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Girls on The Run: Building Self-Esteem One Runner at a Time

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Girls in Girls on the Run race day Last Fall, a friend called me in a bind. She had volunteered to be a running partner for a young girl in a 5K event, but had to back out at the last minute, due to a family crisis. Knowing that I am a regular runner, she asked if I could fill in for her. I love running and I love kids, so her request was a no-brainer. Little did I know how much I would also fall in love with the mission of the sponsoring organization, once I found out what I was really signing up for.

Girls on the Run International is a non-profit prevention program that encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running. Designed for girls ages 8-13, the GOTR curriculum encourages positive social, emotional, and physical development through the combination of training for a 3.1 mi. race and activities that teach girls how to make positive decisions and avoid self-destructive behaviors.

The Girls on the Run program, which has been featured on ESPN, NBC, CNN, is based on a three-part, 24-lesson curriculum that teaches life skills through group processing, running games and workouts. Certified coaches lead the sessions and encourage participants to develop self-understanding as well as an awareness of their connection with the world. As part of the program, the girls select and carry out a community service project and complete a 5K running event together.

Girls on the Run is designed for girls in grades 3-5, while its sister program, Girls on Track, is designed for 6th-8th graders. The benefits for all participants are not limited to running success; evaluations of the program show a statistically significant improvement in body image, eating attitudes and self-esteem for girls who complete the GOTR program.

If you are interested in becoming a running partner to a young girl participating in the Girls on the Run program, please visit www.girlsontherun.org for more information about programs in your area. After my last-minute-fill-in in the Fall, I am hooked on the concept and eager to get involved earlier on in this unique opportunity.

How do you help your young girl build self-esteem and have confidence? What programs help young girls to develop these attributes?

Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run.

Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker and presents at professional conferences and seminars across the United States on topics related to child and adolescent emotional and behavioural health.  She also gives very sound advice on dealing with passive aggressive behavior. Signe also writes for My Baby Clothes.  A company working towards finding and providing the best baby clothes for you little bundles of joy, along with adorable tutus and matching baby headbands.

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