For the founders of Girls on the Run, it is their mission to encourage young women and girls to dream big and commit to living well.
And they want to do all of that by helping them run.
Girls on the Run—which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016—is a non-profit organization operating in all 50 states. In conjunction with schools, Girls on the Run works with girls in third through eighth grade. The goal is to help girls develop self-confidence, create and value healthy relationships and learn about health, all while training to complete a 5K.
But as a parent with countless extracurricular activities and sports teams for your child to choose from, it can be hard to discern why your daughter should sign up for Girls on the Run—especially if the program is new to your school.
But there are plenty of reasons to give it a shot, especially if your child isn't interested in the traditional team sports experience.
Girls on the Run is Not a Sports Team
Sure, the girls run, but the goal of Girls on the Run is not necessarily to improve times or beat another person to the finish line. The girls are taught to see themselves—and girls at other program locations—as a team and to empower each other to reach their goals.
And the time commitment is manageable. The girls often stay after school for 90 minutes twice a week. There's no games to rush to or Saturday morning conditioning sessions. The 5K celebration events are also at family-friendly times, allowing everyone to join in on the fun.
By the Books
Girls on the Run coaches are given a curriculum to help structure their meetings. Bullying, healthy eating and self-esteem are all covered in an effort to not only get the girls thinking about how they act and feel, but talking about it, too. The lessons give the girls a chance to have a conversation with their peers—some of whom they might not talk to otherwise—in a safe environment. At Girls on the Run, everyone has a voice.
Don't Run? No Problem
The girls spend 12 weeks training to complete a 5K in whatever way is best for them. Girls can run, skip or walk to the finish line. Some coaches have seen girls throw in a cartwheel or two as they navigate a route. However, the girls are encouraged to create small running goals week-to-week so they can learn how strong they are.
The Good Fairy
Participating in team sports can be costly. There are registration fees, travel costs and gear to buy. It can be hard for families to juggle the expense, especially if they have more than one child. Girls on the Run wants all girls to have the opportunity to participate. While there is a program fee, scholarships are available and certain locations get visits from shoe fairies.
At the end of the 12-week program, girls toe the line of a 5K race, but they don't do it alone. Not only are they surrounded by the girls from their school and other area locations, but they have a buddy right next to them. This buddy guides them, encourages them and believes in them. Sometimes the buddy is a parent or relative, but don't worry if you're not a runner; coaches and volunteers also go stride-for-stride with the girls.
As young girls cross the 5K finish line after weeks of training, they feel strong, accomplished and more confident in handling life's challenges.
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