Spartans Score Big with Yoga
St. Francis High School's Head Varsity Basketball Coach, Erin Dwyer, laid down a challenge for his players this summer. He wanted them to understand the difference between just "bench press" strength and what he calls "functional" strength. They would learn this through practicing yoga.
During the month of July, players were challenged to take yoga involving a series of Hot Yoga, Yoga Sculpt, and Power classes at NEXT Yoga Studio in downtown Wheaton. All athletes, both boys and girls, were encouraged to participate. Dwyer said, "High school kids think that just playing their sport over and over again is what will help them perform better. What I want them to understand is that working on their 'core' will not only make them physically stronger and more flexible, but it will help them execute certain movements to improve their game."
The players learned quickly that yoga is more than just a workout. Dwyer mentioned that the practice of balancing really helps with a player's defensive stance and vinyasa flow with improving flexibility and speed. He said, "Hot Yoga is an excellent class to build endurance. There is a cardio component to controlling your body heat." The coach also found that the players who did the most yoga improved the most on the court. "I had parents telling me that their kids came home saying that yoga was the hardest workout of their life," he said, "The kids and parents alike commented on what a great addition yoga is to our program."
Dwyer, who played college baseball and has been a basketball coach for 20 years, discovered the benefits of yoga while pitching for his 25 and over baseball league. A buddy of his challenged him to a yoga class and he accepted. He enjoyed it so much that after only 2 months, he felt like he was in college again. Dwyer believes that "functional" strength directly comes from yoga. "If my players never touched another weight, the strength they get from a regular yoga practice would be enough," he added.
Many SFHS players have committed to continuing their yoga practice. Coach Dwyer encouraged them to fit yoga into their school and sport schedules. "Yoga will definitely be a regular part of our Spring/Summer Sports Program going forward," Dwyer concluded.