Play Marin: Bringing Sports To All


(Courtesy of Play Marin)

By JP Ballschmider, Reporter

The hollers of kids, thuds of basketballs, and screeches of shoes on the wooden court fill the Marin City gym thanks to Play Marin, a program that makes sports opportunities available to all. Since 2019, Play Marin has brought sports to the kids of Marin City, particularly to groups that had not previously had a chance to participate in often costly sports programs. They aim to bring together those of different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds with the goal of fostering better diversity and inclusion in Marin City. 

Play Marin Founder Paul Austin, a 1994 Tamalpais High School graduate, realized that the lack of sports programs in Marin City meant much of the youth didn’t have the experience to play in high school. 

“I know what it did for me,” Austin said. “When I was in high school, I played a lot of sports. It allowed me to make a lot of friends. It allowed me to be super social on campus. And so I was like, ‘Okay, what can we do?’” 

Austin realized the lack of playing experience came down to cost and access, both of which he hoped to solve. “I was talking to young people and they were like, ‘We want to play, but we have to go to Mill Valley’” he said. Austin had previous experience working with students, notably with Bridge the Gap, where he worked from 2018 to 2020.

Play Marin was Austin’s answer to the pressing lack of opportunities. He put together programs for basketball, track and field, volleyball, mountain biking, sailing, surfing, kayaking, and more on the way. Austin has created a large team in only a short time, with a dozen or so employees at peak times and over 40 volunteers throughout the year. This team serves an estimated 300 to 400 individuals, mostly in grades three through eight. 

While Austin has goals to expand his program’s offerings to include sports such as lacrosse and soccer, his ambitions reach higher. “We need a field in Marin City, once we start a campaign, we’re going to need an opportunity to raise money. That’s a huge one and we just need that support,” Austin said. “One other one is [that] we need a new gym. We love the Marin City [Recreation] Center, but it’s probably 70 years old” Austin said. 

“We do rely heavily on individual donors. Whether it’s those that have deep pockets or those that are just looking to give what they can. We appreciate it so much to our network for stepping up in order to make sure that these kids have opportunity.”