This past Saturday, July 26, I had the pleasure of seeing the 2014 Girls in the Game triathlon team complete the Tri Master Invitational Triathlon. Seeing every girl try her best throughout the course, after 2 months of practice, instilled an enormous amount of joy within my heart, and I am reluctant to see this experience come to an end. I enjoyed the whole program, but one of my most treasured moments remains the act of witnessing the sheer joy and sense of accomplishment on the girls’ faces as they crossed the finish line.
I missed the first couple of tri practices, so when I showed up for the third practice of the year, I entered the room with slight trepidation, sincere curiosity, and genuine excitement. With the gloomy clouds giving off the threat of rain, the girls filed inside the Union Park Field House in one of the playrooms upstairs. Looking around at the smiling faces of girls ranging from 7-13, I instantly knew this would be an enjoyable experience.
However, based on the second week of practice, I may have passed a positive judgment too soon. Thankfully, the next week Chicago weather decided to lend us a precipitation free Tuesday evening. With the entire park at our disposal the girls were instructed to start off with a warm up lap around the park. Something I, in my nineteen-age state of mind, presumed to be a doable task, minor sweat at the most. I started off at a slow jog and some of the girls quickly passed me, but a decent amount lagged behind until they then stopped after possibly running 20 yards. When words of encouragement did not get them started, I slowed down to run next to them. They slugged beside me with annoyed looks on their faces, so I yelled, “You can do it, come on just a few more seconds!” This got them going, but not long after they reverted back to walking. I then jogged in front of them to hopefully lead by example, but they walked until they were a quick dash from their finish. I arrived home after this practice thinking of the struggle it was to motivate the girls to run, and shamefully realizing my own mistake in labeling the task as easy.
After getting to know the girls better with the addition of swimming to the mix of usual running and strength exercises, my frustration eased in the following weeks. In fact, a number of girls showed a significant amount of improvement, especially in their ability to make it around the entire park, which delighted me.
When taking on the position of being a volunteer coach for the tri practice, I did not really know what to expect because it was the first Girls in the Game program for me. Yet, somehow coming in with few expectations and experience made the program extremely enjoyable. By the end, I realized the importance of this program as a multi step process of development, and effort as the key component in development. While I exhibited some frustration with the girls when they failed to run a full lap, I appreciated their confidence and determination as the weeks progressed. Every girl crossing the finish line on race day validated her individual capability to set and complete a goal, an outcome I did not immediately foresee, but found to be the most important take away.