Many people would assume that it was just basketball players who reached out to Chris and the Hoop Dreams training staff in the early years. Although most were hoop players, one high school athlete had a goal of playing soccer at the collegiate level. Her name was Briel Crespi and to this day players in the gym recall her work ethic, drive and the endless hour of training she embraced in the summer heat on the hills of Fall River’s North Park, the fields of the Pennfield School or the blacktop at St. Philomena’s School.

Briel, an accomplished student athlete from Berkley, MA, played three seasons for Lasalle Academy in Providence, RI prior to transferring to IMG Academy in Florida for her senior season. At Lasalle Academy she helped her team to win back to back RI State Championships and went on to be named captain of her team at IMG Academy. When faced with a decision on where to attend college, Briel opted to stay closer to home and committed to play Division I soccer for Brown University from 2011-2015.

We recently caught up with Briel who lives in Los Angeles working for a talent and literary agency and asked her to share some thoughts about her time in the gym with Chris and the Hoop Dreams team.

What do remember most about the skills you were taught on and off the court/field?

“Chris Herren taught me the importance of Mental Toughness. By definition, mental toughness is the ability to work hard and respond resiliently to failure and adversity; the inner quality that enables individuals to work hard and stick to their long-term passions and goals. Time in the Hoop Dreams gym allowed me to improve athletically while also strengthening my self-confidence, ability to deal with adversity and commitment to mastering a craft. Chris’s ability to lead by example, provide advice and guidance and teach mental toughness, has helped me far beyond the court/ field.”

If you could share one moment, piece of advice or lesson from your experience in the Hoop Dreams gym what would it be?

“There have been so many great moments training in the Hoop Dreams gym (and on the nearby soccer fields) that it’s hard to just pick one! Chris’s presence alone makes you want to work harder and push yourself to the next level. Training in the Hoop Dreams gym prepared me to reach my goal of playing division one college soccer.

Here are some of my favorite memories: Training at North Park and sprinting up the hill with a weighted vest and weights in my hands or Chris holding my feet in a handstand position as I (hand) walked myself up the hill. Training at St. Philomena and wearing a weighted vest, using hang weights while balancing a weighted pole on my shoulders as I did lunges uphill. Plus beating Chris in a 20-yard sprint (there is video proof) and training at Penfield in double sessions with some of the most elite athletes in the country.

Most of all my favorite part about the Hoop Dreams gym is that when you stepped on the court; gender, age, race did not matter. What mattered was your ability, attitude and work ethic. Chris made me a better athlete and a better person. He has overcome a great deal and has used his own experiences to help each and every person he interacted with on and off the court. I am forever grateful to him and his team.”


As we look to 2019 and celebrating 10 years of impacting lives on and off the basketball court, we are grateful for Chris’s willingness to share and the resolve to use his life experience to reach JUST ONE and make a difference.