For an hour the athletes are silent, barely moving from their designated spots in the Wheaton High School lower gymnasium. There's no running, there's no heavy lifting and there's no competition. It's not a typical football workout.
But after committing this summer to the twice-a-week routine, yoga, they said they are feeling healthy and fit heading into the preseason.
“You wouldn't think yoga can work you out but once you start getting into it and actually doing it, you actually start to sweat,” said Dominyck Sims, a junior. “It's a legitimate exercise because you're sweating and your blood is flowing.
Added senior Carey Brown: “I thought it was kind of boring and that it wouldn't help me. But now that I'm doing it it's a big help. It keeps me from getting injured.”
The Knights have been practicing yoga since Ernie Williams was hired as coach before the 2012 season. The third-year coach said he started the program — which has mental and physical benefits — after seeing its rise in popularity in college and professional sports.
“There's just so many teams that are doing it and the benefits are so great,” he said. “... They get into some positions where if you're not focused, you're hitting the ground. They have to be locked into the moment.”
Williams said about 33 players — up from 23 last season — attend the classes, which are instructed by Nancy Rossini, a longtime yoga enthusiast and friend of the coach.
“It definitely can be challenging because they come with different skill levels, they come with different flexibility, they come with different focus levels,” said Rossini, a counselor at Argyle Middle School in Aspen Hill. “... The boys are definitely getting better. They're getting more familiar with the poses.”
Senior Dontrey Tyler said he was skeptical of yoga initially and that he struggled in his earlier sessions, but has come to appreciate the hour-long workouts.
“I realize it helps stretch you out more and helps your core. It just helps your overall strength of your body, stretches it out and makes you feel more fluid,” Tyler said. “... It helps you push past what you think you can do.”
Sims, a running back, said that yoga — in conjunction with their other workouts — could help the Knights execute their fast-pace offense as they look to improve on last season's 1-9 season.
“If we're in top shape and we're doing yoga, it could keep us from being injured,” Sims said. “We do a lot of running to keep in condition, so when it comes to the fourth quarter, we'll be able to pull out the games and win.”