Uniquely Utah: Football at Diamond Ranch Academy

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Some inside information about the Uniquely Utah segment on Diamond Ranch Academy.

By Todd Tanner:

As for Uniquely Utah segments, the video typically tells the most of story, but never all of it. So, I sometimes use the online version of the story (in the space you are reading from now) to give more information, sometimes from a personal perspective.

When I first saw the photographs of Diamond Ranch Academy's bright yellow and black football field, I thought it was cool. I don't really care if a football field is green, yellow, or pink, but I liked the design. But I also couldn't help but wonder how much it cost, and more importantly, if students at the academy not in athletic programs benefit from such luxuries as well.

I once co-produced an award-winning cable TV show about a high school football team that won a Texas state championship. The town was so proud. The team's talent had been cultivated for decades, and local citizens invested millions of dollars into a massive indoor training facility while the rest of their small town seemed to fall apart. The books in the high school were old, the weights in the gym were new. There were 9 assistant coaches for the team, and 2 counselors for 400 students. A wise use of resources? I'm not so sure, but this kind of thing happens a lot, and not just in Texas.

So, back to Diamond Ranch. I didn't know much about the place, but I did some homework online before I got there. Like most schools of its kind (a residential treatment facility) it's expensive, and it has it's share of fans and foes. I'm not an expert in the kinds of treatments and programs available at Diamond Ranch, so I have no room to comment. If it interests you enough to learn more, there are far better resources than myself.

What I can tell you is the setting is beautiful, all the buildings are top-notch (not just the athletic facilities), and based on my limited snooping, it's a place where people seem pretty happy.

Coincidentally, I happened to be in St. George the day before I went to Diamond Ranch, speaking to junior high students, and answering their questions about television and journalism. The best question came from a quiet red-headed girl who asked "What makes a better story, an interesting place or an interesting person?" Easy answer. The PERSON! Always the person.

With that in mind, here's a bit more about the people in the story, particularly the young men. Robbie and Ricky seemed swell, but coaches and administrators get used to doing interviews so in some regards they're not as interesting or revealing. But Saxon, Charles and River are the real deal. They're the living breathing results of their experience. I know a bit about what brought each of them to Diamond Ranch, but that's all irrelevant now. They're the good guys.

For those still reading along, here's how I know they're the good guys. I ask almost every athlete "What was your favorite moment?" It's a trite question that always illicits a strong response, and gets them talking. Usually about a big game, and often the interviewee waxes on about how instrumental they were in winning.

River Aguirre's response started out just like I thought it would...the big game, the winning pass. I'm ashamed to say I must have stopped listening because I didn't realize until later he'd actually given the best answer to that question, ever.

In playing back his interview, River told me about the game, how important it was to win, how good the other team was, how Saxon made the winning pass, and a kid named Levi was on the receiving end for the touchdown. The only thing River forgot to tell me about was himself. He didn't tell me what position he was playing, what he was doing, or if he was even on the field during the magic moment he described. For River, it was all about enjoying everyone else's moment. Oh, and it also wasn't his idea to include his artwork in the story, that was my decision.

One of Charles Chunings favorite memories? "Riding the bus," he said. He bonded with his teammates on the long rides to play the other 1A schools in their rural locations. Charles also broke his wrist early in the season, but says he always felt he was 100% a part of the team.

We should all be so lucky.

2 comments

  • Brent Crosby

    Wonderful article, I have driven around the school several times and it is most impressive. Also know one of the staff – impressive and really into his work with the kids. I wish all enrolled the best for their future and for their families. If only all trouble young people had access to such a facility as Diamond Ranch Academy!

    Brent Crosby St. George, UT

  • Linda

    River was a wide end receiver for diamond ranch and the best. He was born and raised in Hawaii on the Island of Kauai, then moved to California. He comes from a family of football players and great football players they were. He’s a bright up coming artist and lives in the moment of loving life to the fullest. and I am his proud Mom ~_~*

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