Sara Kramers has been an athlete her entire life. Growing up in the small Ontario community of Seaforth, she played a wide variety of sports, and her mom often coached many of her teams.
“Looking back, I realize how lucky I was that she was that role model for me,” says Sara, who is now completing her PhD in Sport Psychology at the University of Ottawa, where her focus area is creating inclusive and meaningful sport spaces.
Sara knows all too well that girls’ participation in sports declines sharply in adolescence, and that’s for those lucky enough to have access to sports activities in the first place. So, when Sara heard that Ottawa would become the first Canadian location for an inspiring program called Girls on the Run, she knew she had to get involved.
The program, brought to Ottawa in 2021 by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) Foundation, is designed to get girls active and give them a safe space to belong.
“We’re moving, we’re running around, but we’re also giving them opportunities to build their confidence and to learn communication and negotiating skills, so that not only will they feel they can play any sport and be active for their life, but they’ll have skills to rely on if something happens at school, at work, or in their friend group,” says Sara. “That way, when they encounter a challenge, they can say to themselves, ‘It’s ok, I’ve dealt with a challenge before, and I can do it again’.”
Each program ends with a 5-km race, but Sara points out that the race is not so much a competition as an opportunity for the girls to set and meet a goal together, and it can be a profoundly moving experience. “People stand at the finish line crying because of how proud they are of these girls.”
Sara knows that the experience of sport — of being part of a team, of belonging and achieving a goal — can create lifelong leaders, which is why her commitment to Girls on the Run, despite a heavy academic schedule, is so important.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that our next generation has the opportunity to reach their potential and to nurture their voice — so as much as I’m looking towards the future for me, that future involves the futures of these young girls.”
For more info on Girls on the Run, contact firstname.lastname@example.org