Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Girls Rule

I have been coaching 14 girls, ages 8-10, for nearly 12 weeks for a 5K race. That race took place this past Saturday, April 14th. It was one of my greatest moments: to be there and see the excitement in these girls and the culmination of all their hard work they have done over the past three months.

It's been an amazing three months for me. It was my first time volunteering for something long-term like this and it was something I had wanted to do for a very long time. I decided this year I would do it and I am so glad I did.

I've learned a lot from being a part of this team. I originally thought that I would be coaching 'average' girls -- my definition of average being from an average economy class, possibly needing some sort of scholarship to help pay the $175 that this program costs (there are scholarships available).

Over the first few weeks, it occurred to me that these girls did not fit my stereotype. Instead, for the most part, these girls lived in the surrounding neighborhood of the school we meet at. The neighborhood is upper-middle to upper-class. I even felt like the fellow coaches I coached with were from that 'caste'. I was keeping an open-mind, but I couldn't help but think "Uh-oh. What have I got myself into?" This recalls a previous post of mine where I think of myself as a BCMiaWCS.

But I soon learned that these girls were just girls. I don't know for sure if they are the same as other 8-10 year olds from different economic structures, but they sure were fun and not a single one acted any different than I expected any other girl to act at their age. I also found that my coaches and I were more alike than I thought -- and any differences were not through any economic or high attitude standards -- just different types of people.

Anyway, the premise of this program, Girls on the Run, is to teach girls, ages 8-12 years of age, empowerment, strong self-images, and other emotional tools to help them deal with the pressures of being 8-12 years old. Along with these tools, we coach them to run with the goal of finishing a 5K race. That's the short version of the intentions of this program.

My view: a program to help train girls to run a 5K at their own pace, along with self-empowerment modules within it. In the end, running a 5K is total independence, with no competition except for what the individual wants to get out of it for themselves. I, of course, am a runner and I love it so I can't think of any other sport that could incorporate so much into one run (the race).

The girls were awesome on race day. Two of them ran competitively; the other girls ran recreationally -- which basically means two girls had a timing chip and their results are recorded 'officially' and the others did not.

The first girl from my group to cross was Mattison, who is definitely our sports aficiando. One of my favorite anecdotes regarding Mattison is when she introduced herself at one of our first meetings and she announced how she loved hockey: 'not watching it but _playing_ it.'

Next to cross was Mattison's friend, Ali. This was a big surprise for me because, even though Ali has shown herself to be a consistently good runner, she has never broadcast herself to be fast, competitive, or anything close to that. I couldn't have been more proud to see this talent come through on race day. I nearly cried -- which I swore I wouldn't do at the race -- when I took a picture of her with this written on her hand: "Pace Your Self". I get vaklempt just thinking about it. She is inspirational for me. Oh, and the first person she ran to when she crossed the finish: her mom. I needed a box of tissues...

The next few came relatively close together and it was a frenzy for me and Coach Corrie to meet/greet/congratulate/hug/take pictures and give them their medals all at once. But we did it.

Sarah C. was next. Another wonderful surprise because again, not one who showcases her running ability at practice.

Caitlyn came after Sarah. I have really admired Caitlyn for her sense of independence. She seems too young to be as sophisticated as she is, but I love it because she thinks for herself -- which is what I want my daughters to do. One of the modules we went over was regarding Peer Pressure and one of the stories had to do with not socializing with one of the kids in the class. During our meeting, one of Caitlyn's friends mentioned how she stopped making fun of the kid because Caitlyn had 'announced' to her peers that she was no longer participating in making fun of the kid because she didn't like it and it didn't make her feel good. That bold statement is what I hope I do, and can teach my kids to do, and I hope Caitlyn continues to do -- which is to stand up for what she believes is right, no matter what others around you do.

After Caitlyn came Sarah H. A beautiful red-headed freckled face girl who is just, did I mention, beautiful! She is a spiritual kid -- going to a private religious school. She is somewhat quiet, but pretty vibrant and has a strong sense of faith for her religion, without forcing it on anyone else.

Holly came next. Holly, Holly, Holly. She is just adorable and also very sporty. She is funny and has moments of spasmodic silliness and outrageousness that freaks me out (in a good way).

Next was Caroline F. Caroline has me smitten with her. The first day I met her, she told me she loved my finger nail polish -- which I had painted pink for my first GOTR practice. The fact that she noticed made me feel good and she has continued to 'throw me a bone' and talk to me at every practice. Another beautiful girl with a very mature personality.

After Caroline came Edy, that little stinker. Edy *is* one of our walkers. She prefers to walk and walk s-l-o-w-l-y. I actually have no problem with that, because what I care is that she is doing what she wants to do and does not compare herself to others. Well, that is definitely Edy. She is one of the most gregarious girls of the bunch -- and moody. Well, at least I think she is. I actually only noticed one dark mood throughout these past weeks, but it was dark enough to have her drop out of the exercise we were doing that day. I'd like to see people -- despite being disappointed or hurt -- continue a task and be part of the team, so I was a bit surprised that Edy didn't feel the same way (that day).

Caroline K. came next. She was amazing - she had actually crossed the finished before her mom, but waited for her mom at the finish and gave her a big hug. I know her mom was a bit nervous about running the 5K with her daughter but they were both awesome.

Carol came next. I have a soft spot for Carol too. She and her buddy Holly are two peas in a pod. During one of our practices, there was sheer fear from the two of them of a possible decision to make their elementary school students wear uniforms. Not only that, the girls were potentially going to have to wear SKIRTS!! No word on that change yet...

Next was Lil and her mom. This would be one of the families that I would have stereotyped but found to be pretty grounded. I was so proud of Lil because she had been hospitalized years ago with viral meningitis and lost nearly a year of school to it. She frequently has headaches so she doesn't run as much as the other girls at practice. So seeing her cross the finish with her mom - amazing. Then her mom grabbed her and hugged her telling her how proud she was of her...again, where is that box of tissues?

Perry, Lil's sister, came in next. The amazing thing was to see Lil waiting for her sister at the finish -- proudly and excitedly anticipating her sister's finish. They both have been great together and I have not seen a sign of sibling rivalry between them. Perry is awesome -- I like to run with her and get her talking, which isn't that easy.

Last, but not least, was Hannah. I didn't notice it right away, but later in the pictures I took, I saw her with her hands straight up in the air as she crossed the finish -- as in a winning runner breaking the tape. Her dad, early that morning, had been joking with her and instructing her to cross the finish that way. Looking back, again being vaklempt, thinking about how she listened to her dad and followed through.

I have only two more sessions with these girls left. Next Monday being the final party. These girls have no idea the impact they have made on me as a person, a girl, a friend and especially, as a mother. Amazing that volunteering time ends up feeling as though it's all about me than them -- well, actually, I guess it is! :-)

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