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IGNITE Your Connection with Girls Who Put Up Walls

Every so often there may be a girl who is standoffish, distant, unhappy, avoidant, or defiant with participating during practice. This can happen regularly or every so often. As humans, we react to life situations in a way that our bodies and minds have learned in order to cope with positive and negative environments. In this episode of IGNITE, we will discuss possible reasons why a GOTR girl may put up walls. We will discuss how to still form a connection when a girl seems unreachable.

  •  Possible reasons why a GOTR girl is not willing to participate but still wants to be part of the team:
    • The social behavior tendencies vary from ages 9-11 years old. There may be an uncomfortableness when 9 year olds are super competitive and 11 year olds are moody, sensitive, and argumentative. Consider the team as a whole to be socially awkward when it spans multiple grades.
    • The gross motor abilities vary from ages 9-11 years old, as well. Nine year olds love individual challenges (i.e. races others) and 11 year olds want to be more part of a team. These natural tendencies among the team may cause a girl to feel uncomfortable or isolated.
    • We respond to feeling uncomfortable in many different ways. Isolation, aloofness, and distance can be a defense mechanism when a girl feels uncomfortable. She may feel uncomfortable with another girl(s) on the team, a coach, the environment, her school day, her home life, etc.
    • GOTR is sometimes the first “sport” a girl may be trying. The newness of trying something new and having new expectations can be overwhelming and frightening at times causing a girl to distance herself until she feels more comfortable. 


  • Forming a connection with girls who put up walls to the team, coaches, or practice can still be accomplished with a few simple strategies.
    • Sit with her and let her be. As coaches, we can be understanding and compassionate towards feelings of uncomfortableness when a girl has a bad day or needs some seclusion to feel better about what is going on with her mentally and emotionally. Sometimes using your presence and caring energy will make small enough ripples to bring a girl out of isolation and feel like she is still part of the team.
    • Individual invitations always create a warm space in relationships. Invite the girl that is isolating herself to join you in laps or encourage another girl on the team to invite her to do laps or warm-ups with her. Invite the girl to sit next to you during the lesson when another coach is leading the lesson. An invitation to help you in any way (i.e. passing out snacks or energy awards, counting laps, setting up warm-ups) can make someone feel important and want to be more a part of the team. ○ Putting the girls in smaller “teams'' for warm-ups or laps alleviates overwhelming pressure to participate in the whole group. It makes practice less intimidating. It also uses a mix up of the personalities and strengths to create a fun and inviting practice environment.
    • Do a quick check-in with how everyone is feeling. At the beginning of practice, have everyone sit in a circle and state how they are feeling. Make it optional to share, but make sure you include yourself and other coaches. Ask each individual, “(Name), how are you feeling today?” If it is an uncomfortable feeling or they do not want to share with the group, ask, “Would you like me or someone else to check in with you later during practice?” Always remember to check in with the girl(s) at the end of the practice or at the next practice. This shows that you are thinking about them even when it’s not practice time. It will bring them closer to participating and/or making a connection with you and the team.

It is difficult to reach and make a difference with others who are distant, aloof, and not wanting to participate. Regardless of the outward behavior, it is important to remember that everyone wants to feel accepted and included. It is our human nature to desire connection and involvement with others around us. Even the most introverted person needs connection with others to build self-esteem and confidence. As a GOTR coach, we have innumerable opportunities at every practice to build connections with our girls. Showing compassion, understanding, and sensitivity IGNITES our star power that breaks through uncomfortable walls and makes life-changing opportunities to every girl we touch!


Shayla A is the Coach Mentor for Girls on the Run Kansas City. Her background comes from the classroom, coaching, day treatment schools, wellness, and advocating for children with special needs. She enjoys empowering and advocating for girls and coaches in every challenge and celebration. Connect with her for support and assistance this season via Leigh Krtek.


BOOK LIST TO DIVE DEEPER INTO CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE DISTANT: Everyone Communicates Few Connect by John C. Maxwell Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides by Geoffrey L. Cohen The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath


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We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. Non-profit girl empowerment after-school program for girls.

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