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Huntsville running program for young girls instills confidence, life skills


A program giving girls a running start is coming back to Huntsville for its second year. Girls on the Run (GOTR) is a national non-profit that puts running-based programs at schools and community locations. The initiative has sessions at three Alabama locations around the state: South Central Alabama, North Alabama and Birmingham Metro area.

This organization offers programs for girls in grades third through fifth called Girls on the Run and for grades sixth through eighth called Heart and Sole. Although the programs are running-based, organizers say they are about more than just running. Coaches explain the sessions provide different evidence-based programs to inspire girls to build confidence.

Tania Jessie is a coach for GOTR 2024 at the Fern Bell Recreation Center. She said she wishes she could have participated in a program like GOTR as a young girl, seeing the impact that the program has had on these girls, their families and the coaches. But now, she has the opportunity to make a difference for other girls in the program as a running coach.

“The program is not specifically for just the younger girls,” Jessie said. “I remember at the end of practice our coaches, we had a talk, and [we were] like wow, this hit home for me.”

Girls who participate in the program can take what they learn and share that with others, according to Jessie, which, she says, is a great takeaway of the program. According to the non-profit’s website, GOTR “transforms lives by unleashing the confidence and unstoppable strength that every girl possesses.”

The New York Times reports that between the ages of eight and fourteen, girls’ confidence levels fall by 30%. Jessie said the third through eighth grade age group can be a vulnerable group. She warned that social media can either be a platform that builds confidence or causes self-esteem to plummet.

“Those grades and age groups… that's such a critical time for just young girls to strengthen their confidence, especially when their social media going around,” Jessie explained. “I have younger siblings and nieces. TikTok can be such a gateway for building your confidence. It's just social media in general. So, they tried to get a hold of that before society begins to tell them that they can't do something or that they're opposite,” she continued. “So, I feel like that age is just critical to kind of get a hold of that.”

GOTR 2024 at the Fern Bell Recreation Center will take place March 4 through May 11, Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:15-5:30p.m.

February 18 is the registration deadline for the Huntsville location. The typical cost of registration is $175, which includes the curriculum, a Girls on the Run t-shirt, reusable water bottle, the 5K fee, a bib and a medallion, according to Jessie. However, she said that cost gets knocked down to $20 for participants registering through the Fern Bell location. More details here.



Gracie Powell is a student intern at Alabama Public Radio. She is from the small city of Thomasville, AL, planning to graduate from The University of Alabama in May 2026. She is studying Public Relations with a minor study in General Business. In her free time, Gracie loves to listen to music, watch TV and spend time with friends and family.
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