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Weber State gives back through sports clinics for at-risk youth in detention

June 7, 2017

Story by BRANDON GARSIDE • Photos by BENJAMIN ZACK • Standard-Examiner Staff

Weber State assistant football coach Quinton Ganther leads athletes in a cheer during a football clinic at the Mill Creek Youth Center on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Before the clinic, Ganther met with youth in custody and talked about his own childhood which was surrounded by drugs, crime and abuse. "Sports was my outlet. Sports was my everything," says Ganther. He eventually went on to play six years in the NFL.

OGDEN — Weber State football coaches and players spent their Wednesday at Ogden’s Mill Creek Youth Center coaching at-risk youth.

Lulu Latu, a counselor at the secure facility, started the program after she saw the positive effect her late husband, Alavini, had on at-risk youth through coaching rugby.

“I wanted to keep his legacy going,” Latu said. “I wanted to take sports and his legacy through rugby and create an overall sports clinic ... to help take those skills you can learn from sports and encourage (the youth) to use it when they get back in the community.”

Similar to adult prisons, secure facilities like Mill Creek hold delinquent youth and rehabilitate them to re-enter society.

Boys at the Mill Creek Youth Center run through drills put on by the Weber State University football team on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Lulu Latu, who organizes the clinic, compares practicing for a game to practicing for "real life" while incarcerated.

While the intent of the program is to help residents improve their lives, Weber State assistant coach Kite Afeaki also believes his team can benefit from the experience.

“There’s a couple of them that were probably one step away from being a facility like this when they were in high school,” Afeaki said. “We preach to our student-athletes the game of life. It’s bigger than football. It gives us glimpse of what we can do, how we can touch people’s lives.

“I think this partnership is going to be long term,” he said.

Weber State assistant football coach Kite Afeaki gives instructions during a football clinic at the Mill Creek Youth Center on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. WSU coaches and players led 20 youth in custody through football drills. They also chatted with the teens about using athletics as a metaphor for other struggles in life.

Junior linebacker Legrand Toia was one of the players volunteering Wednesday, June 7, and hoped he could inspire the children in the facility.

“I think it’s a big deal,” Toia said. “I’ve had a lot of trials in my life to put me where I am today, and just to show these kids where I’m at, I hope it gives them hope that they can get up and do stuff by themselves when they get out of here.”

In addition to sharing their life experiences and how to overcome challenges, the volunteers also ran the children through football drills in the facility’s yard.

A young man at the Mill Creek Youth Center practices tackles during a football clinic put on by the Weber State University football team on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. This was the second year the camp was put on for youth in custody at Milll Creek.

WSU running back coach Quinton Ganther, who made a career in the NFL after a rough childhood growing up in Oakland, California, said he relates to the youth inside the facility and hopes that they can learn from his life.

“I was a kid that was in a facility like this, so I understand,” Ganther said. “One of the biggest attributes that I have as a coach and as a person, is I have experience throughout life. I hope they can use me as much as possible.”

A young man at the Mill Creek Youth Center rests for a few seconds after running through ladders during a football clinic put on by the Weber State University football team on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.

Just like football isn’t everyone’s favorite sport, it’s also not the only type of sports clinic organized by the program. Several other Weber State teams like basketball, volleyball, soccer and softball have also volunteered at the facility.

“It feels great. The outpour of support through Weber State and the willingness to help a good cause and help our at-risk youth feels great,” Latu said. “I’m sure it means more to the youth than it does to me, but that’s the whole idea. It’s refreshing for them.

“They see us all the time, but to see somebody that they see on TV and identify with speaks volumes for them.”

Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at bgarside@standard.net, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.

A young man at the Mill Creek Youth Center cools off between drills put on by the Weber State University football team on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
Weber State assistant football coach Kite Afeaki gives instructions during a football clinic at the Mill Creek Youth Center on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. The clinic is held in memory of Alavini Late who worked for Juvenile Justice Services until his death in 2014.