This semester members of the Mills cross country team have mentored local elementary school girls. The program focuses on teaching the students vital track and field skills and lessons in creating a positive body image.
The program was created for elementary and middle school girls, ages eight through 12. Currently, four girls from Sequoia Elementary School are enrolled in the program.
The two-hour mentoring sessions held on Thursday afternoons are split into two parts. The first hour engages the girls in games like “Red Rover” and “Duck, Duck, Goose” and track and field techniques like hurdles, hands-off, javelin throwing and starting blocks. During the second hour the girls go inside Haas Pavilion for a snack and a prepared lesson on topics ranging from body image to nutrition.
Head Cross Country Coach Laura Davis had one goal at the start of the program this year. “My goal was to start off small and have a strong emphasis on quality. I would eventually like to get bigger, but maintain the same great quality,” she said.
“We encourage them to use sports as a positive outlet for emotions. We emphasize the power of positive thinking and how it can apply to everything in life from sports to academics,” said Rachel Jensen, who is in her first year on the team.
Currently the program has recruited four participants but Davis plans to have a future cap of 15 participants per semester. Davis has been reaching out to teachers in local schools to get participants.
“The program is great because it empowers them. It lets them know that being a strong, athletic person isn’t bad – it’s fantastic,” said Kylie Stevens, a first year on the cross-country team.
Proceeds raised from the Mills track and field meet, held at Skyline High School last year, made the mentoring program possible. Though the program is free to participants, parents are responsible for transporting their child to and from Mills College.
According to Davis, parents have been exceedingly happy with the program so far. 9 year old Leilah Clark’s parents believe their daughter is learning important life skills such as good sportsmanship, how to set goals and how to stay motivated.
“Obviously, the fact that the program is free is great, but it really seems that the Mills’ mentors care about the kids and want to be there,” said Sheila Holmer, Clark’s mother.
“(Leilah) loves it. She likes that she gets sport specific athletic training. She also likes that they deal with life issues,” said Russell Clark, Clark’s father. “The program is also a positive reinforcement of everything she has learned from competing on club teams.”
Members of the cross-country team feel the program is not only helpful for the elementary students, but for them as college athletes. The program reinforces lessons that team members have grown up learning throughout their sports careers, such as nutrition and self-esteem.
“The girls, they have so much passion; I can really tell by being with them, that they love what we are doing and that they want to learn,” said track team senior Lupe Cazares.
The last mentoring session for the fall season will be Nov. 12, during which the cross-country team will compete with the girls in a miniature track and field meet.
As this will be the last session, parents of the girls and the Mills community are invited to celebrate the girls’ accomplishments. The miniature track and field meet will be held on the meadow adjacent to Haas and the soccer field.