Physical Education (Recreational Coordinator) instructors from various CDCR institutions visited San Quentin on March 12 to check out The Q’s recreational program and see if any of it can be replicated at their institution.
The group of 10 coaches, as the instructors are referred to by many incarcerated people, toured the prison and participated in a panel discussion with their SQ counterpart, K. Bhatt, members of the San Quentin Athletic Association and Media Broadcasting that are made up of incarcerated persons.
“For years I’ve heard about the amazing recreational opportunities available to the inmate population at San Quentin,” said Principal Hoff- man, Kern Valley State Prison Adult School principal. “See- ing them for the first time is impressive! … The Q is the standard that the other 34 prisons in California are chasing.”
Hoffman was referring to the Q’s sports facilities that included the well-kept baseball, football and soccer fields, where minor and farm league players are hosted and the basketball court with its fiberglass backboards and breakaway rims, that hosted members of professional sports organizations such as the Golden State Warriors.
The visiting group included 10 coaches including Coach Padilla, PBSP; Principal Hoffman , Kern Valley Adult School; Coach Gambill, CCI- Tehachapi; and Coach Wippel, CSP-Corcoran. Also present was Alicia Legarda, M.Ed., the Student Support Services Administrator from the Office of Correctional Education.
After a brief introduction and presentation by the San Quentin Athletic Association made up of the incarcerated coaches of the San Quentin’s intermural teams, the panel was opened up for discussion about how sports can support the rehabilitative goals of CDCR.
Coach Wippel asked the panel members how sports has changed their lives?
“I was attached to my former self and that person was selfish… until I became in- volved with sports inside of prison, specifically here at San Quentin. Then the racial and social barriers began to fall, and I could become who I was meant to be. This is part of how sports helps to rehabilitate a person,” replied Rob Polizen, coach of the SQ Hardtimers Softball team.
Anthony Evans added, “I’m a runner with the 1000 Mile Club as well as the SQ Warriors head coach. Sports has helped me to connect to others in ways I hadn’t be- fore because I had to become mentor to others.”
When talking about participation, visiting coaches were visibly impressed when the panel members stated that it was they themselves who upheld accountability standards that have to be met to be involved in the sports programs, especially as it relates to activities involving outside teams.
“We’ve had to sit some of our star players from very big games because they’ve received 115’s for various reasons,” said Evans. “We’re about building character and protecting the program, it’s not all about winning. We want to win, but we want to win the right way.”
“We want to win with humility and lose with honor,” said Coach Williams of the SQ Athletics.
“What can we do at (CDCR) headquarters to help facilitate this move towards incorporating sports as part of the rehabilitation?” asked Alicia Legarda.
Williams and Evans both responded by addressing the need for CDCR to invest the time and resources to make connections with local professional, collegiate, junior colleges and adult leagues near institutions.
Coach Hollyand from Vacaville echoed these views, “I had a Christian Softball team come into my prison and play a game against and with the inmates, and it was the best thing that happened for both sides. We need more help to get more people inside (of prisons) to connect community to the convicted.”
When asked about his thoughts on the power of re- habilitation in sports, Aaron Taylor, the SQNews Sports Editor and SQAA board member –talked about his coaching and sports organization experience starting at Centinela State Prison, where he arranged cooperation between ethnic groups to start a basketball league that contributed to 38 months without any racial incidents.
“When people have something to do, they will choose positive behavior,” Taylor said. “When they feel human they start to take ac- countability because they want more of the action.”
Taylor said that each institution should first build solid intermural leagues, then begin to do outreach to their communities.
At the end of the discussion, Coach Gambill of CCI- Tehachapi said, “Thank you to all inmates who shared their experiences and insight about SQ and the programs that are provided.” He said he thought the SQAA was “very professional, well- spoken and sincere in their stories of how athletics have contributed to their rehabilitative process, stress relief, and in providing participants an opportunity to give back.”
“The heartfelt conviction from the SQ panel members confirmed that fitness and sports in the prison system is key to rehabilitation,” Coach Wippel said.
Taylor said it was good to meet with the visiting coach- es and have the opportunity to present the value of the SQAA, adding “If you invest in sports as a way to rehabilitate and figure out way to get people and you’ll be amazed at the results.”