Finding Personal Strength
Sara Konek
By Sara Konek
7th Grade Team Leader, 7th Grade Science
November 5, 2018  
For the last 19 years, I've had the privilege of coaching middle school running teams in some form or another at Forest Ridge. What I love most about this role is supporting girls who are trying something outside of their comfort zone for the first time. I became a runner in middle school, and it was one of those "light bulb" moments in my life that allowed me to tap into many previously unexplored parts of myself: being a part of a team, perseverance and endurance in the face of challenge, using failures as feedback for future change, and more. Running became a tool to help me solve all kinds of problems in my life -- and remains a consistent, self-care habit for me.  
I coach because I hope to pass on to the middle school girls some of the positive experiences I’ve gained from running -- and I think that happens best out on the track and trails. My current cross-country runners say things like, "running isn’t my favorite thing but I surprised myself and was able to push myself to do more," and "I'm not really a competitive person but this was more about competing with myself, and I gained a more positive attitude."   
Middle school athletics can be a safe place to try something new while also exploring what it means to work with a team and find out more about individual physical strengths and gifts. It is also the perfect place to practice many of the skills we talk about in our middle school advisory curriculum --seeing yourself as a leader in a new way, using positive self-talk to reduce performance anxiety, looking for growth areas to celebrate beyond what number results tell us. Of course, we do celebrate our teammates who place high in a race or get a personal record time, but together we learn that there are many ways to feel good about completing a long run together.   
Even if, in the end, a runner only joined the team because her "parents signed her up," we all leave the season feeling we know more about ourselves and have the support of each other to keep stretching.
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