National research study demonstrates Girls on the Run transforms young girls’ lives

Last Updated on August 23, 2019 12:51 pm

BOONE, N.C. — As students head back to school, many parents are looking for after-school activities that provide a safe and structured space where children can learn skills and be physically active. Appalachian State University’s Girls on the Run of the High Country (GOTR-HC) — a program of the university’s Blue Cross NC Institute for Health and Human Services (IHHS) — offers this and much more.

A recent independent, national-level study conducted by Dr. Maureen Weiss, professor in the University of Minnesota’s School of Kinesiology, provides compelling evidence that the Girls on the Run (GOTR) program is highly effective at driving transformative and lasting change in the lives of third through fifth grade girls.

Of the study, Weiss said, “Girls on the Run participants scored higher in managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others, and making intentional decisions than participants in organized sport or physical education.

“Being able to generalize skills learned in the program to other situations such as at school or at home is a distinguishing feature of Girls on the Run compared to traditional youth sports and school physical education, and suggests that the intentional life skills curriculum and coach-training program can serve as exemplars for other youth programs,” she added.

Appalachian’s GOTR-HC has inspired over 2,000 girls in Watauga, Ashe, Avery, Allegany and Wilkes counties for 22 seasons, and has impacted the lives of 400 volunteer coaches.

“We receive countless communications from girls, parents and coaches about how our program changes lives,” said Mary Sheryl Horine, associate director of IHHS and council director of GOTR-HC. “The study findings reinforce these personal stories and provide powerful evidence that participation in Girls on the Run leads to positive changes.”

The program’s intentional curriculum places an emphasis on developing competence, confidence, connection, character, caring and contribution in young girls through lessons that incorporate running and other physical activities. Additionally, the program combines research-based curriculum with trained coaches and a commitment to serve all girls.

Throughout the course of the 10-week program, girls learn critical life skills, including managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others and making intentional decisions.

This season, GOTR-HC will be offered at nine locations. Each team will meet two times a week for 75–90 minutes either before or after school, and participate in research-based lessons that use discussions and running games to teach life skills. The season will culminate in a 5K event that brings together family, friends and community members to celebrate the girls’ growth throughout the season.

The program fee for the fall season is $100, and scholarship funding is available to those who qualify. The program fee includes registration for the end-of-season 5K, as well as a T-shirt, water bottle and goody bag.

To learn more about the program and how to register, as well as how to volunteer, visit

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