Lead Story Professional Sports West Edition

Inglewood students learn fitness from Chargers players

INGLEWOOD — The smiles and wide-eyed looks on the faces of students at Highland Elementary School said all that needed to be said when they saw members of the Los Angeles Chargers walk off a chartered bus and begin slapping high-fives and popping palms with them during a special event Sept. 19 conducted by the team and the Inglewood Police Department.

Inglewood Police Chief Mark Fronterotta said these types of community events helps forge a closer bond between law enforcement personnel and local residents.

“It’s extremely important,” Fronterotta said. “Everybody who knows me, I am a big community person. … Always have been my whole career, 37 years here. As you can see, there’s also many police officers out here as well.

“So, we’re partnering together with the NFL, with the Los Angeles Chargers, and building that strong relationship is invaluable and it’s the right thing to do. That’s what were all about in Inglewood PD.”

With the Chargers preparing to move to Inglewood as their permanent home in a couple of years, the team is making inroads into the city with community-based events like the Play60 camp that was held for selective students that stand out in their academic curriculum.

As a reward for their hard work, more than 100 selected students were treated to a surprise that will likely stay with them for the rest of their lives.

“My dad, he is a big football fan,” Stephanie Ramirez said. “If he was here … he’d be like ‘aargh!’”

Los Angeles Chargers rookie running back Austin Ekelar hands a football to a student at Highland Elementary School during the team’s visit to the school to promote physical activity. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

The overall riding theme of the Play60 Junior Chargers Training Camp is for youths to follow through and understand the importance of engaging in physical fitness activity for at least 60 minutes a day. Most of the Chargers who attended the session on the team’s normal off day were rookies.

Chargers rookie offensive lineman Dan Feeney has taken part at several of these functions.

As far as what it means to him to volunteer his time to mingle and encourage students to stay physically active, it’s something he enjoys doing, Feeney said.

“It means a lot, helping these little kids get active and keep a right mindset,” Feeney said. “Play60, I don’t think it’s just physical; it’s more mental as well. Just being out and being active and taking care of yourself, and I think that is what we’re trying to instill in these little guys.”

Partnering up with the community for charitable causes has become a staple for law enforcement and professional sports teams in recent years. Inglewood police officer Mychal Blaylock, like quite a few of his colleagues, participated in the event out of uniform. By doing so, that helps make who they are as police officers relatable to the students, he said.

“It’s good for the kids to see us out of uniform,” Blaylock said. “They know at the end of the day we are real people. We care about them. We get to come out here and get to have a good time with each other.

“No better partnership brings you together than sports, so it’s a good time to enjoy them and see them laughing and have a good time. They get to see us laughing and having a good time. We’re not walking around like we’re unapproachable. At least at the end of the day, they know that they can come and talk to us about anything.”

Linebacker Nigel Harris brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the two-hour camp. It’s about the students enjoying themselves, but also knowing the significance of staying active, he said.

“It’s all about the kids,” Harris said. “It feels good to be out here, letting them know to get outside for 60 minutes a day and have some fun. That’s what it’s about.”