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Sports Backers Blog

The Kids Run RVA Comeback

By: Jacki Quinlan, Director of Youth Programs

Screen shot of a virtual meeting of the Fall Fit Club

Fall Fit Club meeting virtually in 2021

Despite school systems still working through a variety of Covid-related challenges, Kids Run RVA made a comeback this past school year and it’s a story worth sharing.

As schools returned to serving most of their students in-person, there was a lag in the return of extra-curricular activities. It became clear, in the beginning of the fall 2021 season, that we would need to continue providing a virtual component while relaunching in-person run clubs at those schools that were able to resume programs. We created and facilitated the Fall Fit Club, a virtual fitness club, to keep kids moving. However, we were also ready to fully support in-person run clubs, including offering an end of season race that students could work towards.

Photo of participants running at the start of the Marathon Jr. youth running event

Participants and mascots start the Marathon Jr.

We re-imagined what the Marathon Jr. event could look like, given the anticipated limits on student participation. On October 30th 2021, the event was held at Sports Backers Stadium, featuring an opportunity to run on the same track as VCU and VUU student-athletes, and a chance to run around the outfield of the Diamond, home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels, complete with Nutzy cheering on the runners.

After two years of not having a youth running event, we were ecstatic to return in grand fashion with this signature event! It was a great way to cap off our first real season of run clubs since the start of the pandemic.

As the spring season approached, we were excited to learn that, despite the unexpected setbacks associated with the Omicron variant, more schools were eager to get back to offering their in-person run clubs.

Kids Run RVA Supports School Run Clubs in Multiple Ways

Some schools needed support by way of mini-grant funding, while others simply needed to borrow our equipment to host a school-based event as an alternative to attending a larger gathering. Other schools were ready to get back to the full-blown Kids Run RVA experience, requesting race registration assistance and help covering the cost of bus transportation to and from the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k and Atlantic Union Bank 10k Mini on April 23. These are all components of Kids Run RVA programming and we were happy to work with each run club to help them achieve their goals and support their students.

A group of youth runners start the Atlantic Union Bank 10k Mini

Atlantic Union Bank 10k Mini

Volunteer coaches worked their magic, creating and leading fun running activities to get the kids moving and ready for both the Atlantic Union Bank 10k Mini and Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k! On April 23rd 2022, there were 286 Kids Run RVA participants toeing the line of the 10k Mini, making up nearly half of the total race field. Another 59 run club participants, with the support of 14 coaches, took on the full 10k. It was official, we were back!

Collecting Feedback to Understand the Impact

That was clear anecdotally from watching all the kids participating in events that day but also quantifiably evident after a review of the statistics we track throughout the year. As the school year came to a close and we tallied up the various ways we supported youth physical activity in our region, we realized that we achieved quite a lot over the course of the 2021-2022 school year, including the following:

  • Supported 44 schools and reached over 1,900 students
  • Equipped 864 students and coaches with team t-shirts
  • Provided proper running shoes to 160 students
  • Awarded $9,559 in mini-grant funding to 19 schools
  • Offered the virtual Fall Fit Club to over 180 participants, with 74 of those receiving complimentary registration
  • Hosted the 2021 Marathon Jr. event with 209 registered participants, 114 of whom were from Title 1 school run clubs and received complimentary race entries
  • Supported 14 school-based running events through our equipment loan initiative

Okay, so we are back, we supported a lot of coaches in relaunching run clubs, and helped get a lot of kids moving in the 2021-22 school year. But what about the quality of that support and how satisfied were the students were with their experience? In other words, are we truly making a difference? We turned to the students and coaches themselves to learn the answer to those questions. There were 107 students that completed our student survey and 15 coaches that submitted the coaches’ survey. A few highlights of the survey responses include:

  • 98% of students reported that they have fun at run club
  • 94% of students think their run club coaches care about them
  • 88% of students indicate that they like running
  • 91% of students report that being a part of run club helps them stay healthy
  • 100% of coaches feel Kids Run RVA recognizes and appreciates them as a run club coach
  • 93% of coaches and 87% of students want to continue to be a part of run club again next year

Participants Share Their Stories

The numbers are telling but the responses to the open-ended survey questions paint an even clearer picture. We first sought to learn why students join run club. Answers varied and reflect a variety of perspectives, including the following examples:

  • “it is fun and I think it would be a good way not to be scared and get confident.”
  • “be more involved in school activities and meet new people.”
  • “to prove to myself that I could achieve a goal.”
A group of students meeting during the Elizabeth Scott Elementary School run club

Elizabeth Scott Elementary run club

One student shared that they joined “to stay active and meet new friends” but elaborated further, sharing the following:  “I ran the mini 10k this year and now I love running!”

When asked to share their favorite thing about run club, one student shared “the great energy level and feeling of being on a team!” while another stated “that I can make friends and stay healthy at the same time.”

Students were also asked to share their best memory from run club. A few of our favorites included the following responses:

  • “completing the race as a team”
  • “running with my coach”
  • “when I got to direct stretches to the students”
  • “when I was really tired and I was alone my friends came and we ran and it felt so good”
A coach for Kids Run RVA stands with one of the student run club participants

Kids Run RVA participants on April 23

One student shared that running the 10k was their favorite memory, explaining “I got to run with thousands of people. It was super fun and an experience I have never experienced before.”

Not Just Back, But Better Than Ever

When we take a look back at the past school year and all that were able to achieve – the experiences we provided to kids across our region, the clubs we supported, and the resources we provided to make it all happen – we know that we aren’t just back, we are better than ever.

The coaches that make the run clubs possible are creating experiences that are fun in the present and will lead to a lifelong love of physical activity in the future. They are mentors to the kids in their clubs, kids that are happier and healthier because of Kids Run RVA. We see the impact first-hand and the kids are telling us too, sharing positive feedback on their run club experiences:

  • “I feel like I’ve been healthier since I joined run club.”
  • “The coaches really helped me build confidence, self-esteem and improved my running.”
  • “It was very, very, very fun.”
  • “I will always cherish this club.”

You can check out the evaluation summary by clicking here. Are you interested in becoming an integral part of the Kids Run RVA program? We are looking for volunteer coaches that are ready to get in on the fun – click here to apply today!

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