We honestly don’t get to give back as much as we would like to, but a couple weeks ago, we got to partner with Always and Target to get involved in an incredible organization, Girls on the Run. In case you all haven’t heard about it before, it is a non-profit that helps young girls pursue their dreams and empowers them with confidence through a physical activity-based program.
It is so incredible to see how much this helps girls at such a critical age!We learned from Always that half of girls lose confidence at puberty, and Girls on the Run explained that, just as girls are entering this stage in their lives, their confidence begins to drop at the age of 9, and by the time they reach the age of 10, their physical activity levels begin to decrease as well.
We were happy to hear that Always and Target teamed up to try and prevent that, by donating $1.8 million to Girls on the Run over the last two years. Their donation will go toward increasing access for girls to participate in the program, as well as go toward supporting the volunteer coaches that help the girls gain the confidence they need to keep doing the activities they love.
We got to stop by one the local practices in Dallas and interview Leila Jamnik, a coach and surprise her with some fun gifts we put together from Target.We got some cute pampering products like nail polishes, face masks, scrubs, Always feminine care products and hair products.
And in addition to the gifts we got to celebrate Coach Leila, Always and Target are providing her with a $5,000 gift card so she can purchase supplies that her amazing girls need, including new socks and sneakers and other gear to help keep them going.It was so fun to watch the girls practice and bond with their two head coaches, Brittany and Leila. They are both such sweet ladies with incredible hearts, and you can tell these girls really love this program.
They just had a 5K celebration at the end of the program, which just took place this past Saturday! It is so cool to see how excited the girls get to participate in it.While there, I got to interview one of the head coaches, Leila Jamnik, for more information about the program, and how you can get involved!
Can you tell us more about the Girls on the run program?
First, it’s NOT a running club. It’s a program designed for girls in grades 3-5 that equips them with life skills that they can use outside of practice as they transform from girls to pre-teens, to teenagers, to women.
Those skills include expressing emotions in healthy ways, standing up themselves and others, recognizing and appreciating how they are unique, yet acknowledging their connectedness with other young ladies, maintaining balance in their lives, goal-setting, intentional decision-making, gratitude, teamwork, and impacting their community. That’s just to name a few! The focus lessons concentrate on developing them as a woman inside and out, physically, mentally, and emotionally all while creatively integrating running.
How did you decide to become a Girls on the Run coach?
I volunteered to be an assistant coach eight years ago when I was teaching at another school. I fell in love with the program immediately. When I came to Brandenburg in Irving, my first mission was to bring Girls on the Run here, which I did in the fall of 2014.
Once I understood the program as a result of coaching, I couldn’t help but see its profound impact on girls. It’s not something that just happens during class and stays there. It’s carried well beyond those borders into their everyday lives and it’s contagious. It spreads to other girls who aren’t even members.
What have you learned or gained from being a coach?
I’ve learned that the lessons aren’t just for the girls. It’s for all women everywhere and of any age. One of my favorite lessons helps girls learn how to effectively communicate by using this sentence stem: I feel ____ when you ____ because ____. I would like for you to ____. It’s simple, yet powerful. And it works! Try it the next time you are communicating with a spouse, loved one, friend, or colleague. You’ll be amazed.
How long have you been coaching?
I have coached for 9 seasons beginning in 2010.
What is the hardest part about being a coach?
Coaching is easy and fun. Thankfully, we have a staff who jumps at the chance to be a coach. Without them volunteering to be involved, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I am very grateful for their support, dedication, and commitment.
Challenges arise when the group becomes as large as ours is at 68 girls strong. The hardest part about leading a group of this size with four teams is being organized with our communication and workload. My co-head coach and I handle all the details so that our assistant coaches can focus solely on their team of girls.
What do you love most about being a Girls on the Run coach?
All of it. ALL OF IT! I love the impact it has on the girls’ lives outside of practice. Every skill they learn can be used in their daily lives in the real world. I sure wish a program like Girls on the Run existed when I was a kid.
Being a woman is challenging and difficult. Things today move at lightning speed and girls are inundated with technology and social media at a pace that is mind-blowing to me. We always talk about ensuring that girls (women) can compete in the academic arena and in the business world, but it’s more than just that.
It’s about communication, teamwork, empathy, compassion, and leadership realized in ways that have never been imagined. I heard maybe two years ago that jobs our youth today will have when they’re adults don’t even exist yet. How incredible is that? I feel that the skills they learn in Girls on the Run will place them as front-runners regardless of the path they choose.
How can other women like you get involved in the program?
It’s pretty simple. Find a team near you and volunteer to coach. If you are looking to start your own team, contact Girls on the Run in your area and they will help you make the first steps. You won’t ever look back