Sunday morning, the sun was shining and the music was blasting at the starting line for the 4th Annual Krieger Schechter on the Move 5K. For one group of runners, it marked the culmination of four months of training and self-discovery.
On Tuesday afternoons, the third- and fourth-grade girls would race to the lobby of Chizuk Amuno to participate in Girls on the Move, a program that uses running as a platform for exploring age-appropriate girls’ issues within a Jewish context.
For the 12th season, Liz Minkin-Friedman, a KSDS parent and staff member, served as the girls’ coach. Minkin-Friedman, a trained social worker, designed the curriculum “to expand on values and exemplify them in action.”
“Running is just the jumping off point to talk about self-esteem, body image and respect,” said Minkin-Friedman. “We teach the girls how to listen in silence, how to listen to themselves. There are no phones, no television, no distractions. They can really be in their heads.”
The girls established a routine, kicking off their training sessions with a nickname cheer before heading outside for group warm-ups and practice runs to put the good running techniques they had learned into practice.
Sometimes they would run in pairs and were given an assignment to discuss with their partner. Other times they worked on setting their own pace, giving their coach and parent volunteers an opportunity to catch up with each of them one-on-one.
Back inside Chizuk Amuno, the girls would be given problem-solving prompts that emphasized such values as friendship, communication, listening and team work.
Which isn’t to say that the occasional disagreement, particularly during a competitive team-building exercise, didn’t occur, but when flare-ups happened, the girls had been taught to stop, self-reflect and express themselves using first-person statements.
The morning of the race, the girls warmed up and took their places at the starting line together before speeding off at their own individual paces on the 3.1-mile long course that snaked through the neighborhood surrounding their school.
At the finish line, several of the girls were eager to share their thoughts on the race and the lessons they had learned through Girls on the Move.
Third-grader Noa Rone, all smiles after her 40-minute run, said she learned through Girls on the Move that “if you put your mind to it, you can really do it.”
Another takeaway for Rone was learning about teamwork. “We learned to be like a team and do stuff even if you don’t really want to.”
Kaitlyn Rochlin, also in third grade, echoed Rone in citing teamwork as a lesson well learned. “It’s important to have [teamwork], to help each other,” said Rochlin.
She added, “I feel amazing. Just accomplishing this is a great feeling. If two years ago you told me that I’d want to run a 5K, I’d say, ‘No way!’, so I’m glad I could do it.”
“I really wanted to run the 5K and spend time with my friends,” said Kylie Beckerman-Berman, also in third grade. “It was really fun, and Girls on the Move was really awesome. It’s nice to be with a group of girls. The race was so fun, and finishing the 5K was a great feeling.”
“I was really happy I could accomplish this because I trained for a long time,” said third-grader Rose Seidman. “We did practice runs and used different techniques, like when you go downhill you have to bend down.”
“You should always try your best,” Seidman added. “What matters is that you have fun and try your best.”