Story Cred: Marathon Kids
Photo Cred: Terrance Forte- Forte Fitography
Tiffany Forté was volunteering with an organization called PowerUp D.C. when she met a representative from Athletes for Hope, which connects athletes to charitable causes. Through Athletes for Hope, Tiffany heard about Marathon Kids, and she was captivated.
An athlete herself, Tiffany was intrigued by the opportunity to coach kids. Soon after, she embarked on her first year as a Marathon Kids coach for two Washington, D.C. schools: Kipp Public Charter School and Hendley Elementary School. Kids at both schools run during their after-school program.
Tiffany shares responsibility for the two clubs with two professional runners who also volunteered to help, and between the three of them, they visit each school twice every month. Each visit is an hour, and they talk with the students about nutrition, health, and review the mileage logs together. They also engage in warmup exercises, run, play, and cool down.
“The kids’ excitement has gone through the roof,” Tiffany says. “They love the games we play and as they have gotten to know us, they have become less shy with us. Sometimes, the kids will even volunteer to lead the warmups.”
A former student athlete herself from North Pulaksi High School, Tiffany trained for running and volleyball to enhance her overall athleticism and challenge herself in new ways. After she graduated from Henderson State University in 2011, she started her own personal training program for women.
Tiffany works with clients on their health and fitness all day, and she has a frequent message she imparts to them: “We’re ALL athletes… we move.” Some athletes have more training under their belts, she says, but all of our bodies are trained for movement.
The common denominator is to have a point of interest, she says.
“As leaders, we have to make sure that we’re doing things to interest the kids. For the kid who doesn’t think he’s athletic, for instance, we give him some ownership. If he doesn’t want to run, we encourage him to lead the warmups. Or the cooldown. If you can get a kid to participate in some way, the next time they’ll be empowered to do more.”
Connecting to the kids is key, and Tiffany works with the students to get them all moving, because kids are generally expected to sit down, be quiet, and listen all day long at school. Her objective, at the end of every session, is to lead the kids toward setting and achieving their goals. As long as they’re moving, she says, that’s what is important. And if they have fun, they’re going to keep doing it.
“I ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. When they answer, I say, ‘Great! You need to be healthy to be able to do those things.’ I explain to them that what they eat, drink, and sleep affects them when they get older.”
Tiffany appreciates the support from Marathon Kids’ staff, and she believes in the incentives to give the kids something to look forward to.
“I think Marathon Kids makes it easy for kids to meet their goals. And it’s teacher friendly!” she says. “Teachers have a lot on their plate. This is a little something extra and we give the teachers a break. It’s important for kids to learn how to be active and the purpose of that. Marathon Kids does a good job laying out the foundation. Ultimately, these kids may not remember my name, but I hope the habits stick with them.”