VEGAS LOST: How sports help kids who committed crimes turn their lives around
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) —
High on a mountain, there is a collection of kids who have committed crimes and a lesson on how sports can save them.
There are 100 kids in Spring Mountain Youth Camp, sentenced to 6-month stays at the camp, punishment for crimes that can be as serious as gun charges.
When they get there, the first thing they’ll see, beyond the incredible remoteness of their new home, is the trophy room.
“When the newer kids come in, they can see all the names and say, 'Oh man, I want to be a part of that,'" Lamont Hicks said.
Hicks is one of the parole officers on the mountain. He is also one of the football coaches.
The Spring Mountain Golden Eagles are the current State Champion 8-man football team. An impressive feat considering the team is organized just two weeks before the season begins and the roster will only be together for half a year. They play on the highest football field in the country, 3000 feet higher than Denver's Mile High Stadium.
They’ve won state championships in basketball before as well.
Organized sports have become one of the more successful tools in the juvenile system. It forces kids to work together and communicate on the field. Teenagers who might be enemies on the street depend on each other. Athletes must be academically eligible as well, which means a renewed focus in the classroom.
New to the mountain this year: hockey. The Vegas Golden Knights donated equipment and now the gym is busy with kids learning the rules to Vegas' new favorite sport.
But the noise that has been the most familiar to the thin air is the noise of sparring. The boxing program at the youth camp has been so successful that boxers like Jessie Vargas have gone to train with the troubled kids.
It's in that old Air Force maintenance shed-turned-gym that we met a 17-year-old who says this program will turn his life around.
“Are there people out there that can help you?” News 3 asks him.
“Not really,” he says “It’s all in the mind you gotta be strong-minded.”
“Are you going to pursue boxing after this?” News 3 asks.
“Yes, I plan to.”
He hopes, with time, that boxing will be a way out. Time is one thing he has. Seven months of a 9-month sentence left.