Finding We are "Enough" with Girls on the Run
Lisa Ordway | @Lisa.Ordway | Guest Contributor
How often do girls hear they aren’t pretty enough? Skinny enough? Smart enough? Athletic enough? Kids today--and girls especially--are bombarded with media messages implicitly telling them they aren’t enough.
While I don’t have a daughter of my own, I spend my days as an elementary Physical Education teacher working with young children. In particular, I see the impact of these messages on our young girls and watch as they struggle to find their worth in this world. As a PE teacher, I want my students to learn the importance of being physically active, but more importantly, I want my students to feel loved, valued, appreciated, and worthy of everything they deserve. There are only so many opportunities to do this in the school day. When I found Girls on the Run, I found an opportunity to explicitly make both of my goals as a PE teacher a reality.
I’ve had the privilege of coaching four of my five seasons with Girls on the Run at High Tech Elementary in Stapleton. When I first started coaching Girls on the Run 5 seasons ago, I thought it was a running program to help girls train for a 5k. I learned it is so much more.
Girls on the Run (GOTR) is a national non-profit with local councils in every state. GOTR is helping build strong, confident girls who will be the drivers of their future. The program uses running to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through accomplishment. But the program actually does much more than that. The experience is transformational for both the girls and the coaches.
So how does this transformation happen? Girls on the Run teams meet twice a week after school for 10 weeks. We start each practice by circling up as a team and going over our lesson for the day. Each lesson provides an opportunity for reflection and for skill building. One of our most recent lessons focused on managing challenging situations through slowing down and breathing. This lesson identifies how to Stop, Breathe, Think, Respond, and Review (Stop and Take a BrThRR) when faced with a situation prompting feelings of anger, jealousy, or nervousness.
After we go through the lesson, we head outside to our running space for our workout. During our workout we extend our learning and the girls practice applying this BrThRR strategy to real-life situations such as an argument with a friend or sibling, getting a bad grade on an assignment, or being peer pressured. Lessons throughout the season vary from celebrating our similarities and differences, positive self talk, visualizing our STAR POWER, valuing real beauty, friendship qualities, and so many more valuable life lessons.
At the end of each season girls run a 5k. This might seem like a small task for some people, but many of our girls have never experienced the challenge. The day of the race, the girls are nervous and excited. But what is most transformational about the day is seeing girls reach their limits and keep pushing together. They hold hands, they send positive messages to each other, they cheer when someone reaches the finish line. They feel worthy and they help others feel worthy and accomplished.
I often wonder what it would look like if every woman had the opportunity to join a GOTR community. If we all had learned what it means to value ourselves and value each other, if we could give compassion instead of judgment, if we could lend our hand for support instead of pushing each other down, if we could be a community of transformation, we could truly change the world. It might be naive to think GOTR could make such a difference in such a short time, but I’ve seen it happen. Over and over again.
Lisa Ordway is an elementary Physical Education teacher in Stapleton and Girls on the Run coach at High Tech Elementary. Lisa is a wife, dog mom, globe collector, and breakfast burrito enthusiast!