St. Georges athletes find success in yoga for injury prevention, recovery

Amanda Parrish
Middletown Transcript

Professional athletes have turned to yoga to help with game recovery, prevent injury and improve strength. St. Georges Technical High School players have found success in the exercises as well.

Over the past few years, the Hawks’ soccer and field hockey coaches have seen a decrease in injuries and faster recovery from games since they began making yoga a part of their weekly practice routines.

In 2018, head soccer coach Justin Null said he saw an advertisement for Yoga Strong, instructed by Debby Nolan, and wanted to take advantage of it.

"At that time, the benefits of yoga and the use of it in the athletic world was really growing. This is something that would be really awesome to incorporate in our program to assist with recovery, mobility and stuff like that," he said.

Nolan leads yoga during practice at least once a week, and the coach has noticed injuries have occurred less and the players have not been as sore.

"It's hard to put a finger on it if it's really the yoga or something else, but I can say that our injury rate is down this year and I would say our recovery is better too, more efficient," Null said.

Yoga Strong instructor Debby Nolan regularly provides yoga sessions with the St. Georges Technical High School boys soccer teams.

After working as a high school counselor, Nolan wanted her business to focus on high school athletics. Since she lives close to St. Georges Tech, she began working with their soccer and field hockey teams, using stretches to improve mobility, strength and flexibility.

Nolan reached out to field hockey coach Jessica Bloch two years ago, and Bloch has seen a decrease in injuries on the team.

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"The last couple years, we have had less significant injuries. Females tend to be prone to hip-related, hamstrings [injuries]. There has definitely been an improvement," the coach said. "I have used some of her poses and incorporated them into practices. I have seen less injuries this year even though we have been fighting in the colder weather."

Bloch usually uses Yoga Strong every other week. Because of the pandemic, the sessions haven’t been as frequent.

This year, Nolan focused mostly on recovery, meaning she would come to practice the day after a game and focus on movements that help prevent soreness and build strength. She tailors her workouts for whatever the coaches want to target.

"[For example], if it's preseason and they want to be in shape, I can do more of a power yoga," she said. "It's really just whatever the coach feels his players need at that time."

Bloch said she likes that Nolan caters each session to what the team needs that day.

"There is also a level of strength that they are getting. Understanding their body on a deeper level," the coach said. "The mental aspect as well, she is able to tap into that through her talking to them while they are stretching, getting them to release their thoughts and focus on certain thoughts."

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Nolan has worked with a variety of sports, such as football, basketball and baseball with schools all over New Castle County, including Caravel Academy, Conrad High School, Tatnall School and Middletown High School.