WESTFIELD – Paper Mill Elementary School staff are preparing for the school’s second Girls on the Run program and are seeking coaches for the spring session.
Girls on the Run is a 10-week program that typically meets twice each week and is led by trained coaches. The coaches lead small teams through a research-based curricula developed by the non-profit organization. In addition to running, the program includes dynamic discussions, activities and running games.
Over the course of the program, girls in grades 3-5 develop essential skills to help them navigate their worlds and establish a lifetime appreciation for health and fitness, according to information provided by Girls on the Run. Physical activity is woven into the program to inspire an appreciation for fitness and healthy habits. Life skills, including treating others with care, practicing gratitude and managing emotions, is also a part of each meeting.
In the fall, eight girls participated in the first Girls on the Run program at Paper Mill. “It went really well,” said Principal Melanie Chassee.
Each season culminates with a celebratory, non-competitive Girls on the Run 5K event, which provides girls with a sense of accomplishment and instills the value of goal setting at a young age. Girls from schools across western Massachusetts participate in the event. This spring’s rally will take place May 31 at Smith College.
All eight students from the fall program completed the 5k run event at Smith College in November. Each girl could choose an adult running partner for the 5k.
“I teamed up and ran with one of the students,” Chassee said, adding that 16 people from the school went in support of the students.
Chassee stressed that the 5k is a rally, not a competition, and participants and coaches are not required to have previous running experience. Chassee said the school had five coaches for the fall program, along with a couple of other parent volunteers. Currently, they have two coaches interested in the spring program, and Chassee said they could use more.
“You don’t have to be a runner to be a coach. Two out of the five in the fall were runners,” Chassee said, adding that the other coaches just wanted to make sure the kids were supported.
“It’s really mentoring; it’s about being able to meet challenges, field success and develop a lifelong interest in physical activity,” Chassee said.
Chassee said they haven’t put out the spring signups for the girls yet because they want to have the coaches in place first. She said the more coaches they have, the more girls can participate — up to 15 girls per site, according to the Girls on the Run website.
Chassee said tcoaches have to attend a training Feb. 13 at Holyoke Community College from 4 to 9 p.m. and Feb. 29 at Springfield Technical Community College from 9 to 2 p.m. At the training, all coaches will receive a manual for the program. As part of the program, the girls participate in circuit training in the gym and outside. They also have one practice 5k run.
Chassee said last year the coaches rotated. At Paper Mill, parents and coaches met at the school at 7:30 a.m. Their program is before and after school, based on what the coaches can do, she said.
There is a cost to the program for students, but it’s on a sliding scale, and partial and full financial aid is available at registration. No girl is turned away. The cost for the 20 sessions is $5-$150, with a sliding scale, which includes snacks, a Girls on the Run t-shirt,5k registration and sneakers (if needed).
All girls are welcome, Chassee said, stressing that participants do not need to be a runner and each team will have at least two coaches.
For more specifics about the curriculum or to register to coach please visit www.girlsontherunwesternma.org.
Chassee said Girls on the Run serves 1,200 girls in western Mass. Southampton Road Elementary School will also be participating in the program this spring.