Now 10 years old, Girls on the Run-Sierras more than just track practice | SierraSun.com

Now 10 years old, Girls on the Run-Sierras more than just track practice

TAHOE-TRUCKEE — Home to some of the most beautiful terrain in the world, Tahoe-Truckee lends its scenic majesty to outdoor aficionados — many of whom are young girls who celebrate their self-worth and adopt a healthy lifestyle through the 10-week Girls on the Run-Sierras program.

The nonprofit GOTR — which was founded in 2007 and is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2017 — is about much more than running practice; it's a place where adults can equip young girls with life skills so they can be strong, confident women in society.

"We offer a safe space to mentor these girls who are at an age where they're just beginning to turn inward and define themselves and their beauty," said Julie Matthews, development director of GOTR. "They're beginning to define themselves not by who they are, but by how others see them and what the media defines as beautiful."

GOTR is gearing up to host another 10-week session and needs men and women to volunteer as coaches, but Matthews and the crew warn — you may walk away with a much bigger heart in addition to setting your 5K personal record.

“You don’t have to be a runner to make a positive influence in girls’ lives

— you just need to want to get out and do it.”Julie MatthewsDevelopment director of GOTR

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"Think about the times you've woken up and looked in the mirror and had negative self-thoughts about your hair or your skin or your weight," said Matthews. "We're adults and we do this to ourselves without noticing. The coaches often come to me and say that just through encouraging the girls, they too are building respect for themselves and stopping the negative self-talk."

After meeting the program's safety prerequisites, anyone can be a coach, whether they're runners or not.

"You don't have to be a runner to make a positive influence in girls' lives — you just need to want to get out and do it," Matthews said.

Coaches incorporate fun running activities into the girls' practice, but their main mission is to uphold an easy-to-follow curriculum teaching life skills and leadership based off of three main lessons.

The first lesson invites girls to find what makes them special. It teaches each girl to harness her unique gifts, to celebrate everything she is and what she brings to the world.

The second lesson is on the concept of connection: What does it means to be a good friend? What does it means to choose good friends to be in our lives?

"We teach the girls to choose to be with people who pick you up," said Matthews. "To know what healthy and positive relationships look like, not only with friends but also with their relationships with adults."

The third lesson brings the girls' teaching balance full-circle. It combines the celebration of themselves with their knowledge of how to be good to others and challenges them to turn their gifts into positive contributions to our community.

The teams pick a project that appeals to them — any kind of local humanitarian effort — and actively enhance it.

Whether that means writing letters to kids in hospitals or gathering blankets for donation, "these girls are incredible," Matthews said.

"One teen wanted to make dinner and serve it at the Veteran's Guest House, so 15 of our girls made a huge meal and served it, themselves," she said.

The 10-week program culminates in a 5K celebration as part of the Truckee Running Festival (mark your calendars for Sunday, June 4).

It's a 5K run unlike any other.

"We never call it a race or run," said Matthews. "Our girls can hop, skip, jump, cartwheel … whatever they do to move forward."

Learn more

The mission of Girls on the Run-Sierras — which has a home base office in Incline Village — is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running.

How to volunteer: Visit http://www.girlsontherunsierras.org/coach; email gotrsierras@gmail.com or call 775-298-0280.

Upcoming dates to remember

March 5: Spring 2017 Registration Deadline

March 20: Spring 2017 Program Begins

June 4: Girls on the Run 5K Celebration

Learn more: http://www.girlsontherunsierras.org