Local yoga studio fueled Baldwin girls soccer’s lengthy postseason

photo by: Submitted photo

The Baldwin girls soccer team prepares for a recovery session at Om Grown Yoga and Wellness Collective in Baldwin City, Kansas. Routine stops at the studio helped the Bulldogs throughout a spectacular 14-7-0 campaign in 2023.

Notching the top seed in any state high school championship is tough.

Real tough.

However, the Baldwin girls soccer team, with the help of a local yoga studio, did just that last month, ascending into the Class 4A state playoff in DeSoto as the state’s top-seeded program after besting Olathe-Heritage Christian Academy 3-0 in the regional championship.

The Bulldogs, finishing the season 14-7-0, went through four overtimes with Wichita-Trinity Academy in the first round at state, falling 2-1 on penalty kicks. Dusting themselves off, Baldwin’s shining stars returned home and woke up the next morning not even thinking about a soccer ball — but instead, a yoga class.

The Bulldogs, who participated in a “recovery session” at Om Grown Yoga and Wellness Collective operated by partners Lora Rimmer and Sandra Chapman in Baldwin City, did eventually return to the soccer pitch for the third-place championship with Topeka-Hayden, falling 2-0.

Dealing with defeat, especially at the end of a hard-fought season, is a delicate process for any high school soccer player, Baldwin head coach Andrew Ising said.

“It’s one thing to send a text message to a kid, but it’s another thing to give them a hug and actually check in on them at that moment,” Ising said. “I always wanted to be here. We had it planned, win or lose. We were going to come back and it was good for us to be here.”

Ising, wrapping up his eighth year coaching girls soccer at Baldwin, has called on Rimmer and Chapman to work with the team routinely since 2018 after Chapman left her post with the Baldwin school board.

Baldwin soccer and Om Grown have seen some different class settings during their time. Initially holding classes in the school’s cafeteria, Om Grown has elevated its instruction with a state-of-the-art downtown studio that includes massage therapy rooms, and an outdoor patio with a sauna and a soaking tub.

Working inside Om Grown’s newly-completed space, Baldwin fed off its time at the studio early in the season. The Bulldogs won seven consecutive matches between March and April, carrying that momentum into the regional title and claiming the top seed in the state tournament.

By the time his team’s third session finished, Ising sent an email to every coach at Baldwin High School recommending team yoga sessions.

“They were absolutely incredible,” Ising said. “The girls could feel the relief. They were going to have to go back out and push themselves after winning a regional title.”

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Baldwin head girls soccer coach Andrew Ising enlisted Sandra Chapman (back left) and Lora Rimmer (right) to provide his team with recovery sessions this season. The Bulldogs finished fourth in the Class 4A state championship last month.

Outside of Baldwin High School, Om Grown has carved out a niche for working with area college athletes, including those from Baker and Ottawa.

Rimmer, having worked with several athletes one-on-one, said one key observation throughout sessions is how blind individuals are to how each sport affects their joints, muscles and physical stress after every practice or game.

“Things like overuse are the conversations we have here in class — they’re paying attention to that,” Rimmer said.

“I think the overall acceptance or evolution of yoga, and its benefits and impacts to the whole person, has grown here in Baldwin,” Chapman added.

Yoga’s incentives for high school students have proved themselves on a scientific level, too.

Three years ago, a study conducted by the University of Bern in Switzerland found improved self-regulation of students’ heart rate and blood pressure — which are often activated by excessive stress — during a 10-week trial incorporating yoga with day-to-day school activities.

Chapman, whose three boys all at the college level, saw this effect first-hand. She found herself connecting with her children over yoga throughout the “wear and tear of the college season.”

“Having a mom that’s into yoga means, whether they liked it or not, we did yoga,” Chapman said jokingly. “I remember the day that each of them called me and said I need to go find yoga or we need to Facetime or do something together because I need that.”

Helping student athletes grasp mental health, through activities such as yoga, is already a rapidly-growing conversation within high school and college sports, Chapman said.

And with the right instructors, it took Baldwin to state.

“They sought (yoga) out,” Chapman said. “They knew that they needed that support.”


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