Learning Positive Life Lessons Through Girls on the Run
Local girls in third to eighth grade are gathering after school clad in bright green t-shirts to learn healthy lessons for life, including that of setting and reaching a goal. Meanwhile, they’re gaining confidence with each stride as they run together, all in preparation for completing a 5K at Sugar House Park on May 30.
The program is called Girls on the Run for grades three to five, or Girls on Track for grades six to eight. Girls on the Run (GOTR) is a national non-profit with a staff of three in Salt Lake City and 300 trained volunteer coaches in various Utah communities.
Shelley Snow is program director of Girls On The Run Utah. Snow described GOTR as a positive youth development program that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident while using running as a vehicle for the program’s curriculum.
After retiring from teaching, Snow started coaching a GOTR team and later she landed what she calls her “dream job” of being an employee of the program for Utah.
“I’ve run for 38 years and I’m passionate about women and girls reaching their potential and giving them every opportunity we can. That’s what Girls on the Run does,” Snow says.
Draper has three GOTR teams. One is at American Preparatory Academy, one at Treehouse Athletic Club and one at Summit Academy. Each location follows the same curriculum, warm-up activities and training schedule for three months in preparation for the 5K.
Jill Hartey volunteers as Summit’s coach. Her group gathers in the school’s gym for the lesson and a fun warm-up activity before running laps. The girls sit in a circle and Hartey asks them for suggestions of healthy foods, encouraging them to look for snacks from “close to the earth” such as fruits and vegetables.
Hartey says she has always encouraged her daughter to run, but that she wanted her to run with her peers and “to grow a love for it herself.”
“I wanted to coach because I believe in this program. It is the girls who inspire me. I want them to take these 12 weeks we have together…to carry that sense of confidence and accomplishment they earned forever,” Hartey says.
Sandy Martinez experienced GOTR when she lived in Virginia. Upon moving to Utah, she started the program at American Preparatory Academy where her daughters attend school. Her group recently learned about positive self-talk such as “I can” vs. “I can’t” as well as the notion of being a good friend. Martinez said the Girls on Track have similar discussions but that they go “a little bit deeper” including discussing eating disorders and self-worth.
Treehouse employee Linda Frogley chose to volunteer her time for the program that operates out of the athletic club. She’s in her second year of coaching there. She said girls don’t need to be club members to join her GOTR group.
“I just love the curriculum and the idea of getting these girls comfortable in their own skin, preparing to run and learning to love themselves,” Frogley says.
Each girl participating in the 5K will have a Running Buddy, often a parent or family member. Community volunteers are also needed as Running Buddies. Details can be found at GirlsOnTheRunUtah.org where volunteers can register until May 28.
Snow describes the event as having a carnival-type atmosphere with all the girls wearing GOTR superhero-type capes.
“The race is a celebration of what these girls have been working on for three months,” she says. “You talk about emotional. To see those girls cross that finish line…it’s quite an experience. There really aren’t words for it.”