By Madisen Carter
Oakland Tech High School women’s basketball player, Mari Somvichian, has been playing basketball since she was in the second grade. She started with the Asian League and instantly loved the game, and wanted to continue to play more.
Once Somvichian started training at Unlimited Potential Basketball, her mother Anne Omura said all she wanted to do was train with Coach Packie Turner and continue to improve her game. She proceeded to excel in her training and get better in her craft, and her dedication to the game was displayed when she made it on the varsity high school basketball team as a freshman. Now as a junior in high school she has more goals for her basketball career as she wants to play basketball in college and then play overseas after college.
Now Somvichian and her two younger siblings, Emi and Tomi, train at UPB. The drive can take up to an hour and fifteen minutes to get to the training facility, but Somvichian’s mother, Anne, said the drive is worth it. We talked to Anne to get a better understanding on how UPB has affected her children and their game and why that long drive to UPB is well worth it.
How did you hear about UPB and how long has Mari been training at UPB?
“We actually were training with Packie before UPB even started. He volunteered to help train in the Asian League [when] she was a third grader… He kind of spotted her and approached me afterwards and was like, ‘Hey, you know, she seems to really love it, I do some private training,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we would love to do that.’ So we started training with him when Mari was a third grader. He didn't have any space… So we would meet him at random gyms, wherever he had space, all over Oakland, Walnut Creek, anywhere. Then he finally got UPB, which was great, and we started going there regularly.”
Why is your long drive to the UPB Training facility worth it?
“It's definitely worth it and it is a very long drive. A lot of people [say] ‘You could find something closer for your kids,’ but the benefit they get from it is beyond. You can't really quantify it in time or money. I just feel [that] it's such a positive confidence booster for them, and all three kids just feel good when they come out of there [and] they're smiling. It's increased their love for the sport, which I think is really important. I mean, that's why we're really in it, to keep them healthy, to have them have something positive in their lives, something that can consume their time, [and] that gives them a good sense of self esteem and stuff like that. I feel like UPB really helps them with that, it's such a positive experience.”
How are Mari’s, Emi’s and Tomi’s relationship with their trainers?
Whenever I'm with [Mari and Packie], I feel like I have another son. They’re literally like siblings sometimes, it's ridiculous, or maybe he's the fun young uncle because they've just been training together for so long. They have similar temperaments I think, which is really funny and fun to see. I really feel [that] when things have been tough for her, checking in with him, even not even having [anything] to do [with] training but just checking in with him [and] getting a couple words of advice have been very positive for her [and] have kept her grounded and have helped just keep her confidence level high. The twins have trained with a variety of different trainers [and] they've loved everyone that they've trained with. It's so funny because they're on totally different tracks. Mari wants to play basketball in college [and she is] super serious about it. She made varsity as a freshman, [she] was a starter. [For] my twins, it's very recreational for them, it's all about fun and getting some exercise. It's interesting that UPB is a great fit for all three of them. They have the super high level cutting edge, you know, push you to your limits as an athlete and potentially a professional athlete, [or they] encourage kids [to] just get out there [and] be able to learn a sport so that you can have fun and you know participate in a team [setting.] It's been really great, it's been great for all three of them.”
How has UPB's mental training affected Mari's game?
“I think that's probably one of the biggest positives because I do believe that Packie is at the absolute top of his game as far as skill, but the other layer that a lot of people don't see is the confidence, the mental toughness, and the overall positive attitude that UPB brings athletes. Mari definitely struggled her freshman year. It was a lot of pressure [for her] being the only freshman starting on a team that had just won the division four state championship… Even just talking to him, getting some pointers, getting reminders like ‘Hey, this is what you're good at, this is what you stick to.’ [He helped] redirect her thinking in a way that was positive, kept her focused, and I think kept her confidence level up.”
Have you seen Mari’s skills improve since working out with Packie and with UPB?
“Definitely, hands down… I noticed a difference when she's been in regularly. Ironically the pandemic was wonderful for her because she got to go in and train every day because school was remote. Her game just really exploded during that time, just being able to see Packie on a regular basis. I mean it's funny, I have acquaintances who are basketball coaches, who coached their own children, train their own kids for you know, a decade and then I convinced them to send them to Packie for [around] five weeks and they [say,] ‘Holy cow, but I thought I knew basketball. I've been coaching AAU for so many years, and he just instantly elevated my son's game beyond anything that I could have imagined. I'm seeing him do things that, you know, I've never seen him do before.’ So, I think everybody has that experience when they first get training with UPB where they see instant results really.”