Asked how the spring season of Girls On The Run has gone, council director Jackie Kippen says “it’s been incredible.” She was expecting about 1000 girls to participate, between sites at YMCA branches and at local schools; instead, more than 1200 signed up. Between the girls, their coaches, and parents and friends who want to run with them, they’re expecting around 2,000 at the 5K that marks the finish line of the season. The 5K is May 19 at Oakland University, and represents the achievement of one of the Girls On the Run goals that the girls in the program have been working toward since the beginning of the season.
The other, of course, is to develop their self-respect and capacity for healthy living. The core of Girls on the Run isn’t so much the running, Jackie notes, as the activities the girls do that help foster self-esteem, show them how to resist peer pressure, and teach ways of resolving conflicts and relating to each other positively.
Jackie’s seeing the magic of Girls On the Run close up this year — she’s volunteered as a coach at REACH Academy in Warren. “I am more committed to the program than ever” she says, adding with a laugh “I drank the Kool-Aid!”
Over the nearly ten weeks her team has been together, she’s been noticing the lessons of Girls On The Run really taking shape. “I’ve seen the girls use conflict management skills at practice,” she says. “If they are mad at someone or someone cut them off while they were running I’ve seen them talk it out — that has been amazing.” They’re also cheering each other on and encouraging each other to participate in the conversations as well, and have built a lot of trust in each other. “They have started to really open up,” Jackie says. “The more discussions we have, the more they talk about things they wouldn’t normally talk about with other people.”
Coaching helps her understand the challenges her fellow coaches are facing as well and makes her more effective at working with them, she says. Often when a coach calls her with a problem, she’s faced it herself as well and can talk it through with them. “I’m not just telling them what to do, I’m living it with them,” she says.
Overall, it’s been a great experience working with the girls this year, she says, and has reinforced what an amazing program Girls On the Run is. “Its been an awesome experience seeing he confidence the girls develop,” she says.