A Lift of Self-Confidence: American Iron Gym
By Meredith Simmons
If you walk into American Iron Gym in Reno, Nevada, you’ll probably expect to find powerlifters training for their next competition. What you might not suspect, however, is that some of these powerlifters are out on supervised parole from a local prison.
After founding American Iron Gym, owners Tamara and Bob Lopes wanted to give back to their community and discovered there was a common theme among their members: athletics made a difference and saved their lives. Tamara and Bob decided to combine that knowledge with their passion for working with kids and began a nonprofit: The American Iron Sports Foundation.
Tamara explained that one of the first steps they took in giving back to their community was to adopt a team in the Sierra Youth Football league. After giving them agility training, the athletes discovered self-confidence that paid off both on the gridiron and in the classrooms.
“The year prior, the team we adopted didn’t win any games,” Tamara recalled. “After we adopted them, they made playoffs that season.” Two years later, the team continues to improve. “Some of them are playing athletics in high school, and their scholastic scores have gone up.”
After having success with adopting the youth football team, American Iron expanded their outreach to include a pilot program with their local parole and probation department. American Iron spent the fall taking six young men out of prison and brought them to the gym to train for a powerlifting competition in December.
While their parole program is still in its beginning stages, Tamara has big hopes for the future to add women to the program.
“They’re good kids,” Tamara explained. “We’re starting small and analyzing the benefits. We want to help them channel their anger and give them self-confidence.”