As this year of service comes to a close, I’m recalling a lot of the memories and experiences that I have had and wondering how it has all fit into ten short months. It feels like just yesterday that I was taking a test drive with Coach Angie (fellow housemate and Girl in the Game) to check out McGuane Park to see where we would be working for the rest of the year. A few days later, we were upstairs in the storage room organizing and inventorying sports equipment and curriculum.
Fast forward to today, and I could have never predicted all of the stories, learning experiences, challenges, laughs, and moments of growth that I have experienced this year. From complete meltdowns, to all laughter and smiles, to breaking up arguments, to teaching sports they have never played before. to learning more about their personal lives, I think the girls whom I coach have covered all the bases. I came into this year of service so excited to work with Girls in the Game because I had just graduated as a Kinesiology/Exercise Science major and was enthused to be able to put my knowledge to work and get girls in Chicago active. Girls in the Game’s mission, after all, is to provide and promote sports and fitness opportunities, nutrition and health education, and leadership development to enhance the overall health and well-being of girls. After the first few weeks of programming, I realized that Girls in the Game was so much more than that (not trying to sound cliché). I would be teaching the girls things like the importance of standing up for what they believe in, how to resist and deal with things like bullying, peer pressure, and helping them become confident in different sports which could and has translated into confidence with relationships and in the classroom. On the flip side of that, my girls have taught me so many things: what the power of a smile or high-five can do, the true meaning of resiliency and strength, that kids will be kids, how to “go with the flow,” the importance of innocence and being a child no matter how old you are, and even the dance moves to the Dougie (didn’t go so well).
I really want the best for my girls and hope that they will take away something meaningful away from this year. Saying goodbyes this week has been hard because I know I’m going to miss each of them so much. While goodbyes are tough, I am warming up to the idea of using this experience to go out and tackle life’s next adventure…”shining bright like a diamond,” as Sierra from Murphy Elementary so eloquently put it.
– Coach Mary