Friday, March 16, 2012

Girls on the Run

On Monday, March 5 I put on yet another hat. This time my hat says, "Coach" although the girls just call me Becky, and I am one of the coaches for my school's Girls on the Run team.

If you don't have Girls on the Run or Girls on Track teams at your school, and you've never heard of the program, you MUST check it out by looking at their website. The premise of Girls on the Run is to provide girls in 3rd - 5th grade with the tools they need to see themselves as strong, powerful young ladies. They get "out of the Girl Box" and recognize that they can be anything and do anything they want. The girls also get the tools they need to make good decisions and stay true to themselves as they enter those challenging pre-teen and teenage years. Oh, and yeah - we do this through lessons, teamwork and running. Our culminating event is a 5K that the girls run with their running buddies.

Now, if you know me at all, the fact that I'm coaching a "running" program is a bit... confusing. Seriously, picture my Maxx, tilting his head to the side and looking at you quizzically. You know.... like this:

I'm not a runner; believe me I've tried (I am still trying to be honest, but my try on Sunday may be my last). The only time I get that runner's high that everybody talks up is when I'm finished and know I don't have to run any more. But I get it. Because I'm not a runner yet still finished a 5K, I know how amazing it feels to do something you didn't think you would ever be able to do. For some of these girls to finish a 5K at 9 and 10? I can't even imagine what it will be like for them to triumphantly cross that line if front of hundreds of cheering fans!

It's so much more than that, though. The lessons we talk about aren't easy things, even for us grown-ups, to talk about: feeling like you don't fit it, thinking negatively, peer pressure, bullying. They dredge up a lot of bad feelings for all of us. Knowing that we all can handle these things - that's priceless. And so are the relationships we're developing with our team. These girls know that no matter what they have three adults, besides their parents, in whom they can trust.

I knew I'd gain a lot by volunteering as a Girls on the Run coach, but the connections with the girls after just 4 practices are more than I expected. This was a challenging week, and every time I saw one of the girls on our team, they smiled, they said hello, they shared their positive words, and I got hugs! Tons and tons of hugs. And today, when the girl who "doesn't really do hugs" walked up and gave me a quick one-arm-around-the-side hug, well that was the highlight of my whole week.

Never underestimate what you can build just by sharing a tiny bit of your time with kids and showing them that you care. It doesn't have to be participating in a program like Girls on the Run. It can be as simple as saying hi to a child in the hallway or asking the kids what they did last night. Those are the little things that will last and will make a difference.

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