Yesterday was our Girls On The Run Practice 5K!
It’s easily my favorite practice of the season because it’s when we get to set up an unofficial race course for the girls and cheer them on as they run or walk 3.1 miles for the first time all season. This is where they can see their hard work pay off!
Girls On The Run is really more about building self esteem than it is about running, but completing a 5K is the big goal we work toward all season, so we try to hype up the practice 5K so they know it’s a BIG deal. We encourage everyone to simply do their best and not focus on time and I think the practice 5K does a great job of giving girls who may be a little more concerned about completing 3.1 miles a boost of confidence going into the official end-of-season 5K next month.
My co-coaches are the best and they have both been coaching for several seasons. Last season was our first season coaching together and they really took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. (If you are interested in coaching but a little nervous about it, I would definitely ask your local chapter about co-coaching with someone who has been doing it for a while. It makes a huge difference. You can also read all about what you can expect as a GOTR coach in this post: All About Girls On The Run.)
My co-coaches and I share ideas and brainstorm all the time and made a list of a few things we wanted to be sure to do going into yesterday’s practice 5K to make it special for everyone.
We implemented most of these ideas last season, too, and I think they really help add a lot of excitement to the day, so I wanted to share them with you guys since I know a bunch of you out there are involved with GOTR (which is amazing!) or have an interest in volunteering with the organization in the future. Some of the ideas you see below are recommended to coaches by Girls On The Run International, so they may already be ideas you’ve put into place in the past, too.
If you’re a GOTR coach or coach children in some way and have ideas for how to make races or game days feel all the more special, I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section of this post!
Ideas for a Fun Girls On The Run Practice 5K
- Bring Real “Race Day Snacks”
We provide snacks to our girls during every practice, but during the practice 5K day, my co-coaches and I try to make snacks a little more fun and begin by bringing typical race day staples like bananas and bagels. I wrote motivating messages on the banana peels and you can also easily do this on the outside of oranges as well if your girls love citrus!
Our team gets really psyched for new snacks, so we also throw in some other fun foods that they don’t necessarily get during a usual practice during practice 5K day like kettle corn! I also brought along a bunch of snack packs from Nourish Snacks that they recently sent my way for our practice 5K and they were a huge hit as well (and also quite healthy)!
We also had a water station set up for the girls that mimicked a real race day water station with little cups they could grab as they ran by. This was something so small and trivial, but they were really into it… I think it made them feel “official.” Haha!
- Use Lap Counter Bands
If your girls are running around a track or field, have them collect a band from you for each lap they complete. (We used to do this the other way around and give them all the bands upfront and have them give us a band as they completed each lap, but girls lost them along the course, so we reversed this plan with greater success.) Watching the number of bands on their wrists grow is very motivating and also helps everyone keep track of how many laps they have under their belt.
- Provide Fun Prizes
First things first: Prizes do not have to be expensive!! In fact, many local business are often willing to donate a little something to a local Girls On The Run team if you ask! (When I’ve approached larger stores like Target, they ask for donation request letters on official letterhead which you can easily request from your local director.) I feel fortunate to have some connections through he blog that have allowed me to get some wonderful prizes for our team, but something as simple as a new water bottle or lip balm from The Dollar Store or a quirky prize from Party City can be a huge hit! We give the girls their prizes right after they cross the finish line.
- Make An Upbeat Playlist and Blast It!!!
Our girls LOVE music, so we make sure to create an upbeat practice 5K playlist and blast it while they run! It’s so fun to watch the girls sing as they run or walk by us. (FYI – Our Girls On Track team of middle schoolers seem to love Katy Perry’s *appropriate* music.) Note: The playlist featured above is not the playlist we played for our girls… I just included it for visual effect!
- Provide Congratulatory Certificates
Once each girl crosses the finish line, we make sure to provide them with a certificate of completion! (If a girl is curious about her time and wants it recorded, we include it on the upper left hand side of the certificate, but time is not what we emphasize.) The girls can bring their certificates home and share them with their families which we hope helps them earn them a well-deserved pat on the back from their loved ones!
- Take Pictures to Email to Parents
Every week, we include pictures from our practices in the weekly email update that goes out to our girls’ parents and we make sure to snap a bunch of photos during the practice 5K so families can see their girls in action!
More Fun Ideas
And here are a few more fun ideas I found from other coaches:
- Create bright posters with encouraging messages
- Invite families to the practice to cheer
- Use streamers to create a fun finish line for the girls to run through
- Have everyone wear their GOTR shirt/dress up or wear the same color/fun socks to encourage team spirit
- Create homemade medals for each girl
For those who may be interested in participating in Girls On The Run in some capacity, you may click here to find a chapter near you. I cannot recommend getting involved with this program enough. It’s the best!
Disclaimer: Photo releases are signed by all GOTR girls’ parents and coaches are encouraged by GOTR to share photos to help spread the word about such an amazing organization.