A team of prisoners met with youth coaches from the San Francisco Bay Area in San Quentin’s Protestant Chapel on Feb. 28. They talked about young people’s understanding of masculinity and the role coaches play in their lives.
Coaching4Life aims to show coaches how to maximize the impact they have on young athletes.
“We believe that youth coaches are the most influential people in their lives,” said Coaching4Life facilitator Brandon Terrell. “You may think that it’s the job of the parents, but 20 million kids are growing up without a father. I’m one of them.” He added, “Sports are in the perfect position to show young boys how to serve others and be committed to a cause bigger than themselves.”
Terrell went on to say that 92% of high school dropouts didn’t play sports, while 95% of Fortune 500 executives played high school sports and gave credit to their sports experience for their successes in life.
Coaching4Life was a one-day workshop that discussed how the definition of “man” changed since childhood, the wide range of teachings that coaches impart on youth, how to teach masculinity and “The Man Box.” The workshop also focused on defining success.
“I loved growing up in The Man Box,” Ronald Carter said. “I got picked first.”
Carter talked about the respect he gained by putting on the “tough guy” persona and how being called the wrong name, like sissy or chump, was serious business.
“If you call me one of those names, I’d go off. I’d want to fight,” Carter said. “Those names take us out of the box.”
Carter went on to talk about how maturity shifted his perspective about masculinity. Today, he says, he’s on a mission to help younger athletes.
“Show me the man you honor, and I’ll show you the man you want to be,” Carter said.
The workshop participants formed small groups to discuss each topic.
Some participants defined success as “being able to ask for help without being ashamed or to say that I love my family.” Others, “setting goals and seeing them through,” “being a positive influence,” “being happy and in a healthy relationship,” and understanding that “coaches are teachers and kids are sponges,” as well as, “coaches are authority figures that young athletes look up to.”
Kevin Sample, one of the facilitators, talked about the time coaches spend with young athletes.
“Each day my mother got 10 minutes with me, that same day my coach got four hours,” Sample said. “So, having coaches that teach life skills is important.”
Sample talked about how young kids pay attention to athletes and model the behavior they see.
He then challenged the audience to connect with the children in order “to change the world,” adding, “Our biggest problem is that we hide our brokenness from children.”
What is success? he asked. “Remember that children just don’t know— help our kids, heal their brokenness.”
The Coaching4Life facilitators have 266 years combined incarceration experience—the youngest, Juan Navarro, 33 years old, has been incarcerated for nine years.
“Nothing like this is happening in any other prison,” said Dwight Kennedy. “The volunteers could be doing something different, but they choose to come and do this.”