Girls on the Run is an organization held near and dear to Angela Graves’ heart.
Graves served as a coach from spring of 2020 to 2022 for teams across Memphis, including Sharpe Elementary, Margolin Hebrew Academy, and the Shelby Farms community team.
As an administrative associate at the University of Memphis, Graves’ interest in the program was piqued after the university sent a campus-wide email in an effort to recruit coaches.
She said she felt drawn to Girls on the Run because it provides a space for mentor-mentee relationships between coaches and girls. Growing up, she felt grateful for her own role models, moving her to become one for others.
“The critical, formative years of a girl's self esteem comes with becoming more aware of yourself and others,” she said. “You're just trying to navigate how to deal with your environment.”
While approaching challenging life changes, Graves remarked that it is vital that every girl has a support system to encourage her to grow into her confidence and best self.
“Those same girls who were shy opened up like a flower, and you just saw their beautiful personalities come out throughout the season,” she said.
She smiled to herself as she recalled a tender moment in the same season in which a girl wrote her a handwritten note, thanking her for her time.
Though she juggles a full-time job and further education, the smiles on her girls’ faces made Graves’ experience unforgettable and undeniably fulfilling.
At the end of a long day of work and practice, she most looked forward to awarding “energy awards,” in which a given girl is praised for her acts of generosity toward her teammates.
“We shout them out and make them feel special,” she said fondly. “Like, ‘You’re a superstar!’ And we do the jazz hands. You gotta see it.”