Today I attended my last Girls on the Run practice as a coach. It was a fitting ending—we did the “freeze tag” lesson, which is always one of the girls’ favorite, and as Coach Missy says, “makes great memories for the girls”. Lately I’ve been thinking of how this will be my last season as a coach, and how proud I am for having been a small part of this wonderful program that helps builds character in young girls through running.
The program came to our school, Progress South Elementary, in 2009, through the efforts of Coach Gina—a mom who wanted her daughter to learn the lessons taught the in Girls on the Run curriculum. She put out the word through our Girl Scouts Neighborhood, which I am involved in, and I thought it sounded great. I’d heard of the program through a friend who was a Practice Partner at another school in our area. I replied that I was interested, though I had no prior running experience, and the next thing I knew I was the Head Coach of this team we were trying to scrape together. You needed to have eight girls for a team and somehow we managed to get eight girls by the deadline.
That first season taught me a lot—not only about running, which I learned from my wonderful Assistant Coaches that had been runners for years—but about motivating girls to do more than they thought they could. Sometimes they were reluctant to run at all, but I will never forget watching one of the girls cross the finish line at our practice 5K, red-faced and breathless, full of pride and a sense of accomplishment. In that moment, all the challenges we faced that season became worth it. I also enjoyed seeing my own daughter’s determination and confidence grow as she became a stronger runner with each practice.
The Girls on the Run program at our school has grown significantly since that first season. We now have two teams and are almost filled to capacity each season (that’s 34 girls). We have traditions and our own unique identity as a club at the school. In the St. Louis area, the Girls on the Run program has grown, too. Each season, each race, has become better organized and the processes more streamlined, from online registration and scholarships to moving the race to downtown to accommodate the larger number of race participants. There is now a Junior Coach program that both of my daughters who are no longer in elementary school have had the privilege to be a part of. What a joy it is to see something positive thrive!
I’d be remiss to not mention how much this program has made me a better person as well. Before Girls on the Run, I’d never run a 5K. I think I was just as excited as the girls that first race and I will never, ever forget it. To this day it is probably my favorite race I’ve ever run. And since then I’ve run a lot of 5Ks, 10Ks and two half marathons. I’ve had two daughters that are Girls on the Run alumna and past Junior Coaches—one who runs with me in every race she can and is looking forward to Cross Country in High School. All because I said “yes” to coaching.
A few seasons ago, I stepped down as Head Coach and handed the baton to Coach Kelly, who has five daughters that will be going through the program. She has done a phenomenal job getting our team numbers to what they are today and doing all that it takes to organize 30+ families. This last season I stepped back into the Practice Partner role from Assistant Coach. My daughters are no longer in elementary school and it is time for me to let someone else experience the joy of working with truly awesome coaches and fantastic girls.
To Coach Kelly, Coach Missy, Coach Sheri and Becky, I treasure our friendship. I admire each of you not only as runners, but as mothers and mentors to all the girls who are on our team. To all of the parents through the years, thank you for sharing your daughters with me. They have so much potential and I love seeing that in them—I know you do, too. I hope they see it themselves as well and that they will remember their Girls on the Run experience fondly—and never forget to plug into their positive cords.
So, Saturday will be my last race as a Girls on the Run Coach and I will wear my tutu proudly. We are the girls, the mighty, mighty girls—and I know they are going to continue to roar.