When I first heard about Girls on the Run, I got really excited. I figured it was a running program that would teach girls how to run faster. My daughter has been trying to make the track team and I figured that the Girls on the Run program would help in her running development.
When I heard they were looking for coaches in our area, I asked my wife if she would be interested in coaching my daughter and a few other girls at the elementary school. I figured that the girls would relate more to my wife than me because she is female and I'm not, plus she has a good competitive running background. She needed a couple of assistant coaches, so I signed up for the job.
I expected to help teach the girls about proper stretching, good form, and even give them a few tips on getting faster and maybe even some cutthroat racing strategies. What I didn't realize at the time was that this wasn't really a running program, this was a place where girls could form bonds, learn about how to communicate with others, how to be a good listener, how to be a better friend, how to stand up for your values, and how to make good choices. Most importantly, the Girls on the Run program provides the girls a safe place to be girls, to have fun, and to be themselves without the fear of being judged or teased.
The girls do run, and at the end of the program, we will have all of them in shape to run a 5k with a mentor or a parent. Mixed in with the running are activities to help with the girls' personal growth. One of my favorite sessions so far was teaching the girls about managing their emotions and handling stress. We went over various healthy methods of dealing with stress, and, not surprisingly, we taught the girls how to use running as a way to manage and work through complicated emotions.
I have two daughters and I worry about them constantly. The worries range from hoping that they will excel in school while not give in to the pressures of sacrificing their values for popularity, to hoping that they will search out and befriend good people, to hoping that they will be kind to others. What I hope most for my girls is that they will grow to be strong, smart, and independent women. Lucky for them, they have a good example in a mom who runs the household smoothly, makes sure that homework is done, cooks dinner every night, and still manages to excel at school while following her dream of becoming a nurse.
The Girls on the Run program helps the girls develop their strength and confidence through running, but also encourages them to become the strong, powerful, smart, and self-assured young women that they are and that so often society tries to beat out of them. I love seeing the bonds that these girls are developing through running, and I love seeing what happens to the girls when they are allowed to fly.
More information about the Girls on the Run program can be found here. The program is always looking for coaching volunteers. You can find a local chapter (or start your own) here.