Sam Rhoades

Sam Rhoades
Coach at Flynn Park Elementary School and SoleMate

Sam is one of the most involved volunteers to touch Girls on the Run St. Louis. She’s a coach, a SoleMate, helps with coaches training and is one of the biggest cheerleaders for GOTR in St. Louis. Her upbeat personality and energy are one-of-a-kind and her positive attitude is contagious. She’s a true role model for the girls she coaches at Flynn Park Elementary School in University City, MO.

Sam loves to run and got started about seven years ago. She says, “I am not a great athlete, it’s just that when I am out there, I feel like I can fly. I really can think and dream and accomplish and veg-out and feel connected to the world.  That’s a lot to pack into a one-hour long run, but I do feel that way.” Sam is a self-described “stay-at-home person,” has two “brilliantly unique” daughters, a “smart and funny” husband and one “perfectly wacko” dog. Sam is not shy and tells us that she turned 40 last month and is finally practicing the lessons of gratitude and happiness life has been teaching her.

Sam got involved with Girls on the Run after seeing a GOTR team at a local race. Here’s how she describes “the moment:” In May 2007, I was hanging out at the start line of the Memorial Day Run in U-City and noticed a group of girls meeting near Blueberry Hill. They had on matching shirts that said Girls on the Run and they were all jumping around, hugging each other, laughing and cheering. I couldn’t believe they were there to race – they seemed so young – but they lined up at the start and pulled each other through like champions.  I knew at that moment I needed to be a part of their group. I was so envious of their spirit and their camaraderie and their strength and courage. I found out later that there was a program at my neighborhood school, Flynn Park, and even though my daughter was only in kindergarten, I signed up to coach.  It has been a huge generator of joy in my life ever since!

Read what else Sam had to say about Girls on the Run.

What is the most rewarding thing about Girls on the Run that both you’ve experienced and that you’ve seen for the girls’ you’ve coached?

Every aspect of the GOTR program is so life affirming and soul strengthening – it is addictive! But the most rewarding aspect is the cumulative effect the lessons have on elementary school girls as they prepare for the leap to middle school.  You can vividly see the struggle fifth and sixth grade girls at our school have between retaining their natural goofiness and spontaneity and unselfconscious joy and also suddenly wanting to look “cool” and less unique and “older” somehow. When they walk into our meeting space, they drop all their pretense at being tough or “too cool” and just act like themselves. And they form these amazing friendships with one another that allow them to go to middle school with a concrete experience of being their true selves and being valued and loved for that.

Why would you recommend volunteering with Girls on the Run?

I promote Girls on the Run to every person I meet because I am committed to creating spaces where human beings are accepted and treasured and admired for being exactly who they are. Most of the time, I find myself coaching the messages of GOTR to myself and growing myself while I am coaching the girls.  What if all of us grown women could keep doing that for ourselves while we help the next generation? How amazing! How powerful!

What are your hopes for the future of Girls on the Run at your school and for the Girls on the Run St. Louis council?

My dream for GOTR at Flynn Park is to help the girls grow their courage until it extends beyond what we do in our practices to include the entire school day and more. I can imagine GOTR girls mentoring younger kids in physical fitness by teaching them running games and visiting classes to make kids laugh and move.  I can see GOTR girls leading assemblies on self-empowerment and emotional health. I want every person to see the running-girl-icon and know that it stands for girls who take care of themselves and others and who are the most unique and accepting girls in the world!

What is your favorite Girls on the Run cheer?

My favorite GOTR cheer is one we created here at Flynn Park. We call it the “bumper sticker” because it was taken right of a sticker I have on my van. It goes like this (and you really have to scream it as loud as you can): “YES – I KNOW – I RUN LIKE A GIRL! SO TRY AND CATCH ME!!!!!!!!!!!”

Any favorite memories or stories you’d like to share?

Two favorite GOTR memories include, one time, after a very emotional session, when a runner asked, “Can we please not talk about feelings anymore today?”   And a second time, when a runner used the “I feel, when you, because. . . .” script to get me to stop gushing about emotional health. She raised her hand and said, “Coach Sam, I feel like I can’t sit still when you talk for so long because I really need to run and I would like for you to take us outside PLEASE!”  I guess I go a little overboard with the “feelings stuff” sometimes!