As a mom, I am always looking for ways to help my preteen daughter grow up to be healthy and confident. My daughter is facing bullying, self-confidence issues, peer pressure, and body image issues at a much younger age than I did growing up. So when I found Girls on the Run last fall, I immediately signed my third grader up.
Girls on the Run, or GOTR, is a national non-profit organization that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. My daughter was lucky enough to join the first season that GOTR was in our area. Her school’s team met after school for one and half hours two days a week for a ten week session.
North Alabama’s GOTR Team
There were 13 3rd-5th grade girls on that first team. To say that I saw her grow over those ten weeks is an understatement. I watched as my child who rarely wanted to play outside developed a love of running. She and I started doing 5Ks together. She was so proud every time she crossed that finish line.
The thing I loved the most about GOTR was the character development lessons. She learned about how true friends treat one another, how to turn negative self-talk into positive, how to stand up to bullies, how to stand up for others, healthy eating habits, that true beauty comes from within, and how to better understand the wide range of emotions preteen feel every day.
The highlight of the season for her was the last several weeks when the team completed their community impact project. The girls worked together to plan and implement a hygiene drive for a local homeless shelter. The pride and joy on their faces knowing they had made a difference was amazing.
The last event of the season was the celebration 5K for all the North Alabama GOTR teams. I loved seeing girls from different schools dressed in bright tutus, colorful hair, and bright t-shirts all running together and cheering each other on. Each girl got a medal to celebrate her hard work during the 5K and over the past ten weeks. Because the event was not timed, every girl felt like a winner as she crossed the finish line.
I love that GOTR encourages girls to move their bodies in a non-competitive way. I saw many girls who were not runners but were so excited to participating in their first 5K. It’s incredibly heart-warming to participate in a team where helping each child be the best they can be inside and out is the goal instead of seeing who is the best or fastest.
I was so impressed with GOTR that I became a substitute coach for the Fall season. My daughter signed up again in the spring and I became a full time coach for her school’s team. Getting to spend ten weeks with that team was an experience I can’t put into words. I watched the girls’ self-confidence and inter-personal skills grow over the season. I was moved every week by the depth of their answers and the emotions they were willing to share with one another. At the end of every practice the girls get in a circle, put their hands in the middle, and yell “Girls on the Run is so much fun!” I could tell by the huge smiles on their faces that they meant it every week. I am now the program director for North Alabama GOTR because I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact GOTR teams have.
If you have a 3rd-5th grade girl, I highly recommend you check out this amazing program. Registration is open now for the Fall session. There are 10 sites with teams for the fall (8 in Madison County and 2 in the Shoals area). GOTR is also looking for coaches for the fall season and new sites for the spring season. If you or a girl you know would like to get involved, more information can be found at www.gotrnorthal.org.
North Alabama Girls On the Run Details
Registration: Open August 1 – September 4, 2018
More Info: FAQ can be found here.