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By | September 10, 2019

Head drillmaster John William Parsons keeps the Half Moon Bay Aerial Academy boys basketball aggregation apart and affianced with avant-garde training techniques. (Photo: photography4good.com)

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HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — John William Parsons is an old-school drillmaster with New Age ideas. He believes in Xs and Os, of course, but additionally in Ys and Ps — as in yoga and Pilates.

And so actuality are the Cougars of Half Moon Bay Aerial School’s boys basketball team, assuming poses in a wood-beamed yoga flat overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the night afore their aboriginal alliance game.

Soothing music trills. A wood-burning stove offers atmosphere, affection and winter warmth. Players assassinate backbends and collapsed twists beneath aerial ceilings in low light.

Yoga abecedary Amy Outman urges them, at assorted points, to stretch, breathe, and alike relax to the point of sleep. The idea, she says, is to advance backbone and flexibility, animate absorption and relaxation, and breeding the anatomy and soul.

Twenty hours later, Half Moon Bay beats South Burghal 79-43. The Cougars advance 22-8 afterwards one quarter, 48-21 afterwards two, and 67-32 afterwards three. Third-stringers comedy a feel-good fourth division in which special-needs apprentice Coleman Syme banks in a chargeless throw, his aboriginal varsity point, all while the starters and second-stringers bellow and bark on the bench.

More: How a aerial academy angry aggregation abundantly added accord by putting kids first

Loudest is green bouncer Zeke Syme, Coleman’s brother. Their mother adopted them from Liberia, forth with addition brother from there and three from Sierra Leone.

“Yoga is appealing fun,” Zeke says. “Relaxing, chill. It makes me not accent so abundant and brings our aggregation allure together.”

Some players acquaint Parsons that yoga helps bright their active aback it comes time to apply on their studies. Outman says she teaches the boys yoga not to win amateur but to crop beatitude and affluence in their lives.

The embrace of yoga, an out-of-the-box action that promotes health, is one big acumen why Half Moon Bay was accustomed by the Aspen Institute and Hospital for Special Surgery as the boys basketball champ in the Advantageous Action Index civic chase for admirable teams. Analysis suggests that yoga offers allowances in the three areas of bloom abstinent in the Advantageous Sports Index: concrete activity, psychosocial allowances and abrasion prevention.

Healthy Action Index (Photo: Aspen Institute)

Healthy Action Index Contest

Half Moon Bay Aerial Academy is the Aspen Institute’s Advantageous Action Index accolade champ for aerial academy boys basketball. The Advantageous Action Index, developed in affiliation with Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), helps the accessible accomplish abreast decisions about action activities that accommodated the needs of youth. The Aspen Institute is analytic over the abutting year for added admirable and avant-garde aerial academy teams from abounding sports. The civic chase seeks teams that embrace best practices and innovate new agency to animate concrete activity, abbreviate abrasion risk, and abutment athletes’ emotional, amusing and brainy well-being. Aerial academy teams may be nominated here.

The Civic Institutes of Bloom cites analysis that suggests yoga may abate accent and advance affecting health. And a 2014 abstraction by advisers at George Mason University suggests that activities announcement mindfulness, such as yoga, may be added able for athletes than acceptable sports psychology.

The backward Kobe Bryant, whose recommendations on commutual activities were acclaimed in the Advantageous Action Index, accustomed the achievement allowances of meditation. Parsons says he can’t be abiding if yoga does the same. His capital objective, he says, is to accord his players a activity acquaintance — to aggrandize their horizons and brainwash advantageous habits. And if it helps to win games, well, that’s air-conditioned too.

More: Limited acquaintance in convenance doesn’t absolute success for Florida football powerhouse

“It’s actual out-of-the-box, abnormally for 15- or 16-year-old males,” Parsons says. “When I aboriginal mentioned it, they looked at me sideways, like, ‘Isn’t that the addition old ladies do?’ But already they got in chic and started sweating, they accomplished this is absolutely challenging, mentally and physically.

“Now they absolutely like it. Some of the stretches are hard; they’re uncomfortable. That translates to sports. Sports are hard. And yoga helps them to be adequate in afflictive situations.”

It additionally helps them advance adaptability and absolute injuries. Parsons says he offered alone a few yoga sessions in his aboriginal division at Half Moon Bay and two of his best players absent amateur with abate injuries. He says that in the two seasons since, with added common yoga sessions, his aggregation has suffered beneath injuries.

The Cougars boys basketball aggregation stretches during a contempo convenance at Half Moon Bay High. (Photo: Erik Brady photo)

Ric Bucher, who is an NBA biographer for Bleacher Report and analyst for FOX Sports, says out-of-the-box cerebration is allotment of the ability in the Bay area, area Steve Kerr coaches the Golden Accompaniment Warriors and Tara VanDerveer coaches the Stanford women’s basketball team. Kerr says he finds amusement and irony in the nonsense of accustomed life, acceptance him to action his aggregation a faculty of fun. VanDerveer says she maintains her team’s accord and focus with bluntness and absolute reinforcement.

“People actuality are accessible to new ideas,” Bucher says. “We’re a little bank boondocks and we charge to stick calm in adjustment to accept success. That’s a mentality that Half Moon Bay espouses in a array of agency and John brings it to basketball.”

Half Moon Bay Aerial Academy is a accessible academy of about 1,000 acceptance in Half Moon Bay, Calif., a appealing littoral burghal of about 13,000 association some 30 afar south of San Francisco. Parsons, 35, is a admired son who has lived about all of his activity on the California bank and who himself played basketball at Half Moon Bay Aerial School, area he is anointed in the contest anteroom of acclaim as the program’s best arch scorer.

“John’s admission to apprenticeship exemplifies the ability of our community,” Half Moon Bay Arch John Nazar says. “One of the things thematically that the academy tries to advise is kindness, and John brings that to the fore. He’s actual competitive, too, and that’s good. We advise that affection is not about actuality a breeze or actuality weak. Affection is a affectionate of strength.”

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Location: Half Moon Bay, California

Team budget: About $25,000; academy provides $6,000 and aggregation raises the rest

Roster size: 18 varsity, 14 inferior varsity, 14 freshmen

History: Bristles alliance championships, one exclusive appellation in accomplished six seasons 

Coach: John William Parsons

Athletic trainer: One, abounding time 


Parsons was assassin in 2017 aback Half Moon Bay did not renew the arrangement of Rich Forslund, who had a awful acknowledged seven-season run as arch drillmaster of the Cougars. His teams won bristles Peninsula Athletic Alliance championships, including four in a row afore he was let go.

“Forslund is belled for his blunt-force apprenticeship style,” the Circadian Peninsula said in its adventure advertisement that he would not return. Forslund told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time that he believed ancestor complaints did him in: “If they are not blessed with you or their son’s arena time or if you are aggravating to actual a player, they couch it as if you’re actuality a bully.”

Nazar, the principal, says he respects Forslund and appreciates his time as drillmaster at Half Moon Bay. Nazar would not animadversion on why Forslund was let go added than to say the academy absitively to go in a altered direction.

In Parsons’ aboriginal season, the Cougars won a alliance championship additional the school’s aboriginal exclusive appellation in added than 20 years. Last season, the Cougars accomplished third in their league.

This season, at convenance on the night afore the aboriginal alliance game, Parsons gathers his players and abettor coaches and tells them what will appear if they should win a alliance appellation this season: The cardinal “20” — for the 2019-20 division — would go up on a aerial banderole in the active of a gym area the Cougars play.

“Years from now, aback you appear back,” Parsons tells his team, “you’ll see your year up there.”

That resonates with advanced Lukas Meighen. “We’ve been talking about it aback we were in fourth or fifth grade,” he says. “It would be absolutely air-conditioned to accompany one back.”

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Other avant-garde bloom account by Advantageous Action Index boys basketball finalists:

Holy Innocents Episcopal Academy (Atlanta): The aggregation uses account charge cards in which players brace up and address their goals for conditioning and practices so that the ally can authority anniversary added accountable. Parents are arrive to beam practices on Wednesdays in an action alleged Accompaniment of the Bears. Players and coaches are chargeless to say what they amuse and how they are activity on Open-Mic Mondays. Drillmaster Cabral Huff sends two texts afterwards every convenance — one to a amateur who shined that day and one to a amateur who needs encouragement. “We charge adulation them as adamantine as we drillmaster them,” Huff says.

Lakota East Aerial Academy (Liberty Township, Ohio): Drillmaster Clint Adkins calls abrasion blockage a above point of accent in his program. Practices alpha and end with cogent time spent on addition and flexibility. Afore anniversary season, Adkins gives parents and guardians tips on diet and beddy-bye habits. Players accept admission to compression analysis and hot and algid therapies afterwards practices. The aggregation does not do loose-ball drills or full-speed take-a-charge drills at practices. “We still appetite our kids to go afterwards apart assurance and to booty accuse in games,” Adkins says, “but you don’t charge 15 minutes’ account of those drills” at practices.


This night, as a commencement to practice, bloom and fettle authority Matthew Adams puts the Cougars through movement contest — large, abstract steps, for example, or affective above the cloister with adaptable bands about their legs. And again he asks players to attending one addition in the eye, and growl.

That’s appropriate — growl. The players cackle through their growls at first. But, as this exercise roars on, their growls abound louder, fiercer.

“You are lions!” Adams shouts. “You are not lambs. You are lions!”

Well, they’re Cougars, absolutely — though, to be fair, cougars are abundance lions. And, besides, the colossal scoreboards in their gym are a allowance of the bounded Lions Club.

“I’m allowance them anatomy accord as a aggregation through actual anatomy movements,” Adams says. “The roars advice them to arm-twist a accommodation for aggression.”

If all of this sounds a tad too California air-conditioned for you, the players appetite you to apperceive it works for them.

“Don’t beating it,” Meighen says, “until you try it.”

“I wouldn’t accept done it on my own — I mean, you know, aloof try yoga,” says bouncer Mykola Ediger, the team’s arch scorer. “And now I anticipate I’ll do it all my life.”

Cougars abettor Tom Longaker, who has been apprenticeship at the aerial academy and academy levels aback 1986, says he has never accepted a basketball aggregation to absorb yoga into its approved training schedule.

“I did things a assertive way for 30 years,” he says. “It acclimated to be just, ‘Get in the weight room, and let’s go comedy basketball.’ There’s so abundant added to apprenticeship nowadays. I assumption ‘refreshing’ is the word.”

Parsons takes his aggregation to casual Pilates sessions. (Yoga is about adaptability and adherence while Pilates is added about backbone and stability.) Sometimes the aggregation runs barefoot on the beach, like the active appellation arrangement of “Chariots of Fire,” the 1981 cine about 1920s British Olympians.

At convenance the night afterwards that aboriginal alliance game, Parsons takes his Cougars to a jiujitsu class. This is article Parsons has never approved before, but he wants them to comedy added assertively and hopes this will help.

The Cougars absorb an hour in a cinderblock gym area Raul Castillo puts them through a accurate conditioning that is allotment pep allocution and allotment punches — into the air at first, and again accelerated into the bedlam easily of their partners. The players beam gamely through it all.

“I’m consistently aggravating to anticipate of altered things,” Parsons says. “If you can accord them allowances in a lot of altered areas, I anticipate that helps them in agency above sports. I’m aggravating to accept acceptable basketball players, but I additionally appetite them to be acceptable adolescent men so they can go out in the apple and be acceptable people.”

Parsons was a four-year amateur at Claremont-McKenna College, area he led the Division III aggregation to a appointment championship in his chief season. He accelerating with a bifold above in accounting (this helps in his career as an advance advisor) and attitude (this helps in his career as a coach). He additionally minored in administration sequence, which helps in both careers.

Parsons and wife Polina Pavlova bought their ocean-view home through an actualization on HGTV’s House Hunters in 2013. He takes Muggsy, their pug-French bi-weekly mix, for circadian walks on the beach. And he additionally runs Coastside Basketball, which has added than 100 adolescence players enrolled through the bounded Boys and Girls Club.

“He’s been apprenticeship best of us aback third grade,” Ediger says. “We apperceive him absolutely well. I absolutely like the way he coaches. He doesn’t aloof scream at us. He teaches us.”

Yoga adviser Amy Outman guides Half Moon Bay Aerial basketball players through a workout. (Photo: Erik Brady photo)

Bucher, the NBA writer, has accomplished with Parsons in the bounded adolescence programs that he credits Parsons with creating.

“I accept consistently admired his demeanor,” Bucher says. “I see coaches who are yelling, screaming, all kinds of histrionics. You will never see that with John.”

The aerial academy aggregation has 18 members, which is ample for a basketball team, area arena time is at a premium. Three -to-be players were cut during tryouts, all seniors who had never played on the school’s inferior varsity or freshmen teams.

“I appetite as abounding players as we can have, because I apperceive the allowances of actuality on a team,” Parsons says. “If these guys aren’t still accompany in 30 years, I’m not accomplishing my job right.”

The academy arrangement pays Parsons $3,500 and his JV drillmaster $2,500 for the season. The aggregation raises the blow of the money for a account that approaches $25,000. That includes costs for transportation, uniforms, stipends for four varsity abettor coaches — and, of course, account such as yoga and jiujitsu. Abundant of the money comes from a pancake breakfast that the basketball aggregation runs anniversary October as allotment of the community’s anniversary attic festival.

“We get nice discounts for yoga and for added things,” Parsons says. “Our association is actual acceptable to us.”

Outman, the yoga teacher, says schools that can’t allow yoga acquaint could accept coaches apprentice some of the basics and advise their own classes. “Or they could ask yoga agents in their communities if they would be accommodating to assignment with their teams,” she says. “I do it as a charge to the association and to adolescent people.”

Outman generally comes to the games. She feels as if these boys are her players, too.

“I anticipate they get amazing account from yoga,” she says. “Balance, focus, connectedness, and allowance the guys acquisition a accompaniment area they can relax absolutely deeply, area they can be absolutely able and competitive.”

The beach flat area she teaches is alleged Enso, for a Zen attribute that agency amphitheater of togetherness.

The Cougars accumulate in a amphitheater about their drillmaster afore games. Again they put a annular brawl through the amphitheater of a hoop. It all comes abounding circle, you ability say.

Erik Brady, a longtime announcer and above USA Today reporter, is a freelance biographer for the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program. Follow the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Affairs on Twitter at @AspenInstSports.

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