It was my team’s big day: the 5k run we’d been working toward all semester. I was waiting on the course, eagerly anticipating the moment when I would catch just a tiny glimpse of each of my girls as they came around the corner. Once they got to me, they had less than a half a mile to go! I was grinning from ear to ear, cheering at the top of my lungs, “You’re going to DO THIS! You’re almost there! GO, GO, GO!”
The other coaches were at the finish line waiting, also eagerly anticipating each girl’s arrival. As soon as our last teammate passed by, I started running towards the finish line as well. I knew the girls would be so proud of their accomplishment, as they should be, because this was a BIG DEAL. As I approached the finish line, I stopped in awe and just watched as the team, our little community, all came together and crossed the finish line as a unit. It was such a special moment and I am so thankful that I had an opportunity to be part of it.
Girls on the Run: What it is and how it works
I am a coach for Girls on the Run (GOTR), an organization created to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through running. Their mission is to “inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running,” and their vision is to “create a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.” I don’t know about you, but that mission and vision combine to ignite a spark deep within my soul.
There are typically two semesters of Girls on the Run each year, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. The program is 10 weeks long and the girls meet after school twice a week for an hour and a half. The girls in my group are all between 8 and 10 years old. At the end of the semester, the girls participate in a celebratory 5k.
Each practice has a specific lesson and theme attached to it. The lessons and themes are truly invaluable. I keep thinking to myself, “I wish we had something like this when I was that age.” Even as an adult, I feel like I have learned so much from these lessons. The themes cover positive self-talk, inner beauty, expressing our emotions, words matter, friendship and standing up for others. There are some common, recurring principles that we focus on throughout each season, the core principles of competence, confidence, connection, character and contribution. I take away from each practice just as much as the girls do.
At the beginning of each practice, we start off with a snack (arguably the girls’ favorite part) and general chit-chat about what’s going on at school and in the girls’ lives. From there we either dive into our warm up exercises or discuss the day’s theme (this is all delineated for you in the Coach’s Guide issued by GOTR). The warm up always includes a fun game and some light stretching.
After we are nice and warmed up, it is time to move on to the actual workout. The workout always incorporates a game or lesson of some sort and the girls are always pumped to get to the actual running (this makes my little runner heart so very happy). After the workout, we sit back down as a group and talk about the things we learned that day and how we are going to incorporate those things into our everyday lives outside of practice.
What I’ve learned from GOTR
Through coaching GOTR, I learned that I have the ability to be a competent leader and coach to young girls. While this may not seem like a big deal, coming to this realization was actually huge, even life-changing, for me.
Over the years, I have struggled to find self-confidence and belief in myself and my abilities. When I first heard about GOTR, I knew immediately that I wanted to get involved. Even so, I was still very hesitant and unsure as to whether I was actually “qualified” to lead these girls. I came to the realization that if there is one thing in my life I am actually confident about, it is running. I am a runner. I have years of valuable experience and plenty of knowledge about running.
With running on my side, I said yes to coaching. Even though I was nervous about it, I was able to stand in front of twelve 8 to 10-year-old girls and teach them not only about running, but also about really important things like believing in themselves. One week we learned that we are stronger and capable of more than we think we are. Yes. Yes! YES! We truly are.
I feel more fulfilled in my career at the moment than I have in a while (possibly ever) and I have GOTR to thank for that as well. Finding purpose and meaning in life outside of work has undoubtedly been part of my mindset shift. It is obviously best to establish yourself in such a way that you don’t have only one source of validation and I am learning that if you put equal emphasis on your life outside of work, you get further ahead and are more satisfied at work as well.
After leading (i.e., teaching) some of the lessons over the course of the fall semester of GOTR, I have actually decided to pursue teaching as a second career. I have always loved school and the idea of teaching has always been in the back of my mind. The only thing stopping me was that I would have to stand in front of people and well … teach something … and I wasn’t “qualified” to do that. As it turns out, I am qualified to teach. I am a CPA. I have years of valuable experiences and plenty of knowledge about taxes (I mean, I have a master’s degree after all). You might recognize the thought pattern from the previous paragraph. Similarly to how I said yes to coaching, I have now said yes to teaching as well.
I also discovered that I actually enjoy being around kids (who knew?!). This little tidbit might be truly life changing one of these days!
Have you ever participated in Girls on the Run?