by Andrew Herstine
In order to compete at the highest level, Amherst College men's soccer head coach Justin Serpone knows he needs to keep his players healthy and focused. The grueling 15-game regular season schedule pays a toll on athletes' mental sharpness and physical abilities. To combat this the men's soccer team has created a unique partnership with renowned yoga instructor Lora Ksieniewicz.
"We're always looking for ways to be on the cutting edge with how we run our program and this is another application of that important team tenant. Whether it's hiring an analytics assistant, bringing in outside speakers on various topics, or incorporating a new set play – creativity is one of the things that Amherst Soccer values most. Our partnership with Lora is probably the best example of this forward way of thinking," explains Serpone.
Ksieniewicz has worked with the team for more than four years now, and the soccer team has seen tremendous results. During this span the Purple & White has gone an impressive 65-4-13.
"Yoga is an important addition to an athlete's training, both mentally and physically. Athletes, especially at the college and professional levels, have been training their bodies for years in the ways we generally consider to be healthy: strength and cardio. What can get overlooked is the wear and tear on the joints and connective tissue."
Despite concern from some athletes who don't think yoga is right for them Ksieniewicz sees its advantages for all. "I like to tell students that saying, 'I'm not flexible enough for yoga' is like saying you're too dirty to take a bath."
Serpone sees similar advantages. "The recovery time for athletes has been noticeably less. Obviously throughout the season the wear and tear on the body can add up, but we have certainly seen the positive affects of practicing yoga both on and off the field."
This season, men's soccer sits at 6-0-0 and 3-0-0 in the NESCAC. The long-term success can be attributed to numerous things. Most importantly, players need to be on the field and healthy, so coaches are constantly searching for new ways to make this possible. As Ksieniewicz says, "Ideally, this practice keeps them out of recovery, and in play, as much as possible."