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DMES girls on the go

Running club motivates students in fitness, classroom

Posted: September 20, 2011 4:11 p.m.
Updated: September 21, 2011 5:00 a.m.
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Jaylin Grant pushes ahead during the first practice of the new school year of “You Go, Girls.” Started in 2009 by Doby’s Mill Elementary School Media Specialist Betsy Long, the “You Go, Girls” weekly running club has since expanded to include as many as 70 fourth- and fifth-graders.

Betsy Long is a runner.

So it didn’t take long for the Doby’s Mill Elementary School (DMES) media specialist to come up with the DMES “You Go, Girls” running club -- the perfect way, she said, to include her students in one of her favorite pastimes.

What started out as a running club for only fourth-grade girls in 2009 quickly expanded. This year, about 70 fourth- and fifth-grade girls participate in the school’s running club.

“I always ask them to think outside the box, and that’s exactly what she did. She knows there’s a big picture out there,” DMES Principal Ginger Catoe said. “When she told me about the running club, I was excited because I know that she motivates me, and I knew that motivation would also get the girls excited about healthy living.”

During the club’s weekly meetings on Thursday afternoons, Long said, she encourages the girls to set fitness goals. Some may set a goal to run around the track one time, she added, while other girls say they want to be able to run a mile without stopping.

“And there are rewards that are in place, and they receive those when they meet their goal,” Long said; she also teaches the girls yoga stretches and healthy eating tips before beginning their 45-minute run/walk sessions. “I don’t yell at them to run when we’re outside. Some of the girls walk, while others run. I just really try to encourage them, motivate them and promote positive self-esteem.”

When asked why she made the decision to work only with girls, Long said most fourth- and fifth-grade girls are now at the age when they begin to grow self-conscious and worry about what boys think.

“Also, sometimes boys are encouraged to participate in sports a lot more than girls are, so I thought that this could be a way to help promote healthy living. It’s a great motivator,” she said. “And the parents are just thrilled that their daughters are up and moving, eating healthy and being active.”

Long said the benefits of the running club extend far beyond just getting into shape. Several teachers have already said they’ve seen behavioral changes in the students who participate in the club.

“The girls know that they are models to the school. They know that they get recognized for their achievements, and it’s a privilege,” she said. “It motivates them to behave in class because they know that if they don’t behave they won’t get to participate. It’s kind of a win-win.”

In the future, Long said, she hopes to see her running club continue to grow, with more of the club members participating in local races, such as the upcoming Oct. 22 seventh annual Race To Read 8K and 1-mile fun run/walk.

“And I want them to know that they can set goals and achieve them when they work hard,” she said. “That’s what I want them to take away from this club.”

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