For the past ten years Girls on the Run has been part of Jenison elementary schools, inspiring and encouraging young girls to challenge themselves and realize their potential. According to Nettie Kikkert, GotR Coach and Liason for Rosewood Elementary as well as the Sandy Hill Clerical Assistant, “Girls on the Run is a lot more than a running program! It is our goal to help all girls grow into physically, emotionally, mentally and socially healthy women, to dream and achieve goals, and to become contributing members of the community. It is our hope that it plays out in the community in a strong and positive way.”
Every Jenison elementary school invites all girls from 3rd — 5th grades to participate in the twelve week program that meets twice each week to prepare for a celebratory and non-competitive 5K in the spring that is designed to “give the girls a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. Crossing the finish line is a defining moment when the girls realize that even the seemingly impossible IS possible.”*
Because Girls on the Run is more than a running program, there is a curriculum that spans the 24 team meetings which are focused on a theme for that day’s lesson and keeps to the same five step pattern of Introduction, Warm Up, Processing, Workout and Wrap-Up.
During the Introduction the coach checks in with girl to see how they are feeling and she introduces the topic of the lesson. The Warm Up is meant to energize the girls and, of course, warm up their muscles. The activity incorporates the lesson topic for that day. For instance, the coach marks off a short running course. The girls stand at one spot and the coach calls out a “like statement” – “I like chocolate chip cookies,” or “I like to be a Girl on the Run.” All those girls who agree with the statement run the course marked out by the coach. These statements continue, with contributions by the girls, until everyone has run a few times.* With the girls’ energy flowing the coach leads the girls in a brief stretching lesson during which they process the topic at hand. With the above example, they may discuss different likes and dislikes and still find ways to be friends. The Workout entails more running but is based on each girl’s ability and pace which is increased gently to give the girls confidence in their ability to complete the 5K event. During the Workout the coach continues to integrate the lesson by engaging the girls as they run. For example, in the session on positive attitude, each girl may be asked to make a positive statement about herself to the coach each time she completes a lap.* Finally, in the Wrap-Up, the girls enjoy a time of cool-down and stretching mixed with processing and discussion which culminates in positive encouragement from their coach and a group cheer.
As a coach, Nettie has the benefit of seeing this curriculum play out first hand: “the atmosphere is full of excitement, chatter and fun craziness. Some nervousness about running [but] as times goes on, you can see the girls confidence building as she starts to work towards her goals and seeing/feeling that she can RUN…she can do it!”
Because coaches have the opportunity to get to know the girls on their teams they are able to set personal goals for each girl to help battle fatigue or a defeated spirit. “Some girls are in band, orchestra, soccer, or many other after school activities and this is the point where you can see the girls are just tired and want to “skip” Girls on the Run. As coaches we learn to read those signs and help her set realistic goals for herself during our running time verses giving up and sitting out.”
You can cheer on Jenison’s Girls on the Run at their 5K event on Friday, May 29 at
Grand Valley State University.
Don’t miss this opportunity to see the hard work of our students and volunteers come to fruition!
Congratulations to all of our Girls! Your willingness to try something new and be challenged is an inspiration to all of us!
*From Girls on the Run website.