Saratoga football team is hooked on yoga

Brian Williams knows that getting bent and twisted in awkward ways comes with the territory when you
A group of Saratoga High School football players after taking a yoga class with Kim Beekman.
A group of Saratoga High School football players after taking a yoga class with Kim Beekman.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

Brian Williams knows that getting bent and twisted in awkward ways comes with the territory when you play quarterback.

That’s why the senior and some of his Saratoga Springs High School teammates willingly did so on their day off.

The undefeated Blue Streaks are looking for that little extra edge to propel them to a sectional title. If taking up yoga provides the path to a Super Bowl title, they will follow it.

“The strength part was not too bad, but some of the movements were pretty tough,” Williams said. “The balancing part was the most difficult.”

Williams was talking about the first yoga class that he recently took. His football buddies Luke Thompson, Brandon Hipsley, Nick Biasetti, Bill Barber and Cory McArthur are new to the discipline, too, which has become as mainstream as your local YMCA.

“I made fun of it. Now I recommend it,” Thompson said. “After the first time, my body felt a lot better. I felt loose.”

McArthur had been telling the group that would be the case. The football and baseball standout was the first among them to give yoga a try on the recommendation of one of Saratoga’s football managers, Kate Dennett.

“After we went to that class, I though it would be awesome to have others join us,” said McArthur, who plays offensive guard and defensive end. “I thought it would be a good way to recover from games.”

The group assembled at the Wilton YMCA for the first time the Sunday after helping the Blue Streaks beat rival Shenendehowa 40-14 for their fourth straight win. The Blue Streaks gained the upper hand in the race for the Class AA Empire Division championship with the victory, in which Williams ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more.

“We were all feeling pretty beat up after the win, so we decided to try it out,” Williams said. “It’s a great way to unwind. Some people are drawn away because it’s yoga, but it’s good for us, physically and mentally. Mentally, it puts you in a different place.”

Kim Beekman, a yoga and meditation instructor at the Saratoga Regional YMCA in Wilton, Skidmore College and elsewhere, conducted the class at the Wilton Y the high school athletes attended. (She raved about their attentiveness.) Although not well-versed in sports, she said the benefits yoga presents athletes are readily apparent.

“Yoga is great for building strength, flexibility, balance and muscle,” she said. “But it is also food for developing focus and inwardness that help athletes get into the zone.

“You need to develop your supporting muscles. You also need to be able to skillfully use your mind.”

Hipsley said at times during his first yoga session that his head was spinning. The breathing, all of the stretches, he had never seen before let alone attempted.

“It was hot yoga. It picked up and got pretty intense,” the senior said. “I didn’t think it was going to be like that, with the sequence from one move to another. I thought it was going to be at a slower pace. I was watching the girls in front of me to make sure I did it right.”

The Blue Streaks have joined a long list of athletes who have utilized yoga, one that includes LeBron James to the entire Seattle Seahawks team.

“I have no objections whatsoever,” Saratoga football coach Terry Jones said. “They were looking for something to help them loosen up after a tough game. If it helps, I say go for it.”

Biasetti said yoga has helped with a nagging groin problem.

“My dad said the only way to heal it was rest. That’s not possible,” the senior said. “It felt good to stretch it out.”

Saratoga played Albany last Friday night at the University at Albany.

“We’ll definitely be loose for it,” McArthur quipped the day before.

You could say that: Saratoga won 69-29.

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