Learn. Dream. Live. Run.
Girls on the Run program inspires young girls all around the globe.
“Girls on the Run is so much fun!”
This rhymed phrase, shouted in unison, is what I hear most after taking part in a Girls on the Run practice over at the Primary school Tuesday afternoon.
What started as a small group of thirteen runners in North Carolina turned into a world-wide movement. Girls on the Run is a confidence, friendship, and leadership building curriculum that integrates running for girls in grades 3-5. They meet twice a week at the Primary School and train for an annual 5k at the end of the season. The program was introduced to South Butler four years ago by Hope Hull, a former Primary School teacher.
“We were the largest startup program in the nation and have continued to break records across the country for our participation,” said Hull. “Our program here has grown to serving 70 girls for the 2019 season.”
After taking a new job at Butler Area School District, she has continued the Girls on the Run tradition and serves as their liaison while also coaching the program here.
So what is this program about?
“We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams,” said Hull. “It is rewarding as coaches to see girls blossom into their ‘real’, ‘genuine’ selves through the course of the program.”
I was curious what a typical practice looks like, so I asked my mom, who coaches, to give me a run down. I learned that the girls are places into small groups of no more than 15, all mixed grades. Part of the workout includes a 30-40 minute run as a group. The girls are asked to think about a specific topic during each lap they run. After each lap, they then work together or share with a coach an idea that goes along with the lesson.
“For example, our lesson may be about positive self-talk, so after each lap the girls share a positive self-talk statement with a partner,” she said. “We also take about 10-15 minutes to review our previous learning goal and then make a connection to our new lesson topic through short activities and discussion prompts.
They each run with a buddy, which could be a parent, friend, sister, etc. In some cases, a “buddy” could be a high school student.
“My favorite part of coaching is getting to know girls personally and for them to be comfortable enough to share their problems with me,” said senior Abby Fields. Fields is a junior coach who helps her mom run their group of 14 girls, Team Brave. “I also love watching this program take a shy, quiet girl and bring her out of her shell to answer questions and make new friends. It’s really amazing to see what this program can do for each individual girl.”
All of the “GOTR” girls from different areas join together at Hartwood Acres for the annual 5k.
“Race day includes music, face painting, free giveaways, an ice cream truck, arts and crafts and tons of fun,” said Hull. “The race is open to the community–last year we had several high school girls run the race.”
“It takes everyone a different amount of time to finish and girls joined together and formed groups depending on how fast they could go,” said Fields. “It didn’t matter what teams the girls were on or what grade they were from, everyone was talking to each and cheering each other on. It was an amazing thing to watch.”
If you can’t make it to race day, there are so many ways to be involved in this fantastic program.
“Students can help support GOTR by attending some of our events later in the season like the practice 5k to cheer the girls on, and our community service event, to help the girls help our community,” said Fields.
“It would be great to have several high school girls make (encouraging, high spirited, you got this) signs which they would bring to our practice 5k and along the route cheer on the girls,” said head coach Rhonda Tekely.
Also, students can write letters of encouragement to the girls, which they will read right before the big race. More information about letter-writing will come out soon.
“People may not realize the impact their letters could have; the letter lets a girl know someone is cheering for them and gives them someone to look up to,” said Hull.
If you are interested in helping with the program as a coach, junior coach or mentor, please contact Hope Hull at [email protected].
“Each girl is taught that they are unique, that they have this star power within them,” said Tekely. “It teaches them how to make new friends, make good choices, and how to deal with everyday issues.”
According to the Girls on the Run website, “completing the 5K gives the girls a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals.” As a runner, this hits home. Working hard for something throughout an entire season while also building healthy life habits is something I think is so important for kids, especially young girls. I would have loved to have a program like Girls on the Run when I was in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade.
“What inspires me is when I see a shy girl who thinks she can’t run a 5k and is new to the program and has no idea what to expect. For me, being a GOTR Coach has allowed me to give her the tools to find her voice and watch her blossom into this little girl who is making friends, participating in the activities and finally seeing her cross the finish line at Hartwood Acres,” said Tekely. “Because deep down, her star was always shining…I just helped make her star shine a little brighter.”