By Forest Hauck, Recreation Instructor/Coach
Centinela Desert Institute at Centinela State Prison
An ESPN basketball expert recently shared his expertise with inmates at Centinela State Prison.
Earlier this year, Centinela State Prison’s Physical Education Department, Game Changing Films, and Richie Schueler, a basketball commentator for ESPN and a former basketball coach, showcased its second basketball clinic on A, B, C, and D Facilities.
The event provided inmates an opportunity to receive instruction on basketball techniques and fundamentals from collegiate basketball coaches and experts in the field. This exposed inmates to effective interactions with a diverse group of outside mentors and coaches.
Forty inmates on each facility took part in fast-paced conditioning, dribbling, shooting, passing, offensive and defensive drills. At the conclusion of each clinic, racially mixed teams competed together in a basketball game between the coaches and inmates.
This was a groundbreaking joint effort among traditionally segregated inmates.
Sport and basketball tore down racial barriers and prison politics, which I witnessed for the first time while working sixteen years on Level IV facilities.
The games were ultra-competitive and inmates came together to defeat the clinic coaches on a couple of the facilities.
“We appreciate Mr. Schueler and his crew for coming out to Centinela,” one inmate said. “This was a legit basketball camp and it was fun to test our skills against them.”
Many inmates were taken back to a time when sports and teamwork reigned supreme in their daily lives.
“To do something so positive that it overshadows any and all of our differences was amazing,” another inmate said. “For a brief moment, we weren’t in prison, we were at a high school or college gym, mentally free, and that will be something I will always cherish.”
“The people that took time out of their lives at a chance to make an impact on our lives were truly a blessing,” a third inmate said. “This program has a trickle-down effect when I share the experiences with my children.”
Mr. Schueler told the inmates prior to start that he did not care what they did to get to prison but what mattered most is what they do from here on out.
The two-day event was video recorded by Game Changing Films, which has been part of sports movies, The Longest Yard and The Blind Side.
“We plan to continue clinics at Centinela and are grateful to the prison’s administration and inmates for granting us access,” Schueler said.
Game Changing Films hopes to produce a documentary film on the role of sport and fitness in bringing together inmates and promoting positive choices.