WHITEFISH BAY -- Taking part in sports isn't always about winning and losing. Many times, it's about more personal things like health, happiness and fun.
"I wake up and am 'oh my gosh, I can't wait for Girls on the Run!'" Serena Shunneson said.
Every Monday and Wednesday morning over a 10-week period, Shunneson, a third grader at Cumberland Elementary School in Whitefish Bay knows the day will be special.
"It makes me happy because I can be with my friends and I'm training while having fun," Shunneson said.
Shunneson and her friends, like Ellie Yewlett, are members of Girls on the Run -- a program at their school in Whitefish Bay.
"I thought it would just be like, coaches yelling at us, like, 'go faster' and stuff like that. But having a lot of friends having me encourage them, helping me encourage them and them encouraging me is really helpful to me to do better in this club," Yewlett said.
While running is part of the club's name, it is only part of the club's program.
"We go through some kind of curriculum that teaches the girls healthy choices, self-esteem, positive self-talk, things that really help them develop. And in conjunction with that, we work with the girls to train them for a 5K at the end of the season," Andrea Murdock said.
Murdock started the club at Cumberland three years ago, and its success has been very noticeable.
"Over the course of the season, we really see them grow. They develop. We really get to see their personalities. It seems like they kind of blossom throughout the 10 weeks that we're with them. We see that self-confidence grow in them. So they're learning how to take care of themselves. They're learning how to interact with their friends. And they're also learning how to also help their neighborhood and their world," Murdock said.
Those lessons are taught through fitness as well as real-life scenarios.
For example: "You are really excited to watch your favorite show on TV. Your friend walks up to you in class and says she would never watch that show because it's for little kids. She tells you that you should not watch it any more. What should you use for your tool in this situation?"
The girls try to find a positive outcome from a negative situation.
"I've learned about thinking of yourself in like, a different way. If people say, like, 'oh she's not smart' or something, or like 'she's not cool because she's all geeky and stuff,' like, to think of yourself, like, 'I don't care what they say. I'm cool, and in my very own way. And I'm beautiful on the inside and outside,'" Yewlett said.
"We've learned a lot about bullying and a lot that would help us like grey clouds can cover your star power and star power helps with you being active and having a good pace and being happy," Shunneson said.
Even when the season comes to an end, the girls' happiness, healthfulness and confidence continues to grow into the summer.
"I think I'm going to be sad that it's over. But I'm going to be happy. I tried my best. And I'm probably still going to jog and run and walk and stuff," Shunneson said.
"I know how to make friends and like, how to stop bullying so other people can make friends, not just for myself. And it's going to be very helpful to going into fourth grade," Yewlett said.
Girls on the Run has more than 50 sites in the Milwaukee area, and is offered to girls from third through eighth grade.
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