This past summer I signed up to coach with Girls on the Run LA. In case you don't know what Girls on the Run is, here is a short background. Girls on the Run (GOTR) started in 1996 in North Carolina. Founder, Molly Barker, started the program as a way to "help girls recognize their extraordinary potential and thrive in a world that often sends them unhealthy and unrealistic messages." Girls on the Run started with just 13 girls and has now spread to more than 200 cities in the US and Canada. "The heart of the program is still the same: inspiring girls to celebrate their unique identities, recognize their inner strength, understand the power they have to make individual decisions and value their connectedness with others."
I had heard about GOTR through friends, and knew I wanted to be involved. When the opportunity to coach presented itself, I jumped on it. My boss was super understanding and let me modify my schedule so I would leave early twice a week to get to the park to coach. I was a little nervous heading in to the first session, but I realized that this would be a fun adventure. I coached for 12 weeks, from September to early December.
Every week I watched the girls grow and learn more and more. It was pretty incredible. As the weeks passed I knew that I was learning more from them than they ever could from me. I learned that remembering to find the joy in the little things in life is important. They taught me the importance of patience. They taught me to really listen, because sometimes what they want you to hear is not what they are saying. They reminded me that I too was once a little girl with big dreams, and I should still be chasing them. (This is only a small list of what I learned...)
The girls learned about how to believe in themselves. The learned about picking good friends. They learned about standing up to bullies, and not being a bully. They learned how to be a good member of society. They became friends and helped each other overcome fears. They grew, a lot.
The first day of practice, one of the girls was really shy. She came to practice holding a small stuffed animal. She asked if she could bring it every week. I told her it was fine, as long as it wasn't distracting. After about two weeks, the stuffed toy was no longer with her at practice. This little girl found an excuse to not run, a lot. She was always coming up with something, headaches, leg hurts, tired, sick, every day something new. But, she slowly improved. She would run a little more and a little more. But, she still lacked self confidence and self esteem. No matter how much we worked on those things she was very down on herself and seemed to think that no one liked her (not the case - all the other girls loved her).
We had a practice 5k one day. The girls had to run several laps around the park. I brought a cape so that the girls could each wear it for a bit during their run. This little girl spent part of the beginning of this practice saying she was tired and wouldn't be able to do it. I said, that's okay, just start and go as far as you can. Each lap she got a little better, a little more excited. She wore the cape for one of her early laps and then we passed it along to someone else. She got done with her second to last lap and asked if she could wear it again, because it would help her. She wore the cape for that last lap and ran it in. After the practice 5k we were having our closing talk and I asked the girls what they learned that day. Her hand shot in to the air the fastest (this was a marked change from early practices when she would barely say a word). I called on her and her response was, "I learned that I can do anything!" She was so excited and so happy to have finished that 5k. It was amazing. It was like the light bulb finally turned on and she understood what we had been trying to teach her all along. She was like a whole new girl. It was amazing. That moment, when she realized that she is capable of doing anything she wants, was one of the best moments of the season and made me realize that coaching for GOTR was one of the best decisions I could have made.
I could not have been more proud of all of those girls than I was the day of the practice 5k. They all went out and did it. They each achieved a goal that they had set and it was incredible to watch. Of the girls who finished early, one of them said she wanted to go run more, with some of the girls who weren't done yet, to help them, amazing. As each girl finished the others, without any direction, built an archway (TNT style tunnel of love) for their teammates to run through at the end. They were all so excited and cheered for each other, it was amazing.
that smile right there, that's the best reason for coaching GOTR
There are so many stories I could share about coaching for GOTR. It was an incredible experience. If you can, you should do it. It's amazing and so rewarding. Coaching for GOTR made me think that maybe, one day, I would like to coach adults too, maybe, eventually. Due to work and training schedule in the spring I can't coach again for this next season, I wouldn't have the proper time to devote to it, and that wouldn't be fair. I'll miss doing it, because it was one of my favorite activities every week. But, as soon as I can return to coaching, I will.
For now, I still want to contribute to Girls on the Run. So, I am signing up for the LA Marathon Relay with one of my co-coaches from this season. I'll be running the first half and she'll be running the second half (we all know this isn't my favorite distance, but I'm excited to run this half of the course and see what I can do). The relay option is only available to charities, so I'll be fundraising for Girls on the Run. The money raised will help more girls be able to attend the program. I have to raise $250, but would like to get to $500. Can you help me out and make a donation to this wonderful program? UPDATE: The link is now working. :)