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How One Mom Evolved Through Girls on the Run

My eldest daughter signed up to participate in Girls on the Run a few years ago. I read through the parent manual she brought home and thought this was a great program to inspire young girls to believe in themselves, be caring friends and encourage others. It wasn’t until I attended the 5K celebration at the end of the season that I truly understood what this program could do for our girls. What a sense of accomplishment they had when they crossed the finish line!

The next school year, I mentioned Girls on the Run to one of the teachers at my other daughter’s school, and she knew about the program because she used to be a coach in another state. She quickly agreed to be a part of bringing Girls on the Run programming to their school. When the site was approved, the teacher asked me if I wanted to coach with her. I didn’t think about coaching when I recommended the program because I was not athletic at all; in fact, I was overweight. I thought to myself, “How could I be an inspiration to young girls?”

Tracy Akanni focused on transforming her health and well-being because of Girls on the Run!

Tracy Akanni focused on transforming her health and well-being because of Girls on the Run!

It was not hard for me to make the decision to agree to coach the next season. It also gave me time to get myself into shape to keep up with these girls!

When I committed to coaching, I also committed myself to a heathier lifestyle, which included exercise and healthy eating. I was able to lose 50 pounds and found that I had no problem keeping up with my girls. Most importantly, I wanted the girls to understand that it’s okay for women to come in all shapes and sizes!

My first season coaching GOTR was amazing! Not only did I get to spend quality time with my daughter, but I also had an opportunity to connect with the girls in a way I never thought I could.

Tracy, her co-coaches and GOTR girls.

Tracy, her co-coaches and GOTR girls.

We learned about Star Power and how to stop negative thoughts in our minds. This lesson really spoke to me personally, because I talk down to myself all the time. I would never say to another woman the things I’ve told myself — things like “You’re not as good as that other girl,” or “You will never be able to do this” or “They are going to make fun of you because you are slow.”

My very first practice with my girls terrified me initially. I thought I would be alone in running the track since I was certainly the biggest one there, but I was so wrong! I had a group of girls running alongside me, talking about their day, their favorite things to do and what they did over the weekend. It was so much fun to connect with the girls! They cheered one another along, and they cheered me along to the finish line, too! They brought positivity into my life. Even as an adult, I still have negative thoughts or doubts creep in, but I know how to use my Star Power to stop it!

I have now been volunteering as a GOTR coach for several seasons, and I don’t plan to stop. I would encourage any woman out there to get involved in this program, because it is not only about the coaches impacting the girls’ lives, it is also about how the girls impact yours!

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