For Beach RAID 2016, we have partnered with Girls on The Run Maine for the third consecutive year. I had the honor of attending one of the GOTR practices a few weeks back and it opened my eyes to how truly inspiring the GOTR program really is.
Girls on the Run inspires girls in grades 3-5 to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running in every practice. When you think of this program, you think solely about the running program and as did I. I was not prepared for the healthy life skills that were taught through interactive lessons throughout the practice.
I began the practice with a little Q&A with one of the coaches Karen Bean, who decided to be a coach last spring and she expressed to me how her first time coaching was an incredible experience.
“Seeing the girls grow over 10 weeks and seeing the impact we make on them is incredible. Coming back for another year and seeing the same girls come back for the second season and seeing how much they’ve grown in a year is so absolutely rewarding.”
After getting settled down, the girls sat in a circle and the first topic on the agenda was EMOTIONS.
I thought this was a relevant topic to begin with because dealing with emotions at an age where emotions can take over is something that needs to be addressed more often.
One of three coaches at the practice began talking about certain ways to calm yourself down if you’re scared, anxious or mad. She turned it to the girls and asked how they positively deal with their emotions. One girl proudly stated, “I take a deep breath and think of something positive that will calm me down.” I was shocked by the maturity and assertiveness in her voice.
The coach proudly agreed and told them all to do the same and take a nice long, deep breath.
Next up, she asked the girls to give her an example of a recent experience that challenged them to deal with their emotions in a healthy way.
The eldest of the group, a fifth grader expressed that someone was making fun of her and she was thinking about stooping to their level and saying something back but she controlled her emotions and walked away from the situation. I quietly admired her confidence and self-control especially thinking back on what I would have said or done at that age.
Coach Karen praised her answer as she continued to elaborate that dealing with emotions in a healthy way can also help keep our physical bodies healthy too.
The coaches began explaining an exercise they were about to take on called the “Healthy Habits Card.” The girls were probed to get as many signatures on their healthy habits card and ask each one of their teammates what healthy activity they do that was on the card. (See below).
Following the exercise, Coach Karen went over why they participated in this exercise. “Why are healthy habits so important to our physical and mental health?”
“IT KEEPS US HEALTHY AND STRONG!!” – One girl exclaimed while flexing her muscles. Coach Karen laughed and agreed with her. Coach Karen communicated that not only do healthy habits get your body going but also gets your mind and brain going as well.
Once the lesson wrapped up, it was time to run! Since it was raining that day, the girls got to run inside the halls of the elementary school where the practice took place (a rare yet exciting occurrence for the 3rd-5th graders where they are told not to run in the halls). The three coaches set up three stations that the girls ran to where they would perform different exercises for a certain period of time at each station.
Following the exercise, I asked Coach Karen a few more questions pertaining to the Girls on the Run program.
-Does Girls on the Run create a curriculum for each lesson and practice?
CK – They have a curriculum that they give us which differs from the Spring and Fall seasons. The curriculum helps guide the practice in the right direction but our key focus as coaches is to create a relationship with the girls at every practice.
-I noticed that the girls have created nicknames for you and the other two coaches, what is that about?
CK- The girls think it’s funny to make up nicknames that relate to our last names. For instance last season, one of the coach’s last name was D’Allassandro and the girls changed it to Coach Dorito. (The coach’s nicknames at the practice were Coach Marshmallow, Coach Sprinkles and Coach CoCo Puff).
How many Girls on the Run programs are there in Maine?
CK- We have 43 teams at 39 sites in Maine. We are branching out but it takes a lot of work to recruit volunteer coaches for each site.
FUN FACT- The only state in the United States that doesn’t have a GOTR program is WYOMING!
Attending a Girls on the Run practice was a truly rewarding experience. It also made me feel a little jealous that there was never a program like that when I was in school! I am looking forward to joining their annual celebratory 5K to reunite with some of the girls and see the progress they have made!