The power of sports in building confidence and success pathways is a privilege that all of the youth in our community should be able to experience, including those in our neighboring community of Marin City. The skills youth learn on the fields, on the courts, on the track, in the pools, and on their boards, including teamwork, persistence, leadership and empathy – all of which help them succeed in school and other aspects of life. Marin City resident, Paul Austin and his Play Marin youth sports organization exemplify what it means to give back in one’s community. Play Marin brings together the unique experiences of different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds within our neighboring communities to provide our youth with opportunities to learn and grow together through sports, summer camps and extracurricular activities.
Paul was born and raised in Marin City in a single-parent household by his mother Terrie Harris Green, an environmental and community activist. A third-generation Marin City resident dating back to his grandparents move here with the great migration to build wartime ships, Paul passionately advocates for our Marin City community where he resides with his wife, Tenisha Tate, Miller Creek Middle School’s Principal and his two children.
Paul attended Tam High before attending Texas Southern University in Houston where he studied early Childhood Education. After spending two years working in real estate in Houston, after the real estate market bottomed out, Paul returned home to Marin City where he directed summer programming for the Marin City Community Service District. This led to his move to becoming the Recreation Director for the district while he simultaneously studied Psychology at Dominican University.
Paul then worked as a College and Career Advisor for the Bridge the Gap College Preparatory program, helping students with their college goals. But it was Paul’s caring and determination to help grow organized sports participation among Marin City’s youth that inspired him to establish Play Marin in 2012. The goal was to create opportunities for Marin City youth to engage in organized athletics to attract youth from the broader Marin community and expose children to diversity in order to play, learn and grow together. Today, Play Marin helps young leaders rise through its programming by helping youth develop leadership skills.
When Paul observed a void in the athletic landscape at the high school level with kids of color playing sports, one of the first programs he implemented was a girls softball program with the establishment of two girls softball teams that competed in the Mill Valley Softball League. As a highly regarded basketball coach, Paul recognized the importance of kids playing different sports, making new friends, and connecting with future classmates. On a shoestring budget, he successfully networked with other athletic organizations, including Dave Fromer Soccer. Paul was also instrumental in securing the creation of the skate park in Marin City based on his collaboration with Willow Creek Art Teacher, Keith Williams (aka K-Dub), a skateboard enthusiast who ran the Town Park SkatePark in Oakland and Proof Lab who offered to build it, provide skateboards, skate lessons, and manpower to get it built. His boys basketball, track and field programs and the skate park were his main programs, but he has since developed soccer clinics with the help of Tam High students and individual tennis lessons with the help of a Redwood High student, whereby he empowers the students to take the lead in running these programs.
With the Covid-19 shutdown and Play Marin’s operations halted, Paul shifted his efforts to feeding his community. His organization successfully raised over $150,000 to purchase meals from a variety of local restaurants to support the restaurants’ staffs as well as distribute food to Marin City residents, He partnered with Judi Schills, our April Mill Valley Living featured resident, Conscious Kitchen and Marin Central Kitchen to distribute meals to 400 people in need.
As Founder and CEO of Play Marin, Paul is supported by a Board of Directors and dedicated volunteers who collectively envision Marin County as an “integrated and unified community whereby individuals and families live, work and play together” in which play, whether from organized sports or simple play dates are “important for forming lasting friendships, developing critical skills and teaching valuable life lessons.” Paul further asserts, “ It’s important that children spread amongst the many small towns in Marin and have the opportunity to learn about others, not by competing against them, but instead through the lens of playing with them.”
To learn more about Play Marin and how you can help, please visit playmarin.org
Photos by Laura Reoch, September-Days Photography.
This article originally appeared in Mill Valley Living.