I just have to tell you how much I hate this post. First, it’s harder than I thought to cram the whole season into one blog post. Next, it’s really difficult to get the other inhabitants of this house to stop talking to me for more than 90 seconds. (I guess it’s good to be liked.) However, losing ALL of the changes and additions I made today – in spite of several clicks of the Save Draft button – has to be the most exasperating delay. Enough of that now; let’s get to it!
My friend Letty – one of my key running friends, one who really converted me from ‘someone who runs’ to ‘a runner’ – and I have daughters the same age. We had been waiting until the girls were in third grade so that we become Girls on the Run (GOTR) coaches, as the program serves girls in grades 3-5. We started all the planning to become a new site for a GOTR back in October. With two coaches for our site, we were permitted to register up to 15 girls.
Beginning in February, we met up with 5 third graders, 1 fourth grader, and 5 fifth graders twice a week after school for life lessons and running. Although two coaches were enough to support 11 girls, we lucked out and had a third coach assigned to our site. Coach Kayla is a recently education graduate, a high school sprinter, and collegiate cross country runner – and she was a Godsend. She really helped us hold it together on more than one occasion.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, we had the opportunity to get to know these great girls by working a curriculum of “life lessons” – activities geared around important topics like gossip, positive self-talk, healthy eating and movement, bullying, and friendship. After the lessons, we’d run. For every lap of the run, there would be something the girls would do to reinforce the lesson (e.g., stopping to jot down one idea for how to snap out of negative self-talk). Each lesson was wrapped up with the giving of an “energy award,” for which one (and sometimes 2-3) girl was selected. Kind of like the day’s MVP, the recipient of the energy award would get to pick a little “cheer” which we’d all perform in a circle, the awardee standing in the middle. We’d complete each day by putting our hands into the middle of the circle and chant, “GIRLS ON THE RUN IS SO MUCH FUN!”
The program was twelve weeks long, included a community service project (which our girls rocked – we were so proud), and culminated in the GOTR 5K. The 5K took place in Pittsburgh, and girls from all the area’s GOTR sites (a couple dozen or so) ran together and earned their medals.
There were two unexpected challenges to being a GOTR coach. The first was snack time. We decided to feed the girls their snack at the beginning of practice 1) to get it out of the way, and 2) because kids are always starving right after school, yeah? Well, they acted like they were literally starving. It was difficult to get them to stop, and even though we tended to bring “more than enough,” there were seldom any left over snacks. I started calling it “the feeding,” instead of snack time.
I think the social nature of snack time also made it difficult to get the girls to transition from snack to session. Which brings me to the second challenge: keeping the girls moving / getting them to pace themselves. There were times when it felt like they were just being lazy, but more than that, they just seemed to be way too easily distracted. The girls also seemed to be overly interested in what everyone else was doing, despite us repeatedly telling them to focus on their own efforts and performance. For example, if one girl needed to stop to tie a shoe, the couple of other girls would stop with her. Of when the girls needed a water break, they’d tend to linger by the water bottles. It was like it just took them a moment to remember again what they were supposed to be doing, as they’d sip and talk.
We took to calling them “Girls on the Chat.”
ANYWAY! It was a fabulously rewarding experience to coach – the girls were sweet and fun, and they all seemed to enjoy the whole experience and to get something out of it. AND we realized at the race that we weren’t the only Girls on the Chat chapter. There were more than a few other, slow-moving (and somewhat whiny) groups of girls on the course. (We overheard one dad who seemed to be particularly irritated that the girls weren’t running the whole time. He ended up taking off, telling a couple of girls that he’d see them at the finish line!)
Here are a couple of my favorite race day pictures:
A final note. One of our girls missed the race due to illness. Although I’d have been upset for any of our girls to miss out on the race, it seemed particularly unfair, as the girl in question was possibly the “best” overall girl in the group. I’m not talking about being the best runner (or even chat-er). She was just the one kid who was always doing what she was supposed to be doing, who always had something positive to contribute, and who was always doing her best. Basically, she was the embodiment of GOTR. It broke my heart that she couldn’t make the race and earn her medal. So the following week, we made arrangements for her, my Emily, and one other girl from the group – plus Coach Kayla* – to run a Memorial Day 5K right here in Greensburg. I was able to get the GOTR office to send me her medal, which they said she was still eligible to earn for completing a race. Setting this up made the season finally feel complete to me.
On a “mom” – not coach – note, one of the very best things for me was how pleased Emily was with herself. After both races, she said over and over, “I can’t believe I ran and walked over three miles.” I’d reply with something like, “Yes, you’re really amazing because you have now done, twice, what most people can never say that they did.” For such a chatty bunch, it really is a big accomplishment.
I can’t wait to coach again next spring!
*I was registered to run this race, but Kayla – saving the day at the last minute! – ran in my place because I woke up the day before with some right thigh/hip issues that made it difficult to walk.