Yoga and Soccer: Back in the Game

"Yoga is transformative"
Corey DeRosa, who tended the goal for John Romero’s team at the Simon Gavron tourney on Shelter Island Monday evening, wants to play at the highest level he can. Jack Graves

   Corey DeRosa and John Romero are putting together what promise to be very strong men’s soccer entries in amateur Islandwide and county competition, but not long ago DeRosa thought that while Ashtanga yoga practice had succeeded in healing a stress fracture of his spine, he would probably never play soccer again.
    Then, last September, two decades having intervened since he played goalie for Stony Brook University’s varsity and seven years after having suffered the spinal injury, he decided to give it a try, signing on with an over-30 team in Sayville.
    This past winter he played in an indoor league overseen by Andreas Lindberg at the Southampton Recreation Center, and this spring and summer he’s been the goalkeeper for Romero’s Maidstone Market 7-on-7 team here and on its 11-on-11 team, which plays in Calverton on Sundays.
    “So far, so good,” DeRosa said Saturday, following one of his popular Ashtanga sessions in Sag Harbor. “. . . . It makes sense that it has gone well. I had a stress fracture and the whole aim of yoga is to relieve stress. Living in Sag Harbor helps too.”
    “I began playing just half a game in an over-30 league, then a full game with John’s teams, and now I want to play at the highest level I can play at. . . . John’s really doing this for the most part, I’m behind the scenes helping.”
    His fiancée, whom he’s to marry in Montauk “the day before our open team’s first game of the season,” has, he said, been understanding.
    Asked if he’d had any more problems with his back, DeRosa said, “No, it’s fine. . . . My shoulders and wrists on the other hand. . . .”
    Yoga and soccer are really one and the same, he said, inasmuch as each requires of the practitioner “disciplined physical effort, awareness — bringing one’s focus to bear in the present moment so that you’re not affected by the chaos that surrounds you — and spiritual effort, a letting-go, a devotion to something higher than yourself, whether it be your team, your family, your community . . . God. . . . Non-attachment.”
    “But not non-attachment as in apathy?”
    “No, not that, because there’s physical effort as well, remember. You’re working hard, but without the attachment.”
    “Like what Kipling said about treating victory and defeat as the impostors they are. . . ?”
    “Yes, that’s from the Baghavad Gita,” DeRosa said with a smile. “Success and failure are the same. You’re working for your teammates. It’s like on the battlefield: You’re not out to save your life, but the lives of the people next to you. . . . It’s difficult to arrive at that state, especially when your adrenaline is going. How do you remain composed at such times? You perform better — in anything — when your tension is released, when you’re relaxed, when you’re in the zone. Yoga is transformative.”
    In this regard, he said, he’s to lead the St. John’s women’s soccer team in an Ashtanga session at his Tapovana healing center on Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Monday.
    “My sister’s the assistant coach there,” DeRosa said by way of explanation. “She’s a fantastic coach.”
    As for Ashtanga, he said, “You can adhere to the three principles no matter what level you are. But you must be willing to practice, to show up every day. . . . The only thing you can’t be is lazy.”
    Open tryouts for what are to be East Hampton’s fall entries in the Long Island Soccer Football League’s open Division III team and its over-30 team (whose games are to be played within Suffolk County) are continuing apace at the Ross School fields on Wednesday and Friday evenings, beginning at 6:30, DeRosa said.
    The teams will be amateur ones, “but this is the highest level before you get paid. The L.I.S.F.L. — it’s been in existence for 65 years and has 53 teams in three divisions Island-wide — feeds into the semipro and professional levels. Since this is our first year, we’ve got to start at the bottom, in Division III. I expect we’ll do very well. We have a lot of talented players here. There are good teams in the upper level of Division II, and Division 1 is tough, a college-level league.”
    “Our goal,” he said in parting, “is to win our first game in Division III. . . . These guys have been working hard at our practices, but you have to have enjoyment. That’s the letting-go part.”

Whatever the level, all students can benefit from Ashtanga yoga, Corey DeRosa says, though it’s not for the lazy. Timothy Small