How to reverse a neighborhood that is trending toward crime, where people are gunned down in the street, where young people see violence as the only way to survive — it’s a subject discussed among sociologists, theologists, law enforcement agents, politicians and people on the outside of these neighborhoods looking in.

In 2014 we talked to residents inside Hamilton Park, a historic area in Lake Highlands that had just suffered a devastating murder.

A couple of men in the neighborhood felt that they had a partial solution — something that they say can measurably change the path of a young person headed in the wrong direction and thereby shift the decline of their once-flourishing community: that is, football. Two youth football coaches said they had seen sports change lives, including their own. Can youth football save a struggling neighborhood?: 2014

The 2014 murder of Gregory Callahan had hit close to home. Callahan, one of Hamilton Park Bobcats youth football coaches, was shot and killed. The community was hurt and angry. The Bobcats’ head coach, Tevar Watson, said he blamed himself and his neighbors for allowing violence to get out of hand and become the norm. To many of the kids, he said, the death of this coach was like losing a father. What the crime did do was  re-invigorate the Bobcat program, which has grown and thrived in the past several seasons. Watson believes strongly that the key to bettering the neighborhood lies with the youth and positive male leadership, noting that many of the team members come from fatherless homes.

The football program, competitive and intense, offers an environment “to teach our young men discipline, team work and structure, skills that can be also used in their everyday life,” Watson says today. “The re-emergence of the football team is vital at this point in time.” He says the team motto is “The Three C’s: Christ, Commitment, and Community.”

As they prepare for the next season, the Bobcats, a nonprofit organization, have launched a fundraiser “to allow us to train well and also give us enough finances to procure new equipment that we need in order to play in the
Texas Youth Football Association (the largest youth football organization in Texas) and be safe at the same time,” Watson notes. “By playing in TYFA our team would travel to different cities around Texas to play. Since the club is still a comparatively small, our funds are low and we function on a very small budget. Most of our parents are single mothers who can’t afford the fees to play nor pay for the necessary equipment. We do not want to turn away any children due to lack of money … We would like for our children to also have a nice banquet at the end of the year. We are looking for companies or individuals who are willing to either give a monetary donation or who will sponsor our organization to help us re-invigorate our once, thriving neighborhood.”

To read more about the team, or to donate or contact its president, visit their fundraising page here.