Charlie Cutler led the Northern California Tennis Club into San Quentin recently, restoring competition between inside and outside players as COVID-19-related restrictions on outside athletes ease.
Cutler has been bringing outside tennis players to San Quentin for the past 10 years to play alongside residents.
He said that he was “excited to have the tennis program up and running” and that he was working on expanding the program.
Three visitors joined Cutler at San Quentin, including a father and son duo. Each player teamed up with an incarcerated partner to face each other in doubles competition.
“I enjoy the sportsmanship of the men,” Cutler said as he watched four players battle it out on the court.
Cutler, a former assistant coach at the University of San Francisco, teaches a monthly class on the outside. He also organizes volunteers coming into SQ to play doubles matches.
Besides being a part of the Northern California Tennis Club and USF, Cutler was a 2010-2012 Armature Athletic Association player, a part of the future and challengers circuit in the professional tennis world.
The third volunteer who came into San Quentin with Cutler did not want to give his name, but said that he and his wife are huge fans of Ear Hustle. He said he came to the prison for a chance to interact and teach the game of tennis to those willing to learn.
As he watched the father and son play from the sidelines, the volunteer said how excited he was to be at SQ. He said that he got involved with SQ because he is interested in criminal justice reform and appreciates the invitation from the incarcerated people.
The visiting team came to compete, but ultimately the game was about having fun on the tennis court. They had nothing but good things to say about the men in blue and the quality of the tennis at SQ.
At the end of their match, the incarcerated players and the visitors rallied into a circle and thanked each other for the time and the challenge. Putting their tennis rackets together, they all chanted in unison “Inside/Outside Tennis.” Then they went their separate ways.