Deidre Dodd

Deidre Dodd
Girls on the Run Program Manager

Describe your role as the program director of Girls on the Run.

Girls on the Run (GOTR) of Alachua County educates girls in third to eighth grade (ages 8-14) over the course of the 10-week/20 lesson program delivered by trained and supportive volunteer coaches. The program aims to develop and improve competence; feel confidence in who they are; develop strength of character; respond to self and others with care and compassion; create positive connections with peers and adults; and make meaningful contributions to community and society. These life skills prevent unhealthy and risky behaviors, such as physical inactivity and negative body image, and promote positive health outcomes (physical, mental, social, and spiritual health). The culminating event of each GOTRAC season is a noncompetitive 5k event in which the girls run, walk, skip or twirl with their volunteer coaches, family and community members. On this special day, the girls are celebrated for being confident in their bodies and minds.

The Program Manager is responsible for managing all of the Girls on the Run programs and volunteers. Some of the key responsibilities falling within these areas include: Program outreach and site management, coach management and training, curriculum/equipment management and budgeting and administrative duties.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of GOTR is watching the girls progress emotionally and physically through the program. I love watching the girls gain endurance and form friendships that maybe they wouldn’t normally in the classroom. When the girls pair up to run, it is not by friendship but ability. I love seeing their faces during the race and at the 5k finish line. Being able to witness their sense of accomplishment is the best feeling in the world!

How do you build up confidence? How do you build confidence in the girls that you teach?

My wish for our GOTR girls is that they can harness their own confidence and stand up for themselves in all areas of life. Standing up for yourself means so many things. It means being confident in exploring and sharing your identity. It means standing up to the pressures of society to look and act a certain way. With friends and peers, it may mean standing up to a bully, using lesson strategies from the, “I feel…when you…” statements to express their emotions, or encouraging friends to try something new that you enjoy. In school, it may mean speaking up in class when you are discussing a topic you are passionate about or advocating for yourself with a teacher and inquiring about a grade on an assignment. At home and in your community, it may mean setting physical and emotional boundaries with other individuals or asking to go to a camp or event that you are interested in exploring. The possibilities are endless. GOTR teaches the girls strategies on how to do this!

What is some advice that you tell your girls?

It’s easy to listen to negativity in life, and a lot of times it’s easier to believe negative comments rather than the positive ones. Girls on the Run teaches not only to understand this, but know how to let go of negativity, and instead focus on gratitude by plugging into positivity.  Happiness and positivity are contagious, so be the carrier.

How do you define what it means to be a fierce woman?

Our changing world presents much chaos. All of us needs ways to identify our emotions and stress levels and develop comfortable and effective ways to deal with stress and emotions.  As adults, we can get so wrapped up in our busy, complicated lives that it’s refreshing to spend time with young girls, who are just starting to find out who they are.

When I first began coaching with GOTR, I found it ironic, after preparing for each of the lessons, that these messages are just as applicable to myself as much as they were to the girls. They relate to girls and women, and everyone.  Just because we, as coaches, are adult women does not mean that we need reminders on how to practice these same strategies in our own life. Once girls understand and accept themselves, they can go forward to help others. Making efforts to make a positive impact on society is a great way for girls to feel confident and feel important to the community and pass these life-learning skills along to their own girls! So being a fierce woman is recognizing that every girl matters, and with positive intent we can embrace each other’s differences and find strength in our connectedness!