On April 4, eight members of the Southern Marin Broncos football team visited The Q with their parents and went on a tour of the prison that turned out to be very informative for the youth—potentially even life changing.
“It [the tour] helped me realize how I could steer and navigate my life. It helped me see change and how I look at things now. The advice that I got from the tour guys, I’m going to share it with other people and tell them what this experience was like for me,” said S. Robinson, who is the starting powerhouse running back of the team. Robinson can recall making eight touchdowns—but his shining talent is only a fraction of what he inherited from his dad, who is the American Youth Football League president.
S. Rodriquez is the team’s kicker. He said the experience of coming into the prison has inspired him not to do bad things.
“Our organization tries to instill into our kids our model. Coaches love the players and players love each other,” said S. Robinson’s father.
Formerly incarcerated and recently released after serving 40 plus years at SQ, Lonnie Morris had the opportunity to see the professional side of Lt. Sam Robinson while in prison and now got to see the outside person of who coach Robinson is on the field.
“This was one of the best experiences I had since being released,” said Morris in an interview when he visited the prison to facilitate his group, No More Tears. “And to see Robinson as a coach was good, he’s really hands on and detailed with the kids. I was blessed with the opportunity to go speak to the kids and to see Coach Robinson in action. To see the kids really listening to my message of ‘Choices,’ was great man.”
B. Alford is the offense and defensive lineman and he said that this experience has shown him that all it takes is one decision— and a bad one could change his life. He also said that he was impacted by one tour guide who said “don’t give in to peer pressure” and “be aware that the good choices you make might lose some of your friends out of your life, but you will gain more good ones than bad ones along the way.”
“Another piece of advice that I would give the kids is to find someone to talk to when you are down,” said Chase Beniot, who is one of the SQ resident tour guides and has been doing the tours for about four years now. “It could be another kid, a teacher or the coach. But don’t keep your emotions bottled up. Sharing your problems with someone will make all the difference in the world.”
M. Zoila-Shaffer brought into the prison her daughter M. Zoila and her son Z. Shaffer, who is also a running back for the team. Daughter M. Zoila said that she was not expecting to see the prison in this capacity with guys so open and honest. She said that when driving by, it looked so eerie.
“I am just grateful to have had this experience,” said the mother, M. Zoila-Shaffer. She said that she was perplexed by her emotions of empathy and gratitude for the experience.
After a brief presentation and account of the prison by the five tour guides, the group got the opportunity to go around the prison and see the Lower Yard and other parts of the prison. Running back Z. Shaffer said that he gained a great deal of respect for the men in blue and he also has a grateful outlook on life.
“This is a surreal experience for me; I realize that so many people’s lives are so hard. It [the tour] helps me realize that all my privileges can be taken away from me in a split second if I make the wrong choice. It’s not wrong to say no to people. And I know not to take things for granted,” said Z. Shaffer.
In addition to the poised tone of the kids and their stoic perception, the kids gave great conversation aligned with many great questions.
That was a good indicator of them being taught and raised by good parents and teachers. Also, the good discipline and football IQ instilled into them by their coaches was evident.
“Globally, we pour into the kids that sign up that it’s more than just football. It’s more than just the cheer of the crowd. We are trying to develop the person to strive to be better people. Football is just the foundation that leads to real lifetime values. Because it’s nothing quite like football to prepare a person for the future,” said the Sr. Robinson.
M. Deitch came on the tour with her two sons; she was hoping to give them a perspective that might teach them about consequences and what’s important in their lives. She’s known Lt. Robinson as a coach for three years now. One of her sons is 18 and is headed to college. She said that it’s him who she really wants to stay on the path, and hopefully, the tour worked.
“This has been a real eye opening experience for me,” said the 6-foot 5-inch small forward D. Deitch. He plays basketball but this experience was not just about football. “For me, seeing the worst of the worst has definitely helped keep me stay on the right path.