At Girls on the Run, Mentorship is a Two-Way Street Between Learning and Teaching

A special thank you to our 2022 Grantee Partner, Girls on the Run, for writing this guest blog and sharing more about a great program that’s empowering girls at a young age. To learn more about them, visit

At Girls on the Run (GOTR), we envision a world where every girl believes in and takes advantage of her limitless potential to boldly pursue her dreams. Our 10-week program drives transformative, sustained change in the lives of 3rd through 8th grade girls across Eastern Iowa and is delivered by 150-200 volunteer coaches each season.

We repeatedly hear that our volunteers choose to become a Girls on the Run coaches because they wish they would’ve had this program when they were younger. Studies show that 3rd through 8th grade is a critical time for girls.

  • Girls’ confidence begins to drop by age 9
  • 50% of girls ages 10-13 experience bullying such as name-calling and exclusion
  • Physical activity levels decline at age 10 and continue to decrease throughout adolescence

Girls on the Run reaches girls at this critical stage—strengthening their confidence when it is most vital. Our program addresses the whole person when she needs it the most, underscoring the crucial connection between physical and emotional health.

Our trained volunteer coaches lead small teams of girls through our research-based curricula, which include dynamic discussions and fun activities that creatively integrate physical activity. Throughout the season, girls learn critical life skills and strategies they can apply to all aspects of their lives, such as how to manage emotions, help others, make intentional decisions, and resolve conflict. The program culminates with girls positively impacting their communities through a service project and completing a celebratory, non-competitive 5k event.

Another thing we often hear from coaches is how much they lean on the lessons, which allows them to feel empowered in their coaching roles and beyond.

Even though you’re teaching girls all about self-esteem and healthy habits, you also get something out of the experience yourself. I learned to be more confident in my leadership abilities. I had a blast doing this program, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. The energy during the final 5K is amazing!

- Beth, GOTR Coach

Even more importantly, we know it works! Reports consistently show that 85% of girls improve in confidence, competence, caring, character, and connection. 97% learn critical life skills, and girls who were least physically active at the program’s start increased their activity by more than 40%.

These results are not from the curriculum alone. They come from caring adults who show up to each practice to listen, learn, and engage with girls. Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa coaches span all gender identities and range in age from our 16-year-old junior coaches on up to retirees. Some are parents and grandparents. Some are runners, and many are not. They span career fields from educators to engineers, attorneys and physicians, researchers and professors, scientists, librarians, administrators, caretakers, business owners, and so much more.

Throughout the season, girls are having fun while being active, learning life skills, and getting to see so many different models of what adulthood can look like.

Curious about how coaching might fit into your life?