You may not realize it, but I am not just the Executive Director of Girls on the Run-Chicago. I am also Mom to my daughter Ella, who is in the fourth grade, and I am a brand new site coordinator. Ella’s school did not have a Girls on the Run program, so I stepped forward, as hundreds of you have, to start one. I tell my team that I wanted to see what went into starting Girls on the Run for our parents, teachers and administrators who take on the site coordinator role; but selfishly, I also want Ella to benefit from the lessons Girls on the Run teaches, and not just her – but her peers – knowing that the program works best when a group of girls have the same GOTR skills and lessons.
It started last spring when I talked to parents about the things we were seeing in our girls, and how we wished there was a way to help them navigate difficult situations, make good choices, and to know that personal fulfillment and self-esteem come from within. We all saw the need for our girls to build these life skills, and especially how to deal with bullying and gossip. I spoke to parents about Girls on the Run, and what we are all about. Many expressed interest in the program and so I set about meeting with the administration.
School is out for the summer, which makes meeting with administrators and decision makers hard, so I set a meeting in early fall and pitched the program to the principal who saw the need for a Girls on the Run program. We decided to meet again after Thanksgiving to settle on a time and location for practice. Well, that meeting never came. With several things going on both at school and during this year’s particularly nasty flu season, our conversation was put off.
Then I got an email from Shavonne, our Program Manager here at Girls on the Run. It was a reminder of things I needed to have in place to launch the season. She asked me to fill out a simple online form confirming practice times (thanks for the reminder!), and she wanted to know the number of Girls on the Run/Girls on Track teams, and my site contact information. Site contact information helps Girls on the Run–Chicago understand if anything has changed at the school since I applied, knowing how many and which teams helps us order supplies for the season, and practice times helps us plan our site visits for the spring.
Time to get my ducks in a row! I need to have a practice time, recruit coaches and pay my start-up fee! I need to begin thinking about recruiting girls! I contacted the principal, who has been such a wonderful support in figuring out where in the labyrinth of school activities GOTR will fit in this spring. I am coordinating with Girl Scouts, Band, Art, Chess, and Basketball.
Now, I need some fellow coaches! I logged into Coaches Corner and found a flyer I could amend with our practice time, and a sample email that I was able to customize, reminding parents about our conversations last spring and the specific volunteer requirements at our school which the principal is including in our school email communications and newsletter this week. Next, I am going to send it directly to a few of the moms in our school who I know have a passion for running and a commitment to the girls. From there, hopefully, I can find a few volunteers to help me coach.
Finding that practice time and coaches are my big worry! I have it really easy, though, because I can always walk over and talk to Shavonne or Priscilla, our Volunteer Manager, and ask questions on how to navigate a busy school schedule or to recruit a parent to serve as a coach with me. They reassure me that it all comes together, and that they are there to support me, and any site coordinator, as they get their program off the ground for their first, or even their 20th season.
It turns out, figuring out practice times and days took only a few emails with parents and the administration. Now I need one or two parents or teachers to help me coach. I feel like that is doable, especially since I don’t have to start from scratch.
I think sometimes as a volunteer, it can be easy to forget all the resources available to us, both online and through the people who work here at Girls on the Run. I thought, “I have to do this all on my own” and the truth is, I didn’t! Don’t forget that we are here to help you through this process, and if you are struggling or have a question, you can reach out at any time. We are invested in your success, and want to help you bring Girls on the Run to the girls in your life.
So, now that I figured out our practice time, I am off to finish my flyer for coach recruitment. Once that piece is in place, I know the rest will fall in order.