“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” ― Maya Angelou
As you may recall, I had written about Girls on the Run (GOTR) back in April; I had become acquainted with the organization and was hoping like crazy I could get the program to come to my community. From that point, the tale took several “not only…but also…” turns. I’ve provided most of the details in a piece that I wrote specifically for the GOTR Remarkable! blog, but following is a quick rundown of events leading up to the pilot season of GOTR Greater Hartford.
After submitting the application to bring GOTR to my town, the Greater Hartford Council was like, YES! And then I was like YES!!! Now, the process by which you start a program at a location is by no means complicated or difficult, but there is a fair amount of work involved in the form of meetings, phone calls, emails and paperwork. But with the support, guidance and assistance from the GOTR Executive Director and board members and volunteers, we got it done. Then the final piece to put in place, before enrolling the girls, was to identify and train coaches. After the work I put in setting up the program, I took a leap and signed on as Head Coach. And two other women from my community volunteered as Assistant Coaches. We all went through the training program, and I went through the additional CPR/First Aid training that is required for Head Coaches.
Now, let me step back a little bit. I had never been super involved with my kids’ school and extracurricular activities. I was only kind of sort of marginally involved. I never volunteered for anything, and I was definitely not always present at practices or games or lessons. I used my status as a working mother to assuage any guilt I felt (which was usually minimal). Yes, that’s right, I USED my job as an excuse to not attend school and/or extracurricular functions. Judge away. I deserve it. But over the past year or so, I’ve dipped my toes in the waters of kid activities. I helped coach my older daughters’ field hockey team last year. I was the “Team Parent” for my other daughter’s lacrosse team in the spring. Never a role I thought I would assume, but I rather enjoyed the experience. So why not jump right in to coaching for GOTR?
Starting out, I was apprehensive. The thing is, I never thought I actually liked kids all that much. They’re loud and don’t have any concept of personal space. They’re easily distracted and I don’t understand them. And I curse too much.
But then I met these girls and the other coaches…and my life will never be the same. Since the super hot and humid days that our season started in, to the chilly and dark sessions we’ve been having lately, so much has happened.
Within the first few weeks, my apprehension turned to excitement and anticipation, which eventually evolved into confidence and appreciation and joy. The lessons that GOTR strives to teach are so spot on with this age group, and these girls REALLY got it. You see, the GOTR program isn’t just about running. We played games and had serious conversations about peer pressure, teamwork, support, strength, friendship and a lot of other issues that are helpful to girls in this stage of their lives. I have been amazed by the depth and maturity of their thoughts and responses to some complex issues that they have dealt with or will deal with down the road. I’ve also enjoyed their silliness and goofing around and the way kids just act like kids, with their lack of filters, their loudness and their laughter. AND, I’ve managed to keep my potty mouth in complete control and a total secret from them! As it turns out, I really enjoy being around kids. Sharing the GOTR lessons with these girls has been such a privilege, not only imparting some really useful knowledge to others, but reinforcing and applying the concepts in my own life.
These girls have gone from mostly barely knowing each other to becoming a cohesive team. I’ve seen friendships bloom and every single one of the girls is a stronger runner now than they were at the beginning of the season. But they’re not just stronger runners, they’re stronger girls who exude confidence, are kind to others, and have a whole “toolbox” of ideas and methods to navigate through their tween years and beyond.
(do not use without permission)
The same could be said for myself and the other two coaches. I honestly could have not asked for better partners in coaching this team and I cannot say enough about how much I appreciate these two women and the gift of themselves that they’ve brought to the girls, and to me. We’ve all grown and learned and supported each other, and that’s the part that has been life changing to me.
Now the end of the season is upon us. We’ve had our last “official” session, and all that is left is completing our community impact project and holding our end of season celebration, along with joining the other area groups on Sunday to run a 5K. So if you’re in West Hartford on Sunday morning, look for the GOTR tent and look for our girls in their yellow program tees! I’ll be at the finish line waiting for all the girls, and I fully anticipate that my heart will be so overflowing with pride that my eyes will be leaking profusely.
What an experience this has been.
If you’re in the Greater Hartford area and interested in bringing a team to your community, please visit http://www.gotrgreaterhartford.org. Outside of the Greater Hartford area, go to https://www.girlsontherun.org/ for more information.
(do not use without permission)
Latest posts by Jennifer Helfrich (see all)
- Practicing Gratitude - April 6, 2017
- Go To Sleep, Pretty Baby - March 16, 2017
- A Guide to Being Socially Aware and Politically Active Without Losing Your Sh*t - February 2, 2017