You may be thinking, “Okay Jordan, either you’re really hungry and thinking about spaghetti for dinner tonight or you’ve gone off the deep end …” (Well, to be honest, it is neither of those situations – but you have to admit that Italian does sound pretty good right now!) As weird as it is, this funny meatball word holds a deeper meaning to me than something sitting on my dinner plate.

In Girls on the Run, we dedicate one practice each season to JOY. This may seem unnecessary to some since 3rd-5th graders can often be seen running around laughing on the playground, at home, or in the halls at school. They are kids, it’s easy to be joyful, right? But in reality, this age can be a really tough time for some: transitioning to a new elementary school, dealing with bullying, making friends, trying new hard things, and the list goes on.

One activity we do with our team during this practice is play “Meatball”. This consists of one girl sitting in the middle of a circle. The girl in the middle will call on someone around the circle to ask her a question.  No matter what the question is, the girl in the center can only respond with “meatball.” The goal is to get the girl in the middle of the circle to smile or laugh, experiencing joy.

The girls on my team absolutely LOVE this game (maybe because they don’t have to run? 😉) and ask to play it at the end of almost every practice. I also enjoy this game because it gives the girl in the center the opportunity to forget about the busyness of life and remember how good it feels to laugh at something silly or smile while doing something you love.

One day at practice, I was feeling a little defeated that some of our girls weren’t listening very well. We had to stay inside that day because of the weather – the girls were usually a little antsy when this happened. Noticing my frustration as she was running laps, one girl came up to me and said, “Coach Jordan, I have a secret for you!” I leaned over as she took a break from running her laps though the halls. She whispered, “Meatball!” into my ear and continued off giggling and jogging around the corner.

Whether she knew it or not, I needed that funny little word. It was a simple reminder to take a breath, let out a good laugh, and turn my frustration into JOY.

Sometimes during our training, we hit a roadblock. We get defeated that our splits aren’t getting faster. We stop cross-training when that pesky plantar fasciitis kicks back in, or we don’t sign up for that race because Stacy is also running it and she is much faster than us. Whatever your roadblock is, stop and take a moment of JOY. Think about how good it feels to cross your workouts off your training plan, or how running helps you better deal with the stressors of everyday life. Or, you can take a hint from Girls on the Run and think about Meatballs 😊

Throughout this blog series, I will be highlighting one of Girls on the Run’s Core Values in each post – a little reminder that running encompasses so much more than simply lacing up your running shoes. Don’t forget to express joy, optimism, and gratitude everyday through your words, thoughts, and actions!

Follow along my coaching journey! You can find me at @jordtran on Instagram. In the upcoming months, I will be giving away a few free registrations to any race on marathon weekend.

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