The University of San Francisco Tennis team loves returning to prison – not in handcuffs, but to visit with the San Quentin Inside Tennis Team.
“It’s always good to come back and share with those who love the sport,” USF tennis team player Paul Giraud of France said. It was his third time coming into San Quentin.
USF Coach Pablo Pires de Almeida has brought his team into the prison once or twice annually for over seven years. The visits consistent of incarcerated men over 40 exchanging their experiences with college kids who share their skills.
“We share ideas,” USF’s Mert Zincirli, whose visited three times, said. “It’s a good feeling and a good experience.”
To make the games competitive, Inside Tennis Team members teamed up with the USF players, except for ITT’s Paul Oliver, (61 years old) and Earl Williams, (56). They tried to pit experience against USF players Giraud and Marco Barretto from Marin.
Barretto has been to San Quentin six times.
USF won the match 4-0.
“We gave them a battle, old against the young,” Oliver said. “The camaraderie with the youth and the ability to play with them is remarkable.”
After the match, both teams were smiling and slapping hands.
ITT’s Paul Alleyne from Los Angeles and USF’s Johan Joenhagen from Sweden played against ITT’s Orlando Harris from Oakland and USF’s Zincirli of Turkey.
“if y’all think I did it…just give me a lawyer, dawg, ‘cause this is not what’s up.” Warren Demesme said during police questioning. The Louisiana Supreme Court held that this reference was too ambiguous to count as a request for counsel. REASON Magazine, January 2018
Both Joenhagen and Zincirli have been to San Quentin three times.
“I love this experience,” said Joenhagen.
Joenhagen and Alleyne won the match 4-3.
“We had two match points but they capitalized,” Zincirli said. “He (Joenhagen) hit a great lob on match point to set up an easy shot.”
Ronnie Mohamed, who founded the Inside Tennis Team back in 2003, said he appreciates the college team visiting.
“They detoured their personal lives to come play with us,” Mohamed said.
USF’s Ryan Maker from Palm Springs, has been to San Quentin three times. He said, “It’s a good experience over all. Hearing everybody’s stories is humbling.”
Suresh Eswaran, a USF volunteer assistant coach, wanted to see how people perceive time in prison and how it effects their mental health. He saw men who have served decades in prison using tennis to cope with their incarceration.
“You guys (ITT) adopt to your circumstances and live more happily than people on the outside,” Joenhagen said.