The first time Apex High School lacrosse coach John Hayden mentioned a new offseason yoga workout program to his players, they struggled to contain their laughter.
Nearly all of the 50-plus players believed their coach was joking. To them, yoga was nothing more than a bunch of crazy looking exercises usually performed by women.
A few weeks later, as they struggled through a 90-minute workout at the Sport HQ facility in the MacGregor Shopping Center, few of the players felt like laughing.
“When coach first mentioned it I just kind of laughed,” said senior Jake Fegley. “I didn’t think he was serious. You think of yoga class and you think it’s a girls’ thing but it’s really hard. It stretches every muscle, ones you didn’t even know you had.”
Teammate Hayden Foster also didn’t take his coach seriously. Then, once he realized Hayden wasn’t joking, Foster thought the workouts would be pretty easy.
He was wrong.
“The balancing things are very hard and it’s hard to hold the positions,” said Foster. I thought it was going to be like a joke but literally everything hurts.”
The volunteer yoga workout program, the only one of its kind among area high school lacrosse programs, is something Hayden has wanted to start for several years at Apex. But the logistics of putting it together always made it impossible.
This year, everything fell into place nicely. Hayden discovered that one of the player’s parents, Tara Farrell, was a certified yoga instructor.
The team also was given access to a state-of-the-art workout facility, Sport HQ, which is managed by former Apex High soccer standout Geoff Chrisman.
With these two unique opportunities available, Hayden decided to move forward with his plan.
“Yoga training is really becoming a mainstream thing in athletics,” said Hayden. “The Duke lacrosse program and the UNC program have been doing this for years.”
Farrell has customized the yoga training especially for athletes in an effort to increase speed, agility and balance. Added flexibility also should help the players with injury prevention.
The team will meet once a week for the training sessions until the season gets underway in the spring.
By that time, Hayden believes they will have shown much progress in their yoga skills.
“It’s very hard,” said Hayden. “There are a lot of things the kids can’t do and the instructor is light years ahead of everybody. But I’ve talked to the kids about how important it is to practice what you’re not good at, whether it is lacrosse or anything else. If you’re not good with computers, that’s the reason you should take a computer class.”
Hayden also talked to the players about the many benefits of yoga training and its potential to help the team both on and off the field.
“I told them it was important and something that we were going to make an investment in,” said Hayden. “Any off-season participation is voluntary but I let them know it was something we consider real important. It’s a team building thing where sticks aren’t involved.”
Although yoga is proving difficult in the beginning, some of the players are already starting to have some fun while looking forward to the potential benefits.
“It’s been tough,” said senior Tyler Rogers. “When I thought of yoga, I didn’t take it as serious as it really is. It’s a lot harder than it looks. But it’s turned out to be a lot of fun. I’m hoping for some injury prevention and it’s good for balance and for working on muscle groups I really didn’t know I had. I really enjoy it and it’s been great for team bonding.”
Although there’s still not a lot of laughter during yoga training, it seems the players are at least now able to smile through the pain.