New Study Shows Girls On The Run Org. Has Greater Impact On Girls Than Other Sports Programs

We’ve shared a number of articles and studies outlining the benefits and positive impact of girls who are engaged in sports from a young age. This is a global truth, where we’ve seen sports become a catalyst for freedom and empowerment, especially in countries where women participating in public activities is often seen as a taboo.

One organization understands this impact very well – Girls On The Run. They are an international organization, originating in Charlotte, North Carolina, and founded by inspiring leader Molly Barker who has an incredible life story you can learn more about from her TEDx Talk. Today the org has a presence in all 50 states across the US, and they are doing far more than just engaging young girls in team sports.

GOTR uses research-based curriculum and relies on volunteer mentors to provide a positive environment where girls can thrive, at an especially critical juncture of their lives. By the time a young girl is aged 9, her confidence begins to drop drastically, according to the org, and 50% of girls between 10-13 experience bullying and exclusion at a time when peer relationships start to become central to their lives.

While playing sports, especially team sports, can help fill a gap in the life of a vulnerable girl, her ability to see herself as a valued member of society through to adulthood stems from much more than a school or outside sporting program. GOTR doesn’t only focus on physical activity, but important like skills that their participants can carry with them throughout the rest of their lives, and judging from the research, this approach is extremely effective.

The organization has released the findings of a new, independent research conducted by leading youth development expert Dr. Maureen R. Weiss about the effectiveness of its program. This groundbreaking study showed that the program is highly effective at driving transformative and lasting change in the lives of third to fifth grade girls.  Specifically, the study uncovered that Girls on the Run participants were significantly more likely than girls in physical education or organized sports programs to learn and use life skills including managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others or making intentional decisions.

The sample included 907 girls in 3rd to 5th grade — 215 girls in GOTR and 692 girls who had never participated in GOTR. Girls completed a survey at pre- and post-season. The comparison group reported on experiences in an organized sport or physical education.

A remarkable 97% of girls said they learned critical life skills at Girls on the Run that they are using at home, at school and with their friends. Most meaningful is that girls who began the program with below-average scores significantly improved on all outcomes—competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring. This shows that girls who need the program the most experience the greatest benefit.

“If you are a girl who is bad at making friends and you sit alone each day… that was me. I was the person out of the crowd. Then, I joined Girls on the Run. It changed my life! Now I have people who understand me. I love my life because of GOTR,” said one young program participant, Colleen.

Quite simply, the study affirms that at an age when girls are constantly trying to measure up to ideas of who they should be when they’re still discovering who they are, Girls on the Run shows them that their potential isn’t just enormous, it’s beyond measure.

One of the mothers shared a personal story of how the organization has helped elevate her daughter’s life in a meaningful way.

“[My daughter] is in special education … they’re kind of separated from the general population …and with Girls on the Run they’re introduced into the general population. She lives without a label in Girls on the Run, and that’s really important, not to be labeled. In Girls on the Run, even with the volunteers, the coaches, the teachers, everyone kinda takes it away. It’s gone. It’s lifted,” she said.

When we see so many gender issues present in society such as the wage gap, high rates of sexism and sexual assault in industries like tech where women are already vastly outnumbered, and of course the way women in leadership and at a political level are constantly treated because of their looks and gender, instilling a message of inherent value and worth in young girls today will transform tomorrow’s leaders.

“We receive countless letters from girls, parents and coaches about how our program changes lives. The study findings reinforce these personal stories and validate our commitment to give every girl a chance to step up to the starting line of life with joy, health and confidence,” said Elizabeth Kunz, chief executive officer of Girls on the Run.

If this organization sounds like something you want to be part of, to help make a different in the life of young girls, GOTR is always looking for volunteers, or you can donate to ensure their life-changing programs continue to reach those who need it the most.

Want to know more about how Girls On The Run is increasing the potential of girls around the country and the world? Watch the video below:


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