The University of San Francisco Tennis Team, comprising players from around the world, returned to San Quentin to visit and play against the Inside Tennis Team. The S.Q. team is composed of older incarcerated men, most of whom learned how to play tennis inside prison.
“I love bringing my guys here,” said USF coach Pablo Pries de Almeida. “They really get a lot out of it.”
Pries de Almeida brought in seven tennis players from countries including France, Sweden, Turkey and the U.S. Regardless of where anyone came from, both the college kids and incarcerated men share a love for tennis, he said.
“I’m not in prison anymore when I’m on the court,” said Inside Tennis Team’s (ITT) Salvadore Solorio.
The ITT was no match for the younger guys who started playing tennis as kids. Marco Barretto, 21, of San Francisco, has played tennis since he was 9 and is proud to say his dad also played for USF. However, something bigger than tennis happens on the San Quentin court of dreams.
ITT member Paul Alleyne, who learned how to play tennis inside prison, appreciates the lessons he learns from the international visitors.
“I like the fact that they’re coming from the outside and showing compassion for us,” Alleyne said. “They’re encouraging us to continue a positive program and by doing that, they’re helping us get ready for the streets.”
The visitors enjoyed themselves as well.
“I admire the people here — no one is giving up,” said USF’s Mert Zincili, 19, of Turkey.
USF’s Ryan Marker, 19, of Palm Springs, added, “I wanted to come. It’s an eye-opener, good experience.”
“I really look forward to Saturdays,” said ITT’s Paul Oliver. “They take their time to speak with us. It lets me know I’m still human.”