Hearts as Big as a Basketball

I'm in Oakland this afternoon...which makes for a bit of a long day but it's been an inspiring visit to a place called Soldiertown.  The name comes from the very successful youth league ( AAU) basketball team the Oakland Soldiers but the facility has morphed into a community center and gathering place for kids and families.  There is basketball of course but also yoga, volleyball, a planned retail outlet to teach young people about business and a planned barbershop.  The barbershop is a convenience for sure but also a place to pass along some of the wisdom and stories as coaches, fathers, uncles, and brothers get a quick haircut before practice.  One of the owners is Coach Mark Olivier, who as head coach of the Soldiers has seen the likes of Lebron James come through his program.  He is proud of the 27 former Soldiers who went on to the pros but also of the dozens of others who have gone on to college and successful lives professionally and personally.  Some have even come back to mentor others.   Soldiertown is just getting started having been under another owner as "Jamtown" for several years.  The reimagined mission is to be a place for boys and girls and families to strengthen mind and body.  It was an honor to be there to see the reboot!

Cristina Mendonsa

Cristina Mendonsa

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