For my STEP experience I participated in a leadership opportunity where I was an assistant coach for Girls on the Run at Beacon Elementary School in Hilliard, Ohio. There were a total of fourteen, fifth grade girls, two head coaches, two other assistant coaches and three running buddies. Every Thursday and Tuesday starting the first week of September until mid-November we all met from 3:15-4:45 in the afternoon. Girls on the Run is a program that helps girls become confident, independent, and integrates running where it prepares them for an end-of-the-season 5k race. As an assistant coach, I helped lead meetings and help explain the learning objective of the day. I also lead stretches before and after our workouts.
Girls on the Run is not just a program to get girls to run or to become fit and active. It is program that helps with anything and everything third through fifth grade girls might be dealing with. This includes and is not limited to: confidence and self-esteem issues, respect, nutrition, exercise, bullying, understanding that everyone is different in their own way, and so much more. Every time we met, we started with a healthy snack, which consisted of bananas, and granola bars most of the time. We then all got together in a circle and went over the lesson for the day that could be about any of the topics I stated earlier. After the lesson and discussion, we then proceeded to do a warm-up, which incorporated the lesson of the day into it. One day, the lesson was confidence and the girls would run about 50 yards and at the end was a coach. When the girl reached the coach they had to say something nice about themselves before they could run back. After the warm-up were the stretches, which I lead most of the time. When the girls were ready, the actual workout part followed the stretching and also included the lesson of the day. One day, there was a scavenger hunt, another day the girls had to run/walk alone to let them reflect on their day and about themselves. Every session was completely different which made it so much fun and kept the girls engaged.
After 12-weeks and 24 sessions, all of the Girls on the Run girls in Franklin County came together in downtown Columbus to run a 5k together. In our group, each girl was paired with a coach, assistant coach, running buddy, or parent. I was paired with a girl named Sarah who was so excited to accomplish this goal that they have all been working towards for weeks. There were over 1,000 Girls on the Run girls who participated. As part of my STEP funds, I put together tutus and headbands for each girl, coach, and running buddy to wear while running. All of the girls absolutely loved them! The celebration race was the end of the Girls on the Run fall season. However, I hope to help out again for the Fall 2015 season or Spring 2016 season as an assistant coach.
From this opportunity, I was able to learn and understand what girls at the elementary age are experiencing. I was able to see what problems they face. What seems so petty to me might mean so much more to them. Being a girl around that age is very difficult and this program really opens their eyes and helps them through those tough times.
The most moving and amazing thing I witnessed was watching them grow into more confident and independent girls. Most of the girls that came in had their own cliques and groups of friends. This caused divisions between them. It seemed as if there were always a few who seemed to be left out or were more intimidated/shy by the more outgoing girls. However, as the season went on, I got to see all the girls’ transition. They were all helping one another out with problems they expressed, became closer, and really understood each other more.
I gained experience leading a group of girls and watching them socially and emotionally develop into strong and confident girls. I have learned that I need to be more assertive and secure about my abilities to lead. I was able to practice this and get over my fear of messing up or making a fool of myself. This opportunity was beyond gratifying. Not only was I able to grow from it, I was able to see the impacts I and the other coaches had on these fourteen, fifth grade girls.
I have always been interested in promoting health and wellness and this program was a great experience of doing so. I was able to practice my leadership skills and was able to express them across a younger population. This experience not only made me realize I was in the right path with majoring in Public Health, but it also helped me build a connection with the staff and students at Beacon Elementary School.
Being an assistant coach for Girls on the Run was a great leadership experience where I was able to build my own confidence in leading a wide-range of individuals all with different backgrounds. The diversity within the group forced me to lead in many kinds of ways, which will help me in the future. Being able to understand the individuals/communities I will collaborate with in the future will help me decide the most efficient way information should be delivered. Whether this is with leading a group of adults, teens, children, or a combination. Professions in public health protect and impact the health of individuals, families, communities and populations locally and globally. This whole experience as an assistant coach helped me become a better leader for future endeavors I intend to encounter.