My third season as a coach for the amazing program Girls on the Run is coming to a close. Yesterday was one of my absolutely favorite practices and it really reminded me why I coach. If you need a recap on how the program Girls on the Run works, you can read the post I wrote when I first began coaching in the Fall of 2011. In a nut shell, Girls on the Run is a not for profit program for girls age eight to thirteen years old which combines training for a 3.1 mile running event with self-esteem enhancing, uplifting workouts. The goals of the programs are to encourage positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development (summarized from gotr.org).
For the last two seasons I’ve been coaching Girls on Track, the Girls on the Run Program tailored to slightly older girls, ages 11-13. Nearly all of the girls in the two groups I’ve coached have been in 6th grade (11-12 years old). For me, personally, 6th grade was a really rough year for me. I was growing into an adolescent but I was kind of still stuck back in childhood. Some of my friends were starting to “hang out” and talk about boys at lunch but I was still playing hopscotch. It was an odd year for me as I began the process of becoming a woman yet still felt like a child. It was also my first year of middle school (luckily these girls are still in elementary school in 6th grade), so in the midst of all these changes I was also thrust into a new school with new social expectations. As a very shy girl, it was a rough year to say the least.
This season has been awesome because the girls are smart, cooperative and friendly. In past seasons there have been a disruptive clique of three that have made it difficult to move the lessons along, but this time my team is comprised of wonderfully behaved, talkative and amazing girls who all support and uplift one another. Four of the girls from the previous season returned this time so I also was able to build stronger relationships with these girls.
The season is reaching and end and yesterday we had a really fun lesson where we honored each other. For our “warm-up” game, we had each and every girl sit in the center of our circle and then we went around and each said a few kind words about the girl in the center. Each girl was beaming with pride by the time they left that spot in the center. All of the girls considered their words wisely and thought of wonderful things to tell their fellow teammate. I even got to have a turn in the middle and the girls made me feel incredibly special. They all told me I’m pretty, but the compliment that touched me the most was when one of the girls said “you are a really good coach.” It meant a lot to me.
After all of the praises had been sung, we had our final workout. This time I decided to run too and ran around the track in the opposite direction as the girls. Each time I reached one of them I asked them to tell me a favorite memory from the season or something they learned. Although most of them started by telling me they liked capture the flag (they ask to play this every single practice) or the scavenger hunt, they other most common answer was that they liked running with their friends.
I’m so thankful to have found this program and to be able to hopefully help these girls become better prepared to handle the challenges of adolescence as they enter middle school next year. Yesterday at practice I told them a little of my story – that I had been made fun of when I was in middle school but as I grew older I realized that those people who made fun of me were doing it out of their own insecurities. I told them that they all should all be proud to be who they are no matter what anyone tells them. I’m not sure if anyone actually digested my words but even if just one girl remembers my advice one time I will be glad that I shared.