Friday, May 30, 2014

Girls on the Run: My Season 1

You may or may not remember that beginning in February, I started as a coach for a local Girls on the Run team. I first heard of GOTR in Atlanta, as they were out promoting their program and 5K at almost every race I did in the area. When I first moved to LA, I thought of taking up a team in the fall, but decided I'd be better off settling into the job first and would take up a team in the spring. And I did!

If you're not familiar with GOTR, it's an organization based in North Carolina with chapters all over the country. Chapters are local areas with teams underneath - nearly 50 teams in the GOTR LA organization, for example. GOTR "teaches life skills through dynamic, conversation-based lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being prepared to complete a celebratory 5K running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness."

I've gotta be honest with you. After I attended training in January, I was excited... but also a little apprehensive. Part of my struggle in working with the current generation's college students is that they so often believe that they are entitled to anything and they all deserve the exact same things (think that age-long discussion about everyone getting participation trophies versus just the champions getting the trophy). At the end of the article is a quote that very much directs how I feel: "members felt like kids were given too many things in this day and age and it is important to teach them not everyone can be a winner." Learning that every girl gets a race bib with the number 1, and that every girl gets a medal regardless... left me struggling. I remember leaving training and telling my boss the next day that I was a little nervous about how to put my feelings aside (given the current age group I work with) and allow the program to run its course.

And then I saw the program happen. I saw our girls pushing themselves, pushing each other, and I saw the confidence come out. There were girls who could certainly be amazing runners, who want to give it all they've got every time around and are determined to get better and better. The quiet ones who don't say a peep in conversation but are total workhorses when it comes down to it. And then there's the crazy, rambunctious, hyperactive ones who just need a fun outlet to get it all out (sometimes those ones made me feel like a not-paid babysitter).

Don't they look thrilled?!
Overall, my experience was a good one. We had some difficult members on our team who often made the experience difficult for coaches and myself, but enough girls to offset their rowdiness and rudeness, at times. GOTR did work some magic for some girls, and you saw their true attitudes come out at the 5K. Our 5K was just two weeks ago, and sadly only half our team was able to make it - I was a little disappointed, especially since all the huge groups getting together - but whatcha gonna do?

I got to run the 5K with one of our quiet workhorses. She was always one of the leaders of our pack on our 'track' around the park and you could truly see her determination come out through each and every practice. Running the race with her, and allowing her to determine when we stopped to walk, how fast she wanted to go, and let her run her course, was probably a highlight of mine from the entire 18 weeks. Seeing her finish it and the biggest smile (with the cutest dimples ever, mind you) across her face was truly priceless.

I am so glad I got to join this program - it's not necessarily about getting that participation medal or the #1 bib... but truly about building that confidence. Running can do that for everyone, but certainly these girls are at a critical point when they need it most. That perhaps, there are difficult days and days where not everything will be handed to them and that as a coach, it's my job to push you just a little bit. Thanks, Hesse Park, for a great season 1 with GOTR LA! I'll see you in the fall!

Have you every coached with GOTR? What was your experience like?

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