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    Attending a 49er Training Camp

    By John Chen–

    A few weeks ago, the San Francisco Bay Times was invited to attend a San Francisco 49er training camp session sponsored by the team’s community relations arm, Community Corner, focusing on diversity and inclusion. Although I was given the choice to partake in the event as media, I decided to go as a member of the LGBTQ 49er Pride Fan Club and San Francisco Gay Flag Football League (SFGFFL) so that I was able to participate in the event from a fan’s perspective.

    I arrived at Levi’s Stadium bright and early on a Wednesday morning, parked my car for free, and entered through Gate E to the practice facility. I was ushered to the southside bleachers with the community group Best Buddies. From my viewpoint, I could see two full length football fields side by side where all the players, coaches, assistants, and practice staff began warmup exercises and drills.

    During warmups, several of the players such as Jimmy Garoppolo and Mike McGlinchey stopped by the bleachers and greeted the starstruck admirers. A few other players came over and riled up the excited fans base with enthusiastic chants of “let’s go!”

    All together there were 13 practice periods each lasting 5–10 minutes. The early practice periods focused on a few specific drills for each of the on-field unit, such as offensive and defensive lines, wide receivers, linebackers, secondary, etc. The middle periods saw the units run or simulate plays and situations. The final periods, in my opinion, were the most interesting and fun for the fans, as they ran mini scrimmage plays pitting offense against the defense.

    After the final horn sounded, all the players huddled in the middle of the field to hear a few final words of wisdom and encouragement from the coaches. Waiting with great eagerness and anticipation, fans pleaded for their favorite players to come to the bleachers for photos and autographs. It was a great opportunity to get up close and personal with the elite athletes.

    After the players’ break from their huddle, I could see a group of the 10 largest of the large men heading directly for us. These men towered over everyone else in height, girth, and muscles. They were the offensive linemen.

    Led by the very popular and charismatic right tackle, number 69 big Mike McGlinchey, the linemen one by one flashed big smiles, shook hands, hugged, took selfies, and signed autographs for virtually every waiting fan. The massive players patiently, graciously, and appreciatively answered fan questions and requests. This was what the fans craved. And this was what connected the team and the players to the community, creating a special bond.

    After three hours in the hot sun, both the players and the fans were ready to call it a day. My first 49er training camp was a good one. I could see how passionate the fans were and how much the young fans looked up to the players. Professional athletes are not just competitors on the field; they are role models and heroes with a great sense of responsibility.

    I must also give props to the 49er support staff who ushered us, greeted us, welcomed us, and pointed us in the right direction. Collectively, they made us feel that we were family.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball, and football teams.

    Several years ago, the 49ers introduced the 49ers Pride Fan Club and invited the San Francisco Bay Times to participate in its activities.

    To learn more:

    To view and purchase 49ers Pride merchandise:

    Published on August 25, 2022