Girls on the Run and Girls on Track are offered each fall and spring. The program season is ten weeks long, meets twice a week for 75 minutes after school or on weekends, and is comprised of groups of 8-15 girls led by trained volunteer coaches. Girls can participate in the program as many times as they like. The concept is that the girl’s experience is different each season due to the group dynamics and developmental levels. The curriculum has been developed by Girls on the Run International and is updated regularly.
Each curriculum (one for fall and one for spring) covers 20 lessons. The curriculum is divided into three parts:
- Part One: Understanding themselves and setting personal goals
- Part Two: Learning skills to foster leadership, team building and cooperation
- Part Three: Examining their relationship to the community, including development and implementation of a community service project
Each lesson focuses on a specific related topic and follows a five part format that provides consistency and structure for the girl’s experience:
- Introduction/ Getting On Board: The session begins with a getting-on-board and a warm-up activity that bring the girls’ focus onto the day’s topic.
- The Warm-up: is followed by a stretching routine that allows for a topic-related question and answer time.
- The Workout: Then, during the workout period, the girls participate in a variety of running activities that utilize a game or a team goal.
- Processing: Afterwards, cool-down stretching is combined with a review and discussion of the day’s lesson that encourages participant questions.
- The Wrap-up: Each session closes with positive words from the girls’ coach regarding individual and group behaviors.
The principal philosophies and psychological research for both programs are the same, yet the depth of processing the topics varies with the two different curricula. Coaches can facilitate more targeted and age-appropriate discussion regarding certain topics (eating disorders, tobacco and alcohol use, personal/internet safety and harassment to name a few) with the middle school participants, whereas with the younger girls the discussion remains a bit more vague or may not occur at all.
The season concludes with participation in a 5k run. We participate in our very own running event, The Girls on the Run 5k, in both Fall and Spring. These are great events that celebrate the girls’ accomplishments and participation in Girls on the Run!
Girls on the Run promotes physical as well as emotional, mental and character development. The girls complete the program with a stronger sense of identity, a greater acceptance of themselves, a healthier body image and an understanding of what it means to be part of a team. The participants are tested at the beginning and at the completion of the program to measure attitudinal changes. This evaluation, executed by Rita DeBate, Ph.D., MPH, CHES with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, showed statistically significant improvements in the girls’ self-esteem, body size satisfaction, and eating attitudes/behaviors.