You GO! girl! New directions for the AMA YRC, with GO! Run Club

March 27, 2018

The GO! Run Club steps in to fill the physical activity void that too many young girls fall into for many reasons.

Contributed by: Vanda Killeen | AMA Public Affairs

GO! Run Club promo video (hosted on YouTube)
Ever Active Schools

With the start of its 2017-18 season last October, the AMA YRC expanded its scope by undertaking a new program aimed at encouraging girls to participate in physical activity and to decrease the significant gap that exists in the athletic participation rates of girls and boys, one that starts at an early age and continues through high school.*

Girls only

The new program is called GO! Run Club (GO! = Girls Only). It is currently in 18 schools, mostly elementary but some junior high and high schools, in Calgary, Cold Lake, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, High River, Lac La Biche, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Siksika.*

Schools that host GO! Run Clubs most often also host regular AMA Youth Run Clubs and are setting up the GO! Run Clubs specifically to increase the involvement of girls. As Dao Haddad, assistant principal at Edmonton’s Delton Elementary School commented in an article in the Edmonton Examiner (October 10, 2017), when describing the school’s Youth Run Club: “The girls that were in it were generally the fast ones and the ones who already viewed themselves as athletic.” Haddad, along with Grade 2 teachers and GO! Run Club leaders Anne Bradley and Kayla Hannan, hope that their school’s GO! Run Club will appeal to a diverse group of girls and be a source of comradery and inclusion.

“Many of these kids come from home lives that are very tough, so to give them something that they can be strong and excel at and be happy; to give them that positive environment and energy is very important,” Haddad added.

Growing the positives

In its fifth year, the AMA YRC has consistently grown and proven to be popular with Alberta schools and teachers. From 233 schools and 17,000 student participants in 2013-14 to last fall’s 450-plus schools and 24,000 participants, word of the good organization, the comprehensive hands-on support and the web-based resources provided by Ever Active Schools (EAS), AMA’s partner in the YRC, has spread among the province’s teachers.

From facilitated Coach’s Workshops to the video library, warm-up poster, Running Log, Coach’s and Runner’s Handbooks and Finisher Prizes, the YRC and GO! Run Club resources are based on current research and need, as communicated to EAS during their engagements with schools and clubs. For some time, EAS has been aware of the Canadian data supporting the discrepancy in male-female youth participation in athletics. According to the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women: “If a girl does not participate in sports by age 10, there is only a 10% chance she will be physically active at 25.”

The GO! Run Club steps in to fill the physical activity void that too many young girls fall into for many reasons. It’s an exciting program, particularly for the teachers and coaches who’ve observed the predominance of boys in YRCs.

St. Brigid School teacher Maria Verbonac speaks on behalf of herself and her coaching partner, Assistant Principal Marilyn Nasse, about their experience managing their school’s RunHers Club: “We savour every, single minute and notice a difference in the girls, already … (not just) physically but their confidence level … The girls tell us how they feel like they belong … like this is their very own, special thing they can do … without pressure from boys, without pressure from older kids … We consistently have over 20 girls show up to run club at 8 a.m. twice a week … The girls love the run club, and we sure get plenty of hugs at the end of the class.”

The positives don’t end there. Maria continues: “To top it off, this has now trickled down to our female staff members as well. We have five to six additional staff members coming to our club, too … It’s amazing how something so small – such a small vision – has created a healthy environment for the females in the building.”

And from the mouths of RunHers Club participants:

  • “Thank you for making me feel healthy and happy.” Sanduni
  • “I wish we had Run Club every day.” Audrey
  • “I get up all by myself just to make it to Run Club.” Bailey

AMA member benefits

Over the past five years of the AMA YRC, a number of AMA member physicians, residents and medical students have been involved with YRC events and/or have visited YRC schools to give School Health Advocacy Talks. Without fail, they too find the experience highly rewarding.

In October 2017, Dr. Dianne Brox, a family physician and “do-it-to-stay-sane” runner, attended the GO! Run Club Fun Run hosted by Delton School. Along with visiting Lauderdale School’s GO! Run Club members, Dr. Brox and Ever Active Schools’ staff joined about 40 girls, who laughed, exercised and celebrated the sisterhood of running together outside.

Commenting on her involvement in Delton and Lauderdale’s official launch event of their GO! Run Clubs, Dr. Brox said, “This generation of children are the most anxious we’ve seen. They can use running to relieve some of the stress in their lives.”

As Dr. Brox spoke to the girls before the run, she invited them to reflect on their feelings. To help them “think about putting words to their stress,” she asked, “Are you ever sad? Worried? Angry?” Then, to a resounding display of exuberance, she advised them: “Go running! For sure, you’ll feel better!”

Judging from the smiles and rosy cheeks all around, the doctor’s activity prescription worked!

* Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart® charity has funded the first 18 GO! Run Clubs and will fund the addition of 18 additional schools in spring, 2018.

The AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.