The typical athletic programs offered to kids today put most of their emphasis on competition and winning. Local non-profit organization Girls on the Run however, takes a different approach, encouraging girls to recognize their inner strength and celebrate what makes them one of a kind. Girls on the Run (GOTR) uses trained coaches to lead small teams through research-based curricula, including dynamic discussions, activities and running games. Over the course of the ten-week program, girls develop skills to help them navigate their world and establish a lifetime appreciation for health and fitness – and become physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5k event. They also positively impact their communities through a service project. Two programs are available within GOTR: the elementary program, open to 3rd – 5th grade girls and the middle school program, available to 6th – 8th grade girls.
Aside from running and physical fitness, GOTR teaches girls many life skills. The program enables each girl to gain a deeper understanding of who she is and what’s important to her. During the season, each girl has the opportunity to develop and improve physical, social and emotional skills and then apply these attributes to other areas in her life, including home, school and her neighborhood. GOTR strives to strengthen character and encourages girls to make wise decisions. Through team-building skills, participants learn how to create positive connections with peers and adults. Many coaches have expressed positive changes among girls involved in the program, such as improved self-esteem, greater cooperation between teammates, development of new friendships, increased motivation to be physically active and a realization of how capable each girl is as an individual.
A unique aspect of the GOTR program is the community service project completed by each team. The girls themselves identify what is important to them and with help from their coaches, plan a project to support the group, organization or issue of their choosing.
Each season ends with a celebratory event, where participants from all host sites come together to complete a 5K run. Every girl has a running buddy (a coach, parent or volunteer) alongside her for the entire 5K event. The running buddy serves to provide encouragement and support as she runs the race. Preparing for and completing the 5K gives the girls a tangible sense of achievement and provides a framework for setting and achieving life goals. The 5K event is not a race because GOTR is not a program training girls to be competitive runners. However, it is a celebration for all participants and family members where the girls are honored and recognized.
The next Girls on the Run of Dayton 5k is Saturday, May 13, at 10 am at Welcome Stadium. For more information on how to get involved, visit www.gotrdayton.org.
Thank you to Christine Sellman, Council Director of Girls on the Run for the Dayton area, for her contributions to this article.