Every athlete is a natural visionary—imagining the next play, their next defensive scheme to prevent an opponent from scoring, or picturing the scoreboard displaying points in their favor—all to get to the next level. It may be a single-game victory, championship, scholarship, or the chance at a professional career doing what they love. In partnership with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI), the 49ers hosted fifty female high school athletes for a day of inspiration, goal-setting, football fundamentals, strength and conditioning training, and team-bonding, encouraging each individual to pursue their goals in sports and in life. The sixth annual T.H.I.N.K. (Training, Health, Inspiration, Nutrition and Knowledge) Gold! Conference featured guest speakers such as 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, both of whom gave motivational speeches to instil confidence and drive for the ambitious group of teens.
“Being with these student athletes is what I envision and hope for when I think of my own daughters,” reflected Harbaugh after addressing the group, “These girls are driven, they are intelligent, and they are nice girls.”
Harbaugh followed Coach Tomsula. Fitting advice from a coach known for leading one of the best defensive lines in the NFL?
“Be the best version of you,” shared Tomsula.
In 2005, the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI) was established to create a foundation for female athletes to bring health, hope and wholeness to the community. For six consecutive years, BAWSI has partnered with the 49ers to coordinate a day dedicated to young female athletes and encouraging them to pursue their goals and open their minds to endless opportunities. After the young women were welcomed with a morning feast for queens in the 49ers Café and memorable speeches by coaches Harbaugh and Tomsula, they participated in a series of character building activities – lead by 49ers team co-owners Jenna and Mara York – which required both leadership and positive sportsmanship.
“Athletics can come naturally at times, but academics and character along with athletics is key,” stated 49ers alumnus Dennis Brown, recipient of the 1995 Ed Block Courage Award, an annual award presented to players in the NFL who are voted by their teammates as role models of inspiration, sportsmanship, and courage, “I think team-building and mentoring outside of sports as we are doing with these activities is essential to ensuring our youth share their best character on and off the field.”
Throughout the remainder of the event, the fifty athletes took part in several interactive segments including a question and answer and roll-playing presentation hosted by Tina Syer, Chief Impact Officer of the Positive Coaching Alliance. Syer discussed the importance of being a leader in sports, the classroom and in society. The young women then took their positive attitudes to the turf for a dose of 49ers Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Mark Uyeyama’s professional training, supported by Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Kevin Tolbert.
“T.H.I.N.K. Gold! has been a great experience for me,” expressed three sport high school athlete, Allie Swartz who began attending the event four years ago, “It is active, interactive and the information we obtain from the event is incredibly beneficial in helping us further our dreams and careers.”
The event also featured an exclusive peek inside the 49ers Sports Medicine and Football Operations departments led by Vice President of Football Operations Jeff Ferguson.
“We learned that the opportunity to play our favorite sport professionally is very real,” added junior Elisa Cooney, “As long as we continue to push ourselves in all aspects of life including academics, we then open the door to several other opportunities of interest in the sports industry or professional world as a whole.”
There were also sessions where the young ladies had an opportunity for question and answer session with women from the 49ers organization as well as BAWSI’s CEO and Founder, Marlene Bjornsrud. Over lunch, the participants had a chance to engage in more intimate conversations with the elite athletes seated at each table. Fifty young women exited the facility with prizes, new friendships, smiling faces and a fresh outlook on all they hope to accomplish.
“We believe female athletes have the ability to use their platform to change the world for good,” said BAWSI representative Heather Stewart, “It truly makes a difference to have an event like T.H.I.N.K. Gold! which features a series of professional athletes, coaches, and Olympians as well as professionals from various fields in the sports industry to build that platform and impact young women in a life-changing way.”