When Liz is facing a moment of hardship, whether it be having a difficult conversation with a girl she is mentoring or pushing through the last few miles of a marathon, there is one mantra she turns to: It Ain’t Shit! A.K.A., nothing is as hard as it could be. Her organization, Girls With Sole, perfectly embodies that mindset as well. Girls With Sole provides fitness activities for at-risk young women and girls to help foster confidence, health, friendship, and self-esteem.
How can fitness and wellness help young girls?
Since I’ve been doing this for so long, I’m now still in contact with kids who I worked with a decade ago who have their own lives and families now. That’s how I know this program is successful, since they are choosing to stay in contact with me so many years later. A lot of these kids don’t know what they would do with their lives without fitness. Many of them didn’t know what it felt like to physically exert themselves or would quit the second things got uncomfortable, and this allows them to reach that “Finish Line Feeling”, which is the feeling of accomplishment you get when you do something that you didn’t think you could do. I help kids do whatever fitness activities they want to try. I’ll bring them bikes, bring them to races, and even run marathons with them. I’ve worked with kids who have been in restraints all day or come from abusive backgrounds and they are able to feel so much better just by moving their bodies. It gives them the opportunity to talk about abuse and remove the stigma around having those conversations so we can find something to help.
Why do girls drop out of sports more than boys?
It’s a confidence problem, for sure. I have a son and I love all kids, but my programs are specific to girls because they don’t have the self esteem to jump, sweat, and move like boys do. If you drop a ball in the middle of a gym, the majority of the kids who run towards it will be boys. Women who have done Iron Mans won’t put their hands up when asked if they are an athlete. We’ve been trained to not be aggressive, athletic, or assertive, and it affects girls’ self esteem in sports. If schools don’t have enough funding for everyone, they will cut the girls’ sports first to keep money for the football team. For the schools that do offer programs for girls, sometimes they fall through anyway because the interest level just isn’t there due to the confidence issue.
Can you tell us about your programs?
Although we’re a small organization, I’m still able to serve a lot of kids. When I started this 13 years ago, I had been into fitness for a long time. I knew it was possible to start a fitness program, but I didn’t know how kids could get to me or why they would want to come. I started working with social workers and schools, and eventually had people reaching out to me to get involved. The program is usually once a week after school for about an hour, and we also have summer day camps that are longer. The first half consists of some sort of physical movement, whether it's yoga, dancing, running, or field trips where they can try paddle boarding and rock climbing. The second half is a self esteem building project where they learn leadership skills, relationship building, and self awareness. Normally, we serve about 100-150 girls per year.
What inspired you to start Girls With Sole?
It derived from my own life experiences and my passion for kids and fitness. I was a foster kid and went through four abusive foster homes before I was adopted. I like to say that my dad invented Girls With Sole because he put me in a million sports at a young age to try to run my energy out. When I was eight, my neighbor sexually abused me and my mom found out by reading my journal. She decided that the best thing to do was to pretend that it didn’t happen, so I was left to deal with that as a kid. The only thing that saved my life as I worked through that trauma was fitness— it made me feel healthy and normal. Fast forward to now, and I am a healed person who wants to use the power of fitness to help others. You can’t deny the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of fitness and sports— it’s not rocket science, it just works. When I started, I thought that if I helped just one kid then it would be worth it. Thankfully, 13 years later, I’ve been able to help thousands of kids.