We need more of this!
A Watts, Los Angeles youth football team is going above and beyond to help children in underserved communities, Today.com reports.
The Watts Rams youth football team was started a decade ago by the city’s police department to strengthen ties with the community. Officer Zarren Thompson, a Watts police officer for over 25 years, serves as head coach and spoke about the importance of the team.
“You want a change? Start with the youth, educate the youth,” Thompson told reporters.
For a long time, Watts has had the highest concentration of gangs in the entire city of Los Angeles. The children are the most impacted by this reality. Thompson says he hopes his program serves as an outlet from that environment, teaching children the necessary tools to better themselves and their situation.
“This program is about discipline. Period,” Thompson tells his team.
When the team first started ten years ago, they had about 30 players. Today, their roster holds more than 100 young people, ages 8 to 14. Evan, a 13-year-old teammate who plays for the Watts Rams with his brother Noah, 11, said Thompson and the other coaches have definitely made a difference in his life.
“I look at them like family. Like, it’s a father figure, like a male role model to me. And then my teammates, man, that’s brothers and sisters,” Evan said.
Since starting with the team, Evan’s grades have skyrocketed from D’s and F’s to straight A’s, even appearing in an NFL kickoff commercial with NFL player Aaron Donald and getting a scholarship to the Future Elite Academy in Westlake Village, California, whose tuition is about $38,000 a year.
Recently, the team has received some help from the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, who gave them uniforms and a new practice field. The team’s players have been to meet the youth football stars and have been very impressed with the impact of the police department.
“So, they invited me down to Watts to do a ride-along, some of the officers, back in 2017, and [I] just fell in love with their vision and what they’re trying to do,” said Los Angeles Rams vice president of community affairs Molly Higgins.
Thompson hopes his players continue to receive support and recognition for their work and says he was overwhelmed by the generosity of the L.A. Rams team.
“Something that I prayed for, man,” said Thompson.
To learn more about the work of the LAPD Watts Rams, follow them on Instagram.
Photo Courtesy of @WattsRams/Instagram