Volunteer coaches at Alto Elementary, Cherry Creek Elementary, Murray Lake Elementary, and Saint Patrick School are all preparing for the upcoming Girls on the Run (GOTR) season. Students will start meeting in late February or early March for 10-12 weeks before taking part in a 5k in downtown Grand Rapids on May 16.
Inspiring Health and Confidence in Girls
All of the school teams from the Lowell area fall under the umbrella of the Kent County and Muskegon County group of the national organization which was founded in 1996. Participants “develop essential skills to help them navigate their worlds and establish a lifetime appreciation for health and fitness” according to the local chapter’s website.
Girls currently in 3rd through 5th grade are invited to participate. Teams consist of a maximum of 15 girls and schools are able to form more than one team as long as each team has two coaches.
Over the course of 10 weeks, teams meet twice a week. The goal is not for coaches to teach the girls how to run. The key takeaway from participation is the celebration of being a girl while learning about health and fitness. Through preparation for a celebratory the girls learn about six C’s: confidence, character, care, connections, competence, and contribution. Coaches lead organized classes consisting of a snack, warm up, discussion, lesson, team building activity, workout, cool down, and energy awards. “Girls learn to build their self-worth, recognize their inner power to make positive decisions in their lives, celebrate everyone’s uniqueness, make positive connections with others, and contribute to their community by completing a service project.” says Carrie Vonderheide, one of the coaches at Alto Elementary.
Both Alto and Murray Lake teams are in need of one more coach. While those who take on the role of coach are typically parents, this is not a requirement. Having a running background is also not a requirement. For more information about the commitment to coach and to sign up, visit the GOTR website for Kent County and Muskegon County. Coaches for teams need to be in place by February 1.
Volunteers are also needed for each team to be running buddies the day of the celebration 5K so the girls can run at their own pace. Those interested in helping set up or take down the course the day of the event are also encouraged to reach out to GOTR.
While registration for this season has ended, if a school’s team is not yet full, girls are still able to sign up to participate. The fee to participate is $150 and includes a pair of fitted new balance shoes, a practice shirt, a race day shirt, and finishers medal, and 20 meetings. Financial assistance based on family income and size is also available. The GOTR program does not want to deter any girl from participating. The deadline to register to fill out already established teams is February 1. The registration portion of the GOTR website will indicate whether a particular school has open spots available.
Lowell’s First Look will be following the journey of teams associated with Lowell schools. Future articles will showcase what the girls are learning and how they’re progressing toward the mid-May 5k. We will gather information from and meet with Carrie Vonderheide representing Alto Elementary, Amanda Rogers representing Cherry Creek Elementary, Stephanie Bender representing Murray Lake Elementary, and Courtney Krebill representing Saint Patrick School. Combined, these women have 14 years of experience with the GOTR program. They will help guide, as coaches, students on their team through physical activities, lessons, and self-discovery. We’ll share more about their reasons for involvement and the girls they’re preparing to coach.
There is also a middle school program called Heart and Sole which follows the same principles. Information and registration can be found here. Lou Jean Stickney runs the Lowell Middle School program. She has been coaching and/or coordinating one of the two programs since 2013.