Sharing Stories

Dear Parents and Caregivers,

My teammates at Atlanta Track Club Elite and I have the opportunity to visit your children each Kilometer Kid season. During these visits we usually introduce ourselves with an aim to introduce the children to the sport of professional running. Then we help with pre-run stretches, jog with them, or cheer them on while they run, participate in the game of the day, and then open up the floor for questions and answers before we say goodbye. We come to practice equipped with the theme of the day and try to reinforce it throughout practice.

Several stories come to mind when I reflect on the impact I've witnessed during my visits. I will share one that wasn't out of the ordinary but captures the spirit of Kilometer Kids.

This practice took place in a park with a team made up of younger kids. The kids started off a little shy as we jogged laps around the field. I asked questions like do you like running? Some said yes and I probed. Some said no and I watched as their efforts and demeanor told me the opposite. The theme of the week was getting to know your teammates and working together. The game of the day was sharks and minnows.

When the game started a few kids attached themselves to me. I think they felt safe following behind the biggest person on the playground while we darted between sharks from one end of the field to the other. I saw one of the girls watching everything I did so I started to over emphasize the idea of teamwork. I cheered enthusiastically for the other kids. When I made it safely to the other side of the field, I huddled up with the other safe minnows and asked them what our strategy was. I told them about how dolphins move in packs and work together to avoid shark attacks. The game shifted from protecting yourself from getting tagged by the sharks to working together and protecting each other. As the game progressed, I watched as the kids athletically maneuvered across the field with big smiles on their faces and with enthusiasm for themselves and their teammates.

At the end of practice we all sat crisscross applesauce on the field while the coach distributed awards. As each name was called we would cheer LOUDLY for that kid as they stood up to claim their award. The girl that watched me was the loudest of them all. I saw her focus shift from whether or not she got an award that day to being excited for and celebrating with the people around her. Earlier during the game, I watched a similar shift where her fierce competitiveness turned from protecting herself from getting tagged by the sharks to leading her teammates in cooperation.

As I said, this experience wasn't out of the ordinary for these visits but it was a very special thing to witness and to take part in. I was excited to see several of the kids again at a Midweek Mile and Dash later in the season. Kilometer Kids is ripe with opportunities to build joyful running experiences. I hope that your child was able to take advantage of these opportunities this season and that their experiences fuel them to have a positive relationship with running and exercise.

Thank you for following along this season,

-Sadi Henderson, Professional Runner (Atlanta Track Club Elite) & Program Coordinator - Kilometer Kids,