With a new coach comes new traditions.
The men’s basketball team has been trying its hand at yoga with head coach Chris Ogden, an “avid yogi,” as he describes himself.
“It’s doing something outside their comfort zone that’s a little different,” Ogden said. “And in some way, hopefully, taking their mind off of basketball and school for a moment.”
For one hour on Fridays, whether it be in the Maverick Activities Center or the practice gyms of College Park Center, the team comes together to find its balance.
From coaches to players and just anyone who is around, everyone participates.
When Ogden first brought up the idea of having a team yoga session, there were a few laughs and giggles, but overall, the team took it pretty seriously.
Junior guard Scott Muirhead said he always thought yoga was a joke. Then he tried it.
Dripping sweat, arms burning, Muirhead quickly learned he wasn’t very flexible and jokingly rated the pain of yoga as something close to childbirth.
“It’s like one leg up in the air, one leg on the ground. It’s like that twister game,” Muirhead said. “That’s what I’d compare it to, it’s just you’re all over the place.”
On the other hand, junior guard DJ Bryant, who is a fan of hot yoga, knew what he was in for and is glad the team is trying something new.
“It’s newer because it’s more basketball specific,” Bryant said. “I like that I have a certain target that will focus on a certain, maybe, muscle or area of our body each day that really relates to what we do on the court.”
Ogden said he wants to keep the yoga sessions going into the season, maybe even on the road some between the Thursday through Saturday games.
“They know I’m serious about it,” he said. “They know it’s a part of what we do to become a pro, to become part of our process and journey of how we get better.”
Yoga becomes a different way to train, Ogden said. It’s a way to find balance between the two sides of the ball: the defensive side, which is about sheer aggression and effort, and the offensive side, which all about patience, skill, angles and art.
The hardest thing for Bryant has been learning how to breathe correctly, which he said is important in long basketball games where fatigue starts to affect one’s play.
“It’s just like being aware of your mind,” Bryant said. “That’s a big part of it, and when you’re able to become aware of part of your breath, so to say, you just find yourself at peace.”
Besides the instructor having them bring their foot behind their head, Bryant and Muirhead find the yoga sessions enjoyable. Seeing Ogden trying to put his foot up to the ceiling or some of the taller guys on the team fall over are some of their favorite things, they said.
Ogden described the yoga session as more than just a weekly activity. It has become a part of the program and is something he hopes continues throughout his time at UTA.
The weekly sessions have created a type of camaraderie between the team, Bryant said. It’s a break from running and being in the weight room — it’s refreshing.
But just because it’s relaxing doesn’t mean there isn’t a healthy level of competition involved.
“I’ve got to keep working on my yoga,” Bryant said. “I can’t let Coach Ogden outdo me in there.”