Free t-shirts are one of my favorite things. In high school, my favorite perk of being a part of student government was getting the shirts we designed free of charge, and in college I would go to almost any event that gave away shirts, including helping moving freshman into their dorms in sweltering August heat. When I was asked if I would coach my first Girls on the Run team this past season, I didn’t know what to expect but I was pretty excited about getting a shirt that said “Coach” across the back. Aside from the apparel, there are many other great reasons to coach for GOTR. Here are just a few:
1. Volunteering is a great hobby. A few months after graduating college, I realized that I didn’t have any hobbies — unless you count watching a lot of Netflix. Having pastimes you care about is an important part of living a balanced life, and taking time out of your week to give back to your community is a much more rewarding use of spare time than binge watching television shows.
2. The girls truly appreciate everything that you do for them. Coaching is a commitment and does require time and effort out of your day. The girls on my team would oftentimes say thank you to the coaches before they left practice, but it’s easy to assume that they’re just being polite because their parents would want them to. Throughout the season, I realized that the girls were genuinely grateful for the time that we spent with them. They’d nominate us for energy awards at the end of practice as a thank you for running with them, and when our junior coach had the flu and wasn’t able to make it to the 5K, the girls asked if I’d send her a video of them telling her they missed her.
3. Coaching motivates you to go after your own goals. Goal setting is a big part of each Girls on the Run season, and by setting the goal of completing a 5K, girls have a tangible goal to work toward during practice. Helping someone else work toward their goal is great motivation for working toward your own, whether they’re running related or not. Also, seeing third graders run a 5K makes running a half marathon feel much more doable.
4. The lessons apply to adults, too. In Girls on the Run, coaches lead lessons about recognizing and respecting people’s differences, staying positive, showing gratitude and many more important life skills. These lessons apply to people of all ages, not just elementary school girls, and serve as a great reminder of things that most of us probably need to work on as adults. Starting difficult conversations with “I feel” is a game changer.
5. It’s fun! We ended each practice with the cheer, “Girls on the Run is so much fun!” Sure, it’s catchy and it rhymes but it’s also true. Coaching 15 elementary school girls could be stressful at times, but overall, playing, running, games and hearing funny stories from nine-year-old girls was a very fun way to spend my Monday and Wednesday afternoons!
Girls on the Run and Heart & Sole teams across the country are looking for volunteer coaches like you. You don’t need to be a runner or have any coaching experience to help girls in your community work toward their goals — you just have to be willing to dedicate your time and skills. Plus, you get a cool t-shirt.