Sports league seeks to turn youth away from a life of crime

Sports league seeks to turn youth away from a life of crime
Published: Mar. 10, 2017 at 2:04 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2017 at 6:48 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A new sports league for youth in Memphis is hoping to achieve a much more important goal than scoring touchdowns.

The hope is while providing year-round athletic teams, it'll also help to build trust between children and law enforcement at an early age. Molding these young lives to a life away from crime.

At just 10 years old, Ernest Gilliam knows to count his blessings daily.

"I think that I am very lucky because some of my teammates, my other family members, they don't have their father or their mother. Like one of my teammates, he doesn't have neither. He has to stay with his aunt," Ernest Gilliam said.

This fall you'll see Ernest throwing the winning touchdown for the Airways Station Wildcats. It's one of the seven newly formed teams announced Thursday night as part of the Memphis Shelby Police Athletic League.

"I think this is a game changer for the city. We want this to be a model not only for our city, our state. I want this to be the model for the nation," Sgt. Craig Littles with Memphis Shelby PAL said.

The league is a brainchild of Sgt. Craig Littles. It will soon be the outlet and positive influence for thousands of kids, helping them build positive and long lasting relationships with law enforcement.

"I was that kid as well that was looking for positive alternatives and I was doing sports and I grew up in Frayser neighborhoods and I didn't have a mentor," Sgt. Littles said.

Law enforcement will set aside their badges and weapons and sport a whistle around their neck as coaches for the teams. A coach and a mentor to the children.

"My coach, if we get in trouble at school....he just help us where we get right back at school," Gilliam said.

It's also hoping to keep Ernest on track to fulfill his dream of playing football for the NFL.

Sign up for kids and volunteers starts Saturday.

To sign your child up or to volunteer click here.

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