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Why teaching kids to run was an invaluable experience

Teaching kids to run during an early-morning school program, Tara reflects on the significance sport had during her childhood.

kids running

Children running on boardwalk

It’s difficult to imagine my childhood without sport. I have no doubt that I would have been lost without it. Whether I was running, playing hockey, soccer, softball, or doing one of the many other sports I participated in, I always felt a sense of freedom, strength and belonging. Now as an adult, knowing that I’ve had ADHD my entire life, this makes sense.

Children with ADHD often feel inadequate, stupid and outcast. I wasn’t completely immune from those feelings and sport definitely helped me navigate through those years. It gave me a solid foundation which helped me to believe in myself. It provided me with a clear direction, a positive outlet for my hyper-focused-self and the opportunity to feel like I could accomplish things.

ADHD was my struggle — that’s my story — every child has their own. Along the way, every child will struggle at times — some more than others. This is where sport can play a vital role in shaping lives. Sport won’t be the outlet for every kid, but for those who do come to rely on it, it’s potentially life-changing, even life-saving.

So recently, when I was invited to lead a group of children at a local elementary school through an interactive running session, I was thrilled. Running is a sport accessible to all able-bodied children. It provides them with an opportunity to explore their athleticism and teaches them about teamwork, treating their bodies well and having active fun. And, if it really grabs them, running can provide an opportunity to set goals and work hard towards achieving them.

This particular group I was leading was a before-school program which aims to give the children a physical and mental boost to set them up for a positive school day. It was uplifting to see them all so excited about being active. They were also enthusiastic about the “guest” they had for this session — and I was equally excited to be there with them.

I took the opportunity to get them thinking about running as a part of their daily activity and how it’s important to take care of their bodies so they can run for their entire lives. Whether on the playground, in gym class, on the track, or running cross-country — their bodies are what’s going to carry them through it. We talked about warming up, stretching, nutrition and teamwork.

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As I was explaining the latter two, their hands went up with comments and questions. I was impressed by the thoughts they had around maintaining health. One boy told me that we can’t always stay healthy for our entire lives. He was referring to his grandpa’s hip surgery — and he was absolutely correct. However, I did point out that we can do a lot when we’re younger to give ourselves the best chance at being healthy until we’re “very old.”

After talking we took to the field — time to run. I broke it down into segments, starting with a warm up. The idea of running slowly in a large group is a bit tricky for young ones to understand, but they eventually caught on and I had them running nicely behind me for a decent little warm up.

Then we moved onto some simple drills — high knees, butt kicks, quick feet — and some stretching. Then it was relay time — the highlight for an energetic bunch of kids. I broke them up into a couple of teams and, with a little instruction and demonstration, they were off to the races.

Silent at first, it took a little encouragement, but soon they were all cheering one another on. It’s remarkable how far a little encouragement goes with children — high fives for everyone, most definitely.

I don’t know what life has brought these children, or what or what struggles they may have. But I do know that the more positive exposure that children have to sport, the better. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be a small part of that — and to have shared my love of running with them.

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