This week, my team began the brainstorming and planning process of their Community Impact Project, a process which began with the girls sharing what communities they belong to.
A couple of them talked about their family, some talked about their places of worship and some talked about school—but each girl said she included Girls on the Run in her list of communities. It filled me with this sense of pride; I am so proud of each girl on my team, and to know that they are proud to be a part of Girls on the Run meant everything.
Sometimes kids can be difficult to read, especially young girls who seem to always want to leave a conversation with you smiling. It can be difficult to know how they’re feeling and what they personally are getting from the curriculum.
But this solidified that they are getting something from this virtual season. They feel like they are a part of a community and a team, and I couldn’t be happier.
When we asked the girls what they could do to help the Girls on the Run community, as we asked for each of their other communities, they struggled to find an answer. I even struggled to think of anything.
Sure—I help by coaching, but what can the girls do?
And then my co-coach, Lea, said something seemingly obvious: “you girls are helping the Girls on the Run community right now.”
By participating, by leaving the program with tools to maintain confidence, manage emotions and spread kindness, these girls are the ultimate contributors to Girls on the Run. Quite literally, this program would be impossible without their participation.
Ultimately, the girls had to pick something other than participation in Girls on the Run for their Community Impact Project, but I think this discussion on what it means to be a part of a community that empowers you was a turning point for our team. The girls realized we’re not just people sitting behind a computer screen, even though we kind of are. We are a community that provides a safe space for girls to talk about their fears, joys, and everything in-between.
The girls chose to write letters to their teachers for their project. Some are already planning what color of construction paper they will use, and others what font if they are emailing the letters. They wanted to give back to their school communities, and I think it’s beautiful that they want to show appreciation for their teachers, even if some of them have never even met their teachers in person.
I keep ending each week thinking, “I can’t possibly learn anymore about myself next practice; next week can’t possibly bring me more Star Power.” And then the next week teaches me something new.
I first learned how to listen to what I was teaching and use the curriculum to become a better coach and person who listens and speaks with compassion.
I then learned to trust myself, even when I make mistakes or have certain anxieties. This is what many of us who’ve played sports call “short-term memory.” The other team may be winning at half-time; you may have made a mistake or two but focusing on the mistake itself isn’t where you grow. When you realize you missed an important tackle because you were on your heels, that’s when you grow. And next time—you make that tackle.
The latest thing I’ve learned is how truly meaningful this program is for these girls, especially right now. We are a consistent safe learning space in a time when some girls may not be going to school in person or are going inconsistently. We are trusted adults who will listen to what they’re feeling and help them navigate back to their star power.
We are a community.
Photo credit: Image courtesy of Girls on The Run International.