By Howard Tsumura, PNG
SURREY — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar swore by the practice. And Phil Jackson, during his coaching days with both the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, embraced its benefits, both from a physical and a mental standpoint.
Now, one local high school coach is making yoga a big part of his senior boys varsity basketball team’s regular training regimen.
“We did our first team yoga session in mid-November, and I saw the benefits right away” says Raman Bedi, the coach of Surrey’s Panorama Ridge Thunder. “It immediately put the emphasis on relaxing and staying present. They felt so loose and so good that they fell asleep after the session.”
The Thunder will not only be wide awake when they open play Thursday (4 p.m.) at the Langley Events Centre against the Burnaby South Rebels in an opening-round game at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational, they will have started a process that the 28-year-old Bedi hopes manifests itself throughout the course of the long campaign and has them ready to play their best basketball as March Madness approaches.
A teacher at Panorama Ridge, who is currently studying for his masters in health education and active living at Simon Fraser University, Bedi found himself getting to know professionals from all walks of the wellness community.
“I am surrounded by a lot of health practitioners and I was able to build a lot of contacts there,” the former North Delta Huskies player says of getting to know Naseem Gulamhusein, Langara College’s yoga-teacher training program coordinator.
“And I have always been about taking care of the body and having it work at optimal levels.”
Through Langara, Bedi has not only introduced the team to yoga, but has also arranged for a number of the school’s student massage therapists to work practicum hours on his players. In his mind, it’s all part of a larger component of the game that has been ignored for far too long.
“My boys know how to play the game, but if they don’t appreciate their bodies, they are not going to be able perform over the long-term,” he says. “If your body is not loose, you might still be able to do the basics, but by the end of the day you look like a pylon when you should look like you’re flying through the air. When you watch the pros, you can tell which ones do flexibility training.”
And so the Thunder roll on.
Talented seniors Harsimran Bhullar and Rajan Atker, and Grade 11s like Raphael Alcorez and Gurshael Jessel, will be the ones leading the way. And while the benefits of their specialized training may not immediately reveal themselves, Bedi remains a believer that so many facets of his team — from athleticism and endurance to unity and positivity — will wind up being enhanced.
“It’s important to teach them about well-being and the importance of flexibility, mindfulness and staying present,” he says. “The boys have implemented yoga practice into their daily lives and with it, success is coming on the court, in the classroom and in their daily lives.”
2016 Tsumura Basketball Invitational
Tournament draw, opening round (Thursday)
2:45 p.m. — Lord Byng vs. Port Moody
4:30 p.m. — Walnut Grove vs. Sir Winston Churchill
6:15 p.m. — Steveston-London vs. Yale
8 p.m. — Holy Cross vs. Lambrick Park
5:45 p.m. — Lord Tweedsmuir vs. St. Thomas More
7:30 p.m. — Kelowna vs. McNair
2:15 p.m. — Tamanawis vs. Byrne Creek
4 p.m. — Burnaby South vs. Panorama Ridge