Coaching gives ex-players a way to stay close to the sport they love and share their knowledge. When injuries or age push them to the sideline, they became teachers of the game, but the job comes with some difficulties.
“Once I stopped being able to play, I wanted to stay involved,” said S.Q. Kings Assistant Coach Ishmael Freelon. “I love teaching — showing younger cats things they can’t see, bringing out talent they don’t think they have, encouraging.
“When I hurt my knee and had to have surgery, it was time to stop playing and start teaching,” said All-Madden Coach Isaiah “Adbur Raheem” Thompson-Bonilla.
“I like being able to share knowledge of the game to help others elevate theirs — if they’re coachable,” said S.Q. Athletics Coach John “Yah-Yah” Parratt. “I love seeking and spotting new talent.”
“Cutting people is the hardest thing to do – seeing that look on a guy’s face when you have to tell him he didn’t make the team or when you play many tight games and some guys don’t get to play”
All of the coaches have years of experience to share. Some even played at the semi-pro level.
Thompson-Bonilla started playing football at age 9 for Pop Warner and made it to the Canadian pro league. There, he played for Toronto and then the Chicago Argonauts with quarterback Doug Flutie.
“Coaching sports teaches a sense of community on a small scale and getting brothers to come together to obtain a common goal,” Thompson-Bonilla said.
Parratt played for the New York Yankees farm club, the Calaveras Cementers and for the Cijus Phillies out of Danville. In high school he played right field and shortstop for the Shasta Wolves, then second base for the Shasta College Knights.
Freelon played point guard for Bell High School until he blew his knee out in 12th grade. “Being so good at point guard allowed me to see places where people needed to be on the court,” said Freelon. S.Q. Kings Head Coach Orlando Harris gave him the opportunity to help coach the Kings.
Harris started as a boxing trainer, which gave him the discipline to coach the game he loves – basketball. He started as a player for the S.Q. Kings. When the previous coaches didn’t show commitment, he stepped up, asked for the job and got it. He led the Kings to back-to-back winning seasons, 18-6 in 2012, and 19-5 in 2013.
The key to coaching is “being able to create a team concept while having individual relationships with each player,” said Harris.
“It’s about TEAM, Together Each Achieves More,” Parratt said.
Nevertheless, coaching isn’t easy. The hardest part is “having to cut players and having to tell players if they don’t come to practice, they can’t play,” said Thompson-Bonilla. “Some of San Quentin’s best players aren’t represented on All-Madden because many chose not to play because of a lack of commitment to practice.”
“Cutting people is the hardest thing to do – seeing that look on a guy’s face when you have to tell him he didn’t make the team or when you play many tight games and some guys don’t get to play,” Parratt said.