49ers head strength and conditioning coach Duane Carlisle volunteered to speak with the students about the importance that professional athletes put on proper nutrition, appropriate training methods and staying away from steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
"I think it's very important for the 49ers to be involved in initiatives like this," Coach Carlisle said. "I believe that professional sports organizations set the tone for introducing education to younger kids with respect to proper nutrition and proper training methods."
The 49ers hosted the 2008 launch of ATLAS and ATHENA for Philip and Sala Burton High School, Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, and Santa Clara High School.
"ATLAS and ATHENA are health promotion programs for student athletes, and today the coaches and squad leaders are learning how to use the programs that they'll put into their usual practice activities for the sports teams," Diane Elliot, M.D., Professor of Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, said. "That really makes the team the most important classroom in the school by bringing the health class to the sports setting."
As the students progressed through the launch of the training program, it was obvious that they were acquiring a great deal of exciting new information.
Alisa Adams, a student from Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory high school located in San Francisco, CA, discussed what she was learning during the program.
"We're definitely learning more about the ATHENA program and how to be a good athlete, and how to stay healthy while playing sports. My team will probably be glad to hear about things like this and I can show what I learned here today. I hope it will benefit our team."
Some of the students had taken part in the program the year before when the 49ers were one of eight NFL teams to take part in the pilot program in 2008, gaining so much from the experience that they had returned for another year of training.
"I was part of the program last year," Everett Pinkney, a junior at Santa Clara High School, said. "When I am implementing this program, I try to lead by example. We actually did the program in the football off season last year, and everybody came in and gave up their lunch time to do the ATLAS and ATHENA. The other guys were really excited about it."
The high school coaches had seen a difference as well. Oregon Health and Science University conducted an anonymous study to find out exactly how the programs had affected the nearly 30,000 participants across the country.
"More than 90% felt that they were less likely to use drugs, supplements, and diet pills," Elliot said. "They felt their teammates were more against drug use, and they felt their coaches were more against drug use."
The San Francisco 49ers and the NFL understand the importance of implementing health promotion programs to students at a young level throughout the community, and found the results to be evident both statistically and in the stories of the student athletes.
"It's a very important initiative for the 49ers – teaching them proper nutrition, avoiding performance enhancing drug use amongst high school students," Ryan Myers, the 49ers Youth Football Representative, said. "Everything has been going great. The Oregon Health and Science University staff has been on top of it and Coach Carlisle has some great tips for them so we're very excited."
The Tuesday event was one of many community activities the 49ers take part in throughout the year as part of their award winning RESPECT campaign, which reaches out to youth to impart the value of respect in three important areas of their lives: families, schools and communities.