Former Navy SEAL teaches self-defense at the Shade Tree

One local business owner is helping the women at the Shade Tree shelter regain their self-confidence through self-defense.

Mel Spicer, a former Navy SEAL and now co-owner of Phase 1 Sports, an athletic training facility, is sharing his nine years of military training by donating his time for self-defense classes, something the shelter has never been able to offer.

The shelter has been serving the needs of homeless and abused women and children in Southern Nevada for 12 years, but due to limited space and resources, it has been unable to offer instruction in self-defense.

"The classes have gone really well," said Brandi Lopez, director of life skills and education at the shelter. "The classes are something (the women) have been asking for."

The shelter runs other health-related classes, such as Zumba and yoga, but Marlene Richter, executive director of the Shade Tree , said the shelter could not have offered self-defense classes without help.

"We could put it in a video, but they’re not going to achieve the same outcome of having a teacher present," she said. "That one-on-one guidance is essential."

Phase 1 Sports hosts the classes once a month and has agreed to continue the instruction for another year.

"It’s a great confidence builder for them," Spicer said. "It is a group in need, and I felt this was a great opportunity to offer assistance."

Richter said the classes have provided more than just physical training.

"For these women, it is just as important to feel safe as it is to be safe," she said. "When they arrive here, they feel so broken. They have the tools to feel safe, but they don’t know that."

That is where Spicer’s training comes in.

"You don’t need a black belt to effectively defend yourself," he said. "It is all about controlling the natural instinct of fear. The women learn to control their fear and use it to their advantage."

Beyond the classes, Phase 1 Sports is collecting clothing and financial donations for the shelter.

"We count on the community for support, and that comes in all different forms," Richter said. "For them to go them extra step to provide monetary support, as well, has been a huge blessing."

Spicer said fitness is a passion, and the former collegiate athlete and nine-year Navy veteran said that when he reached a certain point in his life, he knew it was time to start giving back by passing along what he knows.

"This is a lifelong mission," he said. "It’s been very gratifying for me to know I’m making a difference in these women’s lives. I’m living my dream."

For more information on Phase 1 Sports, visit or call 702-641-0011.

For more information on the Shade Tree, visit or call 702-385-0072.

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Nolan Lister at or 702-383-0492.

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