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Lessons Learned at GOTR

October 8, 2009
Nadine is a former coach and staffer and current board member of GOTR Atlanta.

Nadine is a former coach and staffer and current board member of GOTR Atlanta.

Yesterday I attended a Girls on the Run session at Blackburn Park. It had been a long time since I had been to a GOTR practice. Too long. Sometimes, especially when you’ve been to as many sessions as I have,  it’s easy to assume that you know everything about the program and that it’s not necessary to experience it in action on a regular basis. I was reminded yesterday of how critical and valuable it is to make that time. The girls who have participated in GOTR twice a year for several years in a row will agree  that you literally learn something new every single time, regardless of how often you’ve heard the same lesson. This can happen from having different coaches, a new team, or simply as a result of your individual growth since that last time you heard the lesson. Such was the case for me yesterday.

I learned yesterday how I’ve taken completely different perspectives on the same GOTR activities, and how different parts of my personality have emerged during those activities, depending on where I was in my life and what hat I was wearing.

I’ve been involved with GOTR Atlanta in various capacities over the years. First, as a coach, I was in charge of leading all of the sessions – this included making sure the girls were prepared with the proper attire and water bottles, keeping their attention focused on the activity at hand, getting through the entire lesson in our allotted time, and ensuring they got in enough running. I personally found both upsides and downsides to this role. I was there for every session and bonded with the girls in a way that, as an only child, I hadn’t really done or known I could do before. But at the same time I sometimes felt awkward, like I wasn’t equipped to interact with the girls in the right way, to provide that perfect blend of friendship and discipline. I wasn’t a mother, a teacher, even a sister or an aunt – so who was I to coach these girls? I learned a lot about myself over the course of my coaching, namely that I did have what it took to be a teacher and a mentor, even though I often went into each session scared to death that I wouldn’t say or do the right thing. However, I often didn’t have the space in my brain to truly and meaningfully process the lessons and what the girls were saying because I was too busy worrying about my acceptability as a coach. Hmm, talk about being stuck in a Girl Box!

Next, as a GOTR staff member, I attended sessions as an observer and evaluator. This new role opened me up to a different experience of the lessons, especially because I heard so many different teams going through the same lessons and getting different things out of them. But I still felt a bit constrained in my role. I worried that the coaches felt uncomfortable with me around because this time, it was my job to see how prepared they were to manage the group and deliver the lessons. In the back of my mind I was always thinking about what I was going to say to the coach at the end of the session, and to my boss the next day about how smoothly the program was running.

Yesterday, I was completely free. As a GOTR board member, I am encouraged to participate in at least one session every season. Note emphasis on participate, not to coach or to evaluate. Now, I am completely aware that I should, and often felt like I did, participate as a coach and as an evaluator. But I realized yesterday that in those roles I kept myself a bit separated from what was going on around me because I was dealing with and worrying about too many external things instead of just being in the moment.

Yesterday I interacted with the girls in a way I never had before. I participated in the activities and found myself discussing and yes, even debating, very deep topics – the lesson was on personal values – with the girls. My comments and questions came naturally and easily, and I felt at ease talking with the girls about their lives and activities. Most importantly, I was having fun, and I was fun to be around!

This change in perspective is surely, as I’ve implied, due in part to the fact that I was wearing the hat of participant instead of coach or evaluator. It’s always easier to let loose when you don’t have responsibility for something. But I wonder – might I feel and behave differently now as a coach or evaluator than I did back then because of where I am in my life? Over the past 2 years I have grown much more comfortable in my skin. For the first time ever I can confidently say that I am a happy person. And clearly that fact has deeply impacted my relationships and interactions with others, including the amazing girls I hung out with yesterday!

It will be fascinating to see how my perspective keeps changing as I continue to grow as an individual and to work with Girls on the Run. I can’t wait to find out!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Debbie Curtis-Magley permalink
    October 9, 2009 10:22 pm

    Wow – this is a really thoughtful post. It takes a lot of courage to dedicate your time to a group of young and impressionable girls. I think a lot of people can relate to feeling awkward and uncertain around kids. It seems like your experience has left you feeling confident in your ability as a leader — which is what GOTR strives to instill in girls. Way to go!

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