A few years ago a friend asked me if I wanted to volunteer to be a coach for Girls on the Run Sierras, the Nevada/California branch of Girls on the Run International. I just had my son and I was beginning to go back to school for my MBA, and I felt like my plate was full, but I decided to give it a shot anyway and make the time. My dad volunteered to coach all of mine and my siblings’ sports teams growing up, and I thought it would be fun to be on that side of the sport.
Girls on the Run is a non-profit organization that inspires girls to be happy, healthy and confident through an experienced-based curriculum that integrates running. The program is for girls 3rd-5th grade, and 6th-8th grade, and focuses on building girls up in a team environment so that they can learn to support each other, embrace their differences, and recognize their own limitless potential. Through lessons and practice, girls learn to understand their own values at a young age, and gain confidence to make decisions for themselves that are in line with those values. They learn gratitude, compassion, and build resilience through running. At the end of the season the girls all run a 5k so they can see what all of their hard work had led them to accomplish.
“We believe that every girl can embrace who she is, can define who she wants to be, can rise to any challenge, can change the world.”
When I started as a coach, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a good fit because it was hard to connect with the girls as a new coach in the first few lessons, and I wondered what experience I had that would actually make a difference for them. Over time we built up a relationship as I learned more about each individual girl. I learned about their dreams, their home life, things that happen at school, and concerns they had about friends and relationships. As I got more and more into coaching, I was so engaged because I felt like I was actually making a difference. I didn’t have any life-changing wisdom for them, but just being there was what mattered. Having a coach who comes to practice everyday and shows them that they are important to the team, and is there for them when they need to talk; that is what they needed.
This organization is so inspiring as they work every season to teach girls self-reliance, strength, and values. Everything they do revolves around the idea that they can do whatever they put their minds to and are willing to work for, and that girls should build each other up rather than tear each other down. Having girls experience this kind of support system before they hit middle school leads them to have confidence and a growth mindset, which can give them a major advantage in the brutal middle school years.
I learned so much about myself from volunteering and really expanded my circles of concern and awareness. I learned that I can make time for whatever it is that I care about, and that I shouldn’t be limited to caring about the things that only effect me or are visible to me. Although I remember how tough it was in those years as a girl, helping young girls going through the same struggles just wasn’t on my radar. Doing something that I normally wouldn’t do led me to have this life-changing experience that I will always value. Those girls are always on my mind, and when I see them continuing to succeed with the principles they learned through Girls on the Run, I know they are going to go on to do great things.
Consider how you can help someone or an organization in your community. Even if you are not sure how to help, sometimes just being there for support or giving your time can make a big difference to someone in need. Like the values behind this organization? You can donate to Girls on the Run Sierras HERE, which supports the program and sponsors girls who don’t have the financial resources to join the program. Girls on the Run always need running buddies to volunteer to run with the girls and support them on their 5k. If you live in Reno, head down to a Reno Aces game on May 14th, where a portion of the proceeds from every ticket benefits Girls on the Run, Sierras.