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San Quentin Travel Blog

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The team over the years
Right after high school, I met Jim Campbell, one of the nicest and influential people in my life. He was my soccer coach.   One day he approached me and asked me if I wanted to play in prison.  Prison? I said.  "San Quentin, against the inmates" he added.  I thought about it for a few seconds and answered with an enthusiastic "YES."  Eight years later I am still part of the group that plays every Tuesday throughout summer every year.   Here is an article I found from one of the players.... enjoy!

has ran a program to set up soccer games to participate in a friendly pick-up game on Tuesday nights or the weekends. Ordinarily that wouldn't pose as much of a problem considering that, between the Mayflower League, Latin leagues and a league in Novato, there are more than 1,200 men paying to play soccer in Marin and Campbell only needs a dozen or so to commit to playing a few hours a week for free.
My first game, 19 years old. I am in the center.

Here's the catch: They have to go to prison.

The 70-year-old Campbell, former coach at Redwood High and College of Marin, has been for the past nine years soccer coach at San Quentin State Prison. The prison uses the grass outfield of its new baseball diamond to practice three times a week and Campbell has about 40 inmates signed up playing soccer, but they're bored and tired with having to play each other.

It's gotten to the point of frustration that Campbell is wondering if all the time and energy he puts into his life's passion is worth the effort if no one from this side of the prison walls wants to go to that side of the prison walls to scrimmage his players.

"If I don't go in," Campbell said, "they don't get out (to play)."

Soccer is a universally-loved sport that transcends all race, creed and language barriers. Coach Campbell needs it to transcend one more barrier, this one has barbed wire and armed guards. He is trying to organize a regular core group of players to visit the prison once a week to play on a soccer field that is better than most on the outside against players on the inside good enough to compete at 'B' division-level in the Marin Soccer League.

Coach Campbell understands there are sacrifices and risks involved in playing soccer in San Quentin. He also knows the pros far outweigh the cons, pun intended.  "There is a fear factor there," Campbell said, "but every team that has come in has left with wonderful memories and thoughts." There were a few times when riots broke out while we were playing, but thank God nothing serious happened.  You see, before you walk in prison, you have to sign a paper stating that you are solely responsible to whatever happens to you while you are in there, and it further states that in the event that you are captured by inmmates.. the will do nothing to save you, they will not negotiate....

Unfortunately, Coach Campbell retired in 2007, and so did I.  The program kept inmmates out of trouble and in many, many ocassions, inmmates would come to me and thank me for giving them something to look foward while they rectified thier life. 

Here is an article date in 2006.

Dolphintrekker says:
What a poignant piece of writing.
Posted on: Jan 23, 2008
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The team over the years
The team over the years
My first game, 19 years old.  I am…
My first game, 19 years old. I a…
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San Quentin
photo by: surfercalavera