In the beginning, the girls start by walking. Through Girls on the Run, they quickly learn they can do so much more. And it’s not only about running. It’s about inspiring girls to take charge of their lives and define the future on their terms. It’s a place where girls learn that they can. No limits. No constraints. Only opportunities to be remarkable. One girl put it this way, “I learned that I am the boss of my brain.” Girls on the Run uses running as a medium to help third to eighth grade girls develop values of confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution. Coaches are essential to that process—helping guide girls through a program that lasts just 10 weeks, but can impact the rest of their lives.
Team Coach, Enterprise Operations at Allianz Life Insurance of North America
I often think of the expression “Be who you needed when you were a kid.” Girls on the Run lets me do that.
I am passionate about body positivity, and though my body type doesn’t match what most people think of when they think ‘runner,’ I don’t let my size keep me from achieving my running goals. I think it’s important to show people, especially young girls, that they shouldn’t let fear of being different keep them from setting and working toward a goal they’re passionate about achieving.
Many girls struggle with body image and confidence, and not all girls have the kind of support I had growing up—a mom and a grandma that showed me that there was nothing a girl couldn’t do without some hard work. I realized that I was given a gift, and now I love being able to share that gift with my girls as a Girls on the Run coach. I love hearing their stories of how they’re implementing what they’ve learned to advocate for themselves or others.
Physical Education Teacher at Lyndale Elementary School
I got involved with Girls on the Run because fitness is my way to calm down and focus, and I hoped that it could do the same for them in their lives.
But I also wanted the kids to learn some skills that we too often just assume kids have—how to make friends, how to be a good friend, how to ask for help, how to build your own self-esteem.
Yes, the girls learn how to run, but I’m not teaching running, per se. I’m teaching lessons through the medium of running.
I’m learning, too. As adults, we can talk the talk, but we might not be as good at the doing. The program has enlightened me on how to apply these lessons in my own life and be a good model for the girls.
Girls on the Run is really powerful in how it supports and encourages girls throughout their experience. One of my students was so angry and withdrawn at the start of the season, asking questions like: “What is this?” By mid-season, she was more engaged, and her questions shifted to things like: “What are we working on next?” And by the end of the program, she had more self-esteem, she could talk to people, and she was making friends. She was saying: “Ok, I can do this.”
Endocrinologist at Hennepin County Medical Center
If you have ever wished that you had someone to look at you, really see you, tell you that you are worth something and that you can do it, then coaching Girls on the Run is for you. I’ve been a head coach for 4 seasons now.
Girls on the Run is a unique opportunity to reach girls during a magical window of time—they’re at an age where they already have well-formed ideas about themselves and the world, and yet they’re still vulnerable. Coaches can reach and guide them as they are figure out how to negotiate school, friends, their own changing selves and their relationships with other people.
The girls are amazing. I am constantly humbled by their introspection, their maturity, their ability to re-define themselves and their connections to other people, and their sense of fun!
During our practice 5K in the fall of 2017, one girl was having a hard time completing the run. All of her teammates who had already finished spontaneously organized a tunnel for her to run through when she made it, and greeted her with hugs, high fives, and genuine love.
I have also learned a lot about myself. I am much more likely now to celebrate the minor things I accomplish every day, instead of fixating on my own shortcomings. And the friendships I’ve made with the other coaches are irreplaceable. They’re all incredible women who have figured out that even the most stressful parts of coaching give back more than they take.
We all have so much busy in our lives—some real, some created, and some imagined. But if we can commit to doing something as straightforward as spending time with 8-10-year-old girls who have so much to give, to teach and to learn, coaching is an easy choice.
It’s worth it, times ten.
Photos By Rebecca Studios
This story was produced in partnership with Girls on the Run. For more information about their programs, or if you’re interested in becoming a Girls on the Run coach, gotrtwincities.org