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from Stephanie Kliethermes, who coached at Iowa City's Horn Elementary for 11 (!) seasons before completing her PhD and moving to Chicago this fall.
Some of you may know me, but many more of you will not. No matter; my message is the same to each of you. Whether you realize it now, or 10 years from now, you will look at your time as a Girl on the Run and understand the importance and benefit of this program for all girls, including yourself. My guess is that you view Girls on the Run as a program where you can be with your friends, talk about tough topics in a safe space and play fun games that keep you moving. This is great—this is how I hope you view it! But I want you to know how I view Girls on the Run. I, too, think it is a fun, safe place to hang out with friends, talk about what’s on your mind and play fun running games. But I also know it is much more than this. It’s a place for you to realize and celebrate the special person you are, to know and believe in the worthiness you carry just by being you, and to feel accepted, supported and loved no matter what. In my 11 seasons as a coach, my goal and responsibility was to foster this safe space for you and your teammates and to allow you to be your bright, beautiful selves.
Sure we had fun, were silly, laughed a lot, ran (or walked!) a lot, and talked a lot (perhaps too much for some of you), but every single moment we had together was meant to help you know and trust in your innate worth and goodness. It was meant to help you tap into the joy and happiness that is YOU. And after all these years, the most precious gifts you gave to me were those moments when you authentically displayed your true strength, courage, kindness and joy. And let me tell you, there were many of them. Too many to name here. My heart swelled knowing that you were happy and having fun. But it also grew when you expressed your fear and sadness. For you showed me that you understand the complexities of comfortable and uncomfortable emotions; you showed me that you trust in yourself even if it feels like you are standing alone(you are never actually alone- I am always supporting you); you showed me that your strength and resolve carry you through those darkest and most vulnerable moments. You showed me that you can (and WILL!) pave a path that is right for you despite all the ways in which life can knock you off your feet. You allowed me to hold your struggles and fears in my heart.
I would go to practice to teach and guide you, but you in turn taught and inspired me. I will always be grateful for this and for you. You see, if I am being completely honest, I sometimes (often?) struggle to live by those exact words I preached to you. Life throws us curveballs (you know this) but it’s how we work with these curveballs that determines our ability to move forward. Girls on the Run gives us the tools to work with these difficult times. I believe in each of you, so much, and know deep in my heart that you can handle anything life throws at you. You are resilient; you are self-reliant; you are strong. You believe in yourself, you trust yourself and you have confidence in yourself. My challenge now is to do the same. So for these next 10 weeks as you courageously work through the GOTR curriculum and as I continue to find my way in Chicago, I will commit to what we learn and embrace in GOTR : As I see the light and beauty shining from within each of you, I will look for it within me. SBLR (stop, breathe, listen, respond)? No worries, I will practice it too. Yes, I feel your strength and courage, so I will trust in my own. Our GOTR choices? They are on my mirror (in a place I will see them every day) just as I’ve always asked you to do at the beginning of every season. I know how much I love all of you and I will unconditionally accept your love right back to me. Most importantly, I will work on loving myself (through the good and the not-so –good). Because I tell you emphatically that “You are not your body”; I will tell this to myself. Over and over again. Gratitude? My favorite lesson. J I will practice it each and every day. Just as I encourage you to let your voice be heard, I will honor my own.
I practice these values for you and for me. I practice these values because I believe in them and I see their importance for both me and you. I am proud of you all for the commitment you make to GOTR and I am willing to make that commitment right alongside you. In the words of Winnie the Pooh, “Always remember you are braver than you believe; stronger than you seem; smarter than you think and loved more than you know.”
Love, Sparkling Steph
(Shared with permission from Steph's personal blog, Life on the Run Without a Watch.)