This past weekend my Girls on Track team (the Middle school program for Girls on The Run) had their end of season 5k race. It’s always such an emotional and rewarding experience for me to see the girls achieve their goals on race day. The race is a celebration of what we’ve learned and achieved together the last 2 months during our bi-weekly practices.
This season was my 3rd volunteering to coach at my kids old Elementary School. While running with all of the Northern Virginia participants last Sunday, I started to think about why I enjoy coaching them so much. I’d like to share some of those thoughts with you all.
Remember how hard it was to be a pre-teen girl? Remember how insecure and unsure you felt about getting ready to enter middle and high school? Remember the peer pressure you might have felt to look a certain way or be part of a particular group? Remember how hard it might have been to stand up for yourself at times? Well I believe it’s even harder to grow up now. With social media, selfies and snapchats the pressure can be so great and the uncertainties so immense.
I can remember navigating so much of this myself in Middle and High school and for sure not always making the smartest decision for me or always staying true to my values. In addition, having watched my own daughter steer her way through the turbulent adolescent years, made me appreciate even more the struggles today’s young women might face. We, like most moms & teens, had our own turbulent years and I am proud say she has grown into a beautiful, secure, smart young adult. Enter Girls on The Run.
My daughter participated in the GOTR program over ten years ago (before I even had any interest in running at all!). I’d like to think this experience helped to mold her into the terrific young woman she has become. We had the amazing opportunity to co-coach GOTR together last season. It was an incredible opportunity for us to have together and she brought a perspective that the girls really appreciated.
Girls on The Run is so much more than a running program. Each week has a “lesson” plan and activities geared around the weekly theme. The activities are active in nature and end with the girls running at the end of each practice. We talk about friendships, team building, pressures, and stresses to name a few.
Today’s young women have so many more decisions to make and if I can help to provide them with some of the skills they can use to make those decisions a little easier, then our time together has been a success. Girls on Track aims to give them “tools” to use and the confidence to stand up for what they believe in.
This season we’ve talked about:
-Making healthy choices around sleep, food and fitness
-Managing stress (from school, sports, friends, family)
-Exploring media messages about body types vs reality
–Friendships and Team Building
-Dealing with disappointment
-Supporting your team mates and working towards a common goal
I, along with my friend & Co-Coach Cynthia, have shared our own experiences and hopefully modeled some of the above behavior to our team of 11 girls. While our short time together certainly won’t change their lives or replace the importance of a loving, supportive home life; I hope that we have provided them with some of the skills to fill their “Tool Box”. As they navigate the next few years, it is my hope that they use some of those skills to make choices that they are proud of and remember that we are so much stronger when we build each other up rather than tear each other down.
As a Moms Run This Town Chapter Leader, it is also my hope that I am inspiring them to be the next generation of mother runners. This season celebrates 50k Girls on The Run participants. Quite amazing! I didn’t realize how much emotion I had tied up in this season until I sat down to write this today. As I head out to our last practice today, it makes me a little sad to say goodbye to them and very proud to know they will be going with to middle school with lots of “tools” in their arsenal.
What one piece of advice would you give to the girls on my team?