Olatunde Sobomehin: The Spark That Lights Beacons - Thank You Team Esface Familia

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

Olatunde Sobomehin, known to most simply as "Tunde," is one of those irrepressible individuals whose enthusiasm and idealism are so infectious that he inspires all those around him. One of his greatest attributes that makes him so inspiring is that he takes all that enthusiasm and idealism and puts it into action. In his second and third years at Stanford University, Sobomehin held the position of team manager for the Stanford Men's Basketball Team, but he was much more than that. He made himself indispensable to the Coaches, players, trainers, and the entire Stanford Basketball Staff.

MAD Director John Murray, then Stanford Basketball Director of Strength and Conditioning, recalls that Tunde was everywhere. If Murray needed someone to demonstrate an exercise, Tunde was there. If a body was needed to perform a basketball drill, there was Tunde. If a player needed someone to spot him in the weight room, Tunde magically appeared. Having perfected his skills working on his three younger brothers, Tunde even became the team and campus barber. Yet Sobomehin was more than just the team's Swiss Army Knife. He harbored a passion for the game of basketball, and when he was not busy being all things to all members of the Stanford Basketball Program, he could be found repeating the same basketball drills and the same strength and conditioning exercises with which he had assisted the Stanford players. He became so proficient that the coaches would use him in scrimmages when they were short a player.

The players thought of the Portland High School standout as a member of the team, so much so that shortly before the beginning of Sobomehin's senior year, the entire Stanford Men's Basketball Team petitioned Coach Mike Montgomery to make room for him on their roster. Coach Montgomery wholeheartedly agreed, and Olatunde Sobomehin joined the Stanford Men's Basketball Team as a walk-on. That season, Stanford ascended to the #1 national ranking and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. According to his teammates, Tunde was an instrumental part of their success, and they unanimously voted him as Stanford's Most Inspirational Player.

Tunde is as passionate about teaching and helping kids as he is about basketball, and upon graduating from Stanford in 2003, he partnered with Stanford teammate Matt Lottich to put on basketball clinics for local boys and girls. Their basketball instruction was well received, and encouraged by their success, in 2004, Tunde created the organization Esface which is an acronym for education and service through fashion, athletics, community and entertainment. Officially titled Team Esface, its mission was to help boys and girls on the Peninsula to improve their basketball skills at whatever level they may be, and for whatever level to which they aspired.

Tunde brought in his three younger brothers to help him with his project. While at Stanford, Tunde would bring in his siblings to work out at Stanford's facilities, and they became fast friends with then Director of Strength and Conditioning John Murray. Like their oldest brother, Oladele, Olaniyi, and Remi Sobomehin were all passionate about basketball and were all excellent athletes. In 2008, Olaniyi played in the N.F.L. for the New Orleans Saints before an injury ended his career. In its first decade Team Esface prospered, and under the leadership of the Sobomehin brothers, it was on solid footing. In 2014 Tunde began working on a new project to help the economically underserved members of the East Palo Alto Community who were not benefitting from the tech boom which was flourishing all around them. This new project, which would eventually become StreetCode Academy, required more and more of his time and energy, and so he began to transition out of Team Esface handing the reins over to his brother Oladele, more commonly known as "Dele."

The Sobomehin Brothers had always been intrigued by the concept of integrating strength and conditioning into basketball skills development. Back then, it was a novel idea, and Tunde had been introduced to the practice at Stanford as John Murray implemented it into the Stanford Basketball Program. They wanted to incorporate the practice into the development of their own basketball training system. They decided to reach out to their old friend John Murray and collaborate with him, and thus Team Esface Strength was born.

Dele and John Murray developed a cutting edge training system which assessed the individual needs of each boy and girl. Their philosophy was to combine proactive health care, strength and conditioning, and basketball skills development tailored to each individual athlete. At the same time, Team Esface was upgrading its facilities in order to accommodate its new training regimen. Through Murray's connections, they were able to take advantage of some rare, economic opportunities to obtain state of the art training equipment. Their upgraded, weight training facility at The Sports House in Redwood City was named The Cage.

In the early years, Coaches Eric Bringas and Matt Finklestein did yeoman's work launching the Team Esface programs. In addition to Team Esface Strength, they conducted the first Team Esface Pro Days and administered the Team Esface Internship Program. Team Esface Pro Days offered young athletes the exact same assessment drills as professional athletes. The idea being that this would prepare them for real life opportunities, and not only give them the ability to track their own progress, but also to be able to compare their performances to their teammates and to other young athletes on the database throughout the country.

The success of Team Esface Strength at The Cage has been due in no small part to the seamless work of Team Esface basketball coaches David "D Mo" Moore and Alex Boyce. Team Esface staff memebers Carlos Villacana and Ed Bailey have also been instrumental in the smooth operation of the Team Esface Strength Program. In 2016, MAD Coach Ryan Muñoz took over the direction of The Cage and has done tremendous work maintaining Team Esface Strength's standard of excellence. Over the years the program has also benefitted from outstanding work by its interns; some of the more notable ones being Syriah Rhodes, Benisa Bulya, Jeff Lum, Carlos Delgadillo, Logan Pitts, and Kyle Williams. Since 2014, Team Esface in conjunction with Murray Athletic Development has conducted eight of the biannual Team Esface Pro Days, testing over 1000 kids. Since its inception in 2014, Team Esface Strength and MAD have trained hundreds of athletes at The Cage without a single injury. Team Esface Strength and Mad have been fortunate to work with athletes of exceptional character and ability such as John Mills(6 years), James Beckwith (6 Years), Lori Caprista(3 years), Calvin Kapral (2.5 years) , Garrett Keyhani (1 year), Isaiah Kerr (3 years), Riley Grigsby (2 years), and Oliver Stuart (3 years).

Having laid the foundation for Team Esface's success, as the younger Sobomehin brothers continued to flourish with their endeavors in Redwood City, Olatunde Sobomehin was once again thriving in his latest venture as the C.E.O. of StreetCode Academy in East Palo Alto. Streetcode Academy's goal is to empower people of color in the East Palo Alto Community to become the newest creative force in Silicon Valley. They offer classes in HTML, CSS, Javascript, and even Python and virtual reality. Originally the Academy intended to target young students, but having since broadened their scope, they have instructed students from ages 7 to 70. Their motto is "Hack, Hustle, Design" which refers to developing skills in coding, entre-preneurship, and creativity.

This East Palo Alto community tech project has caught the attention and support of such tech giants as Google and Microsoft, and Facebook has provided space on their campus for holding CodeAcademy classes. A big StreetCode Academy enthusiast, Mark Zuckerberg has even spent time personally interacting with StreetCode students. StreetCode Academy has already produced several success stories. David Chatman, a 23 year old artist and community organizer in East Palo Alto, created his own startup, Ambition Spotlight, after taking only a year of coding classes, and then went on to join Facebook's design team. Senita Uhilamoelangi, a StreetCode student in his 70s who lives in East Palo Alto, created a startup, H2O2 Homes, which is partnering with Lada Cube to possibly house formerly homeless families in homeowners’ backyards. At the age of 11, Tayo Sobomehin designed his first computer game, Spike Run, causing Mark Zuckerberg to remark that young Tayo's coding skills were way ahead of those of the Facebook founder when he was 11.

Bringing hope and opportunity wherever he goes and leaving health, happiness, and prosperity in his wake, now that StreetCode Academy appears to be able to stand on its own two feet, it will be interesting to see what magical wonders Tunde will conjure up next. Olatunde Sobomehin's life is not only one that is worth living, but also one that is worth imitating.

A HUGE THANK YOU from John Murray and the Murray Athletic Development Family to Tunde, Dele, and the entire Team Esface Familia for the pleasure and honor of working with them for all these years. Sláinte!