional weight training regimine, would bring them through active range of motions, that would transfer over to the sport more readily than a yoga routine. Yoga does have all the benefits you mentioned, but you only move in a 6' x 1.5' space! If you are going to be in that small of a space to crosstrain, then plyometrics and stabilization training on Bosu's or other balance boards are the better options because they transfer directly to what happens in a soccer game or football or basketball. Of course if you want to bring up the core strength(which plyos and stabilization training does as well) then there's (properly done) power lifts (no one has a stronger core than power athletes). Now if none of these boys doesn't tear an ACL this season it'll be singlehandedly due to yoga once a week!!!! Haha right....

1029 7 years, 9 months ago

Yoga seems like an okay sport, but I wonder if it's safe for the boys given it's communist subliminal messages. Sometimes I just wonder what's going on with Obama and the socialism and the re-distrubution of wealth--especially when they promote these things from the East. Oh, well. I guess the times are changing.

Either way, good luck on a fantastic season.

Leprechaunking13 7 years, 9 months ago

I have nothing negative towards Yoga, I think it's a great activity to add into normal training regimines(pilates would transfer over better in my opinion) but it's the last piece to add in for an athlete. Again you are looking at something that's done in a 6'x1.5' space to crosstrain for a sport that uses 30x that space. Also there is little to no impact in yoga nor is there high speed contact or any contact for that matter, plyos and power lifts are the best option to crosstrain for any athlete that has the components of impact and speed in their sport. Active flexibility is a great thing that the yoga will help them with but in soccer there are no held positions where flexibility comes into play(again why pilates would be the better option, since movement is more constant)! I realize this is additional to their normal training, which is what? Sport specific drills and running with OPTIONAL weight training? This is probably their one of very few crosstraining aspects the team does. As a PT you should look into Gray Cook or Mike Boyle, I can tell you they would go more high-intensity functional training that transfers DIRECTLY to what the athlete needs for his or her sport. As a trainer and crossfit athlete ill tell you the last thing I want in my routine is something that doesn't transfer directly to my sport or specific needs when there is a better option. Not buying the head coach argument, there is a reason they hire a "strength coach" (not a physical therapist!) to strengthen their players outside of the head coaches "sport specific" training. Again good idea just mis-placed in my opinion. Haha on your falling and having the "flexibility" to handle it without injury, could it be body awareness in time and space? Sounds like a possibility......

Austin Bergstrom 7 years, 9 months ago

Leprechaunking13, soccer team is currently going through 2adays in this blistering heat while your sitting in your A/C bashing their team and their conditioning techniques. Coach Barah seems to know what he is doing to me! I'm very happy with what he has brought to the table thus far. Maybe you should stop on by the Free State soccer fields and give his workout a try and let us all know how sport specific it is! I guarantee you wont finish it!

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