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A First-Time Coach's Journey

By Lena Estey on 01/14/2016 | General

My first season of coaching wasn’t perfect.  I tripped over my words a lot.  There were a few times when I overlooked part of the lesson and had to come back to it.  I didn’t have a light bulb moment when I suddenly felt like I knew what I was doing, and I never learned how to make a tutu.  That’s all okay with me though because what I did do was pour myself into my team, and that changed me.

Early in the season I realized that I couldn't breathe truth into the lessons of GOTR if I wasn’t living them myself.  I felt like I was looking in a mirror every time I delivered a lesson to the girls on my team. How could I encourage them to be good to themselves if I didn’t show myself grace?  How could I tell them we all have uniquely beautiful bodies if I smirked at myself every time I saw a new freckle?  More than any article I’ve read in a magazine or any pep talk I’ve ever given myself, being a part of Girls on the Run has guided me toward learning to love myself in a more authentic way.

While I truly feel transformed, my character arc is a small part of the story.  The bigger picture and the reason we all get involved, is to help the next generation take charge of our world in a powerful way.  We don’t want our girls to grow up with self-doubt or fear. We want them to love who they are and to treat others with care. 

I’m excited about what my first group of girls will do with what we learned during our time together.  If nothing else, I hope GOTR sparked an awareness in them to be mindful about the connection they share with their peers. I had the pleasure of seeing the spark turn into a little fire the week after our 5k.  My daughter, Violet, attends school where I coached, but isn’t old enough yet to participate.  After weeks of seeing the girls in their GOTR gear in the halls and hearing me talk about them every day, she was anxious to be a part of the 5k.  She came with me the morning of the run and handed out muffins and bananas before the start.  She watched them all cross the finish line with wide-eyed admiration.  She even asked a few of them to take a picture with her.


A couple of days before Winter Break, Violet walked through the door at home proudly holding up a bookmark.  She told me one of the girls, who was the oldest one on our team, had given it to her on the playground, “in front of everyone”.  She beamed because a fifth grader had taken the time to talk to her.  I was so proud of our Girl on the Run. It was a small gift, just a piece of laminated paper, but a treasure and a great gesture of kindness to my daughter.  

Brené Brown said, “Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each of them - we can only love others as much as we love ourselves”*.  I don’t think I changed the world last fall.  I think what I did was love fifteen girls.  That’s what it’s all about, right?  We coach our GOTR girls to do their best, and we pledge to do our best with the time we have with them.  I loved them and learned to love myself better. I think next time I coach, I’ll be a little more efficient.  I’ll feel a little more confident with each lesson.  Maybe my voice won’t shake, and maybe I’ll learn how to make a tutu. Maybe I’ll make everyone a bookmark on the first day.  I don’t know what the next season holds.  What I do know is that every girl deserves to be loved, and I’m honored to be a part of an organization that wants to spread that message across the world.  

*The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are


Lena Estey


Lena is the Operations Coordinator for Girls on the Run International, but started her journey with GOTR as a volunteer and coach.  At GOTRI, Lena provides council support with program orders and technology.  She is a mom of a first grader and a third grader who keep her challenged every day with questions like, “who invented spaghetti” and “what is a color”.  She’s an avid runner and is always on the hunt for free yoga classes in the Charlotte area.   She believes whole-heartedly in the mission of Girls on the Run to help girls fulfill their limitless potential.  

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