By Lisa Le Blond, PE Curriculum Support Leader
The programme has been amazing in so many ways. Seeing the camaraderie, team spirit and passion amongst the girls has been heart-warming. Many of the girls who took part in the programme were not taking part in any extra-curricular activity and were missing out on opportunities to improve their health and fitness. Being part of the Mini Mermaids programme enabled them to become physically confident in a way that has supported their physical and emotional well being.
The 5K Challenge has enabled all the girls to experience accomplishment and success, the run was physically demanding and all the girls excelled.
The programme and the 5K run was character building :The girls are now more confident in the way they move, the way see themselves and their willingness to take part in physical activity.
The girls have become ambassadors for health and fitness and have been encouraging family members to be more physically active. They are not only confident and competent but they are intending to continue with their fitness journey due to the inspiration they found during the Mini Mermaid programme.
We cannot thank you enough for providing us the opportunity to take part in this life altering programme!
Cork, Ireland was the setting for our first ever Irish Mini Mermaid programme. Our team had such a great day with the squad from Gaelscoil an Teaghlaigh Naofa. A local newspaper came to interview the girls and across the board, when each was asked what Mini Mermaids represented, she said 'confidence.'
We wanted to share a bit more about the single force, Sarah Fahy, who made it all happen!
Q. How did you find out about Mini Mermaid Running Club?
A. My cousin lives in London and on her way through a local park, she saw a squad of Mini Mermaids. At the time, I was taking a course on mental health and looking for an initiative that would combine that course with empowerment for young girls. So I started doing some research and really liked the idea that Mini Mermaids is preventative - working with girls at their peak of confidence and working to preserve that. I got in touch with Hannah and we started talking about ways to launch in Cork. Gaelscoil an Teaghlaigh Naofa has such a strong reputation for embracing initiatives that support their students overall well-being so it was a natural fit to start here.
Q. You spent time speaking with school children and their parents about good digital citizenship. How did that experience fit in with Mini Mermaids?
A. Through my company, I volunteer to speak with school children and their parents about the internet, understanding both the good and the bad of it and how they can better understand what they encounter. So many children, especially girls, measure themselves by external factors like how many likes a post gets or the number of followers they might have. Much like with the presentations I give in schools, through Mini Mermaids, I want girls to have the power within them to see or read something and trust their sense of self-worth and value to determine how much weight they’ll give to something.
Q. You’re a new Mum and used your maternity leave to launch Mini Mermaids. Did you have moments of 'what have I done?'
A. Oh yes. In fact, the week before we launched, I sat at home coming up with a million reasons why I shouldn’t do it. My son was sick; what would the girls think of me. But I decided to use that vulnerability and be really honest with the girls on our first day. Sharing my vulnerabilities helped create a safe place for them to talk through theirs.
Q. Can you share any challenges that the girls experienced and how they used Mini Mermaid to work though them?
There's too many to mention! During the week that we were discussing our different types of heart, mind & body strengths, one girl explained that she felt she was good at swimming but would never say it openly due to her fear of being labelled a 'boaster' by her classmates. The following week she came to me and said that she thought about it more, tried to listen to her true voice and learned that it did not matter what anyone else thought of her. Another Mini said she sometimes fails the class test on Friday but knows that she can start afresh next week. She listened to Mini Mermaid and knew that she was trying her best every time. Another one that springs to mind is during our practice challenge. One of the girls wanted to run the ten laps but wasn't sure she could do it - there was a lot of Siren stuff going. So she asked Mini Mermaid to help her do one lap and when that was done, asked the same thing. She continued this, one at a time, until all ten laps were completed.
Q. What has surprised you the most and what did you want the girls to take away from the programme?
A. I was honestly really surprised with how much they absorbed during the eight weeks. My goal was to give it 100% but I always wondered whether I gave them enough, got the message across, did the workouts correctly, etc (Siren was loud sometimes!) It really does become evident during the 5km challenge. As I spoke to each girl as we were running/walking, it was incredible to see how much they had learned about themselves and the world around them.
If I was to choose three things for them to take away it would be:
I shared a favourite quote of mine with them on the first day which I hope they remember; 'The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea'
BOOM! The 3rd Annual Dawn ‘Til Dusk Challenge is in the books! What a day. London kicked off at 7:07 am and just shortly after, Leeds started the rounds at 7:14 am. It was a day of laughter, good natured competition, sore feet, high fins and some really good pizza.
We had a steady stream of Mini Mermaids and their families, coaches, and Mama Mermaids all take a few laps around the course. We celebrated parkrun’s 15th birthday with teams from both Highbury and Roundhay parkrun and the 1st wedding anniversary of our own Khara and Steve Mills-Haunch. We had dueling legal teams from London and Leeds (who would’ve thought lawyers would get competitive) and we cheered the people using our relay for training for their 10, 13.1 and 26.2 miles challenges on the horizon. We had so many great conversations with people in our communities who stopped by to ask more about what we do and why.
Your generousity - of time, of money, of energy - means we SMASHED our goals for the day, both in terms of participation and fundraising goals. More importantly, every relay team member, virtual runner and donor has made it possible for us to bring Mini Mermaids to schools with limited resources and hopefully make a difference in how a girl celebrates her self-worth and value.
PS - #dawntildusk2020
24 Oct. 2019 - Mini Mermaid Running Club is set to launch in its 6th UK market, introducing the programme to schools in Hull starting in Spring 2020! First started in the UK in 2015, Mini Mermaids, for girls ages 7-11, use physical activity combined with mindfulness to strengthen three critical things that impact girls’ worth and value: Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion. Mini Mermaid has run more than 300 programmes in Leeds, London, Sheffield, The Wirral and Cardiff.
Both new Ofsted and UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity guidelines correlate physical activity with improved learning, greater resilience and confidence. At the same time, research from Youth Sports Trust and Active Lives Children show that girls, particularly those from disadvantaged areas, start opting-out of physical activity as young as 9, which in turn can negatively impact future goals and aspirations.
‘I feel like I have more confidence to go and try new things and not to give up,’ - Mini Mermaid, Sheffield, Curriculum 1
Mini Mermaid Running Club provides schools with ready-to-activate programmes that directly address of these critical research findings, including a curriculum co-designed with experts in education, sport, fitness and children's development, as well as parents and past participants. The Mini Mermaid extra-curricular programme include themed discussions, journal work, games and structured workouts and culminates with a 5km challenge.
As a result, Mini Mermaids programmes aren’t just about introducing physical activity to girls. Throughout the programme, Mini Mermaids work to explore and understand what underlying things make a girl say ‘I can’t’ and change the discussion to ‘I can.’
Outcomes of Mini Mermaids include:
A few years ago, while chatting with my good friend Khara and Mini Mermaid champion activator in London, we talked about creating an event that showcased the lessons and goodness of Mini Mermaids, while at the same time raising money to bring our programme to schools and communities in areas of need.
“What about doing an all-day relay, you know…. From when the sun comes up until the sun goes down.”
Yet, the more we thought about it, the more it made sense: An all-day relay, based on time rather than speed, which celebrated both individual contributions and the collective force of our community.
What started as a one day event with Khara and myself and a handful of awesome Mini Mermaid supporters, is now an annual challenge, hosted in two cities with more than 50 participants from our incredible Mini Mermaid community! Running, jogging, skipping and walking (and at times, some dancing!). Now here we are, just a couple of weeks from our 3rd Annual Dawn 'Til Dusk Challenge 2019, which will be on the 5th October and I am crossing my fingers and toes that you can join us.
So why do we need to do the challenge?
Mini Mermaids have proven to positively impact how a girl views herself by using a combination of mindfulness practices and physical activity. Three key factors determine a girl’s self-worth and value: self-esteem, self-confidence and self-compassion. Yet at the age of only 8, these all begin to decline. Our proactive programmes combat this decline and give girls a strong foundation on which to build up their self-worth and value, while instilling an appreciation of movement and physical activity. Through this fundraising event, we can raise money to help bring Mini Mermaids to more schools and community centres.
So what happens at this challenge?
From sunrise to sunset, relay teams will move non-stop around Highbury Fields in London and Roundhay Park in Leeds. There's no set distance. We just need people to help us keep the batons moving. Participants can choose either a 30 minute slot, 60 minute slot or virtual slot.
If you can’t make it , don’t worry! Complementing the relay challenge is our Go Fund Me Campaign. Even if people can’t participate in the challenge, they can still help us raise the vital funds to bring Mini Mermaids to more schools, particularly in areas of need across the UK.
SATURDAY, 5th of OCTOBER 2019
30 minute leg - £10
60 minute leg
Virtual leg - £10
We would love to see a sea (hee hee) of Mermaid supporters at either of the events and sharing the event on social media (#dawntilduskchallenge #bemoremermaid #outrunthesun) and with your help we can do it. Sign up and get your family, friends, children and pets to get involved too! It’s going to be a great day and you will come away with the warm sense of helping us drive Mini Mermaids forwards.
Liz Adams, one of our volunteer coaches, will run the London Marathon at 28 April. Read about her unfinished business with London, how she plans to use her Mini Mermaid voice and silence Siren. Oh yes, and she's raising funds for US! MERMAIZING! The funds will allow us to bring Mini Mermaid programmes to areas of need in the UK. We adore any and all donations! Click Here!
1. How did you discover Mini Mermaids and what do you do with the organisation?
When my good friend and Valley Striders club teammate Hannah first brought Mini Mermaids to the UK, she asked if I’d be interested in getting involved. When I saw the curriculum, I thought how much I would have benefited from something like that as a kid - it’s fantastic (sorry - fintastic). I’ve coaches here in Leeds for the past three years, and I think I’ve got as much out of it as the girls have, if not more.
2. What inspired you to run London?
Me and London have unfinished business...I’ve been lucky enough to race it a few times before, and I absolutely love it (not necessarily from mile 20 onwards, mind...). The last time I toed the start line on Blackheath, I didn’t get to the finish. I’d had a cold to end all colds in the countdown to race day, and it found me out somewhere in the heart of Docklands. That was in 2012, and I’m so excited that, seven years on, I get the chance to experience it all again. Including the last bit!
3. How do you balance training with other aspects of your life?
The honest answer is that I don’t always. I LOVE my sleep anyway, but marathon training can tire me out (even more than it used to 10 years ago - I still expect myself to bounce back like I did then!). I have perfected the art of spotting cheeky nap opportunities throughout the week and taking full advantage of them.
It’s easy to become a slave to the training plans. Sometimes it’s a case of paying attention if your body and mind are getting a bit jaded. Maybe you need to allow yourself to stop and rest completely, swap a hard run for an easier one or maybe enjoy a walk or a swim. Or sleep.
4. Training always presents challenges - what are some of the ways you worked through those challenges?
I keep reminding myself what I’m doing it for. I love running but there will always be those runs that feel hard! Meeting up with friends and club mates is a great way to make sure I don’t wimp out. It’s always worth it afterwards when you’ve got your feet up and a cup of tea. And chocolate.
5. What will Siren say to you on Marathon Day? What will Mini Mermaid say?
Siren will be kicking up a fuss, I guarantee you that - or trying to, at least. When my legs start to feel heavy, everything is aching and there are still miles to go, she’ll start whining on about how I’m starting to struggle and that the wheels are falling off. If I pay attention to that thought, or start to believe it, my head will start to drop, my pace will slow and any faith in myself will quickly evaporate. So, I’ve got to shut that voice up straight away.
Someone once told me: ‘talk to yourself, don’t listen to yourself’. I’ve always found that really helpful. So, I’ll start to talk myself through it, and turn up the volume on the Mini Mermaid voice. Yes, it might be hurting, but of course it will! I can get though it. Just get to the next mile marker, the next water station. Just take the next step. I can only do my best. I’ll try to stay relaxed, and soak up the incredible atmosphere of one of the world’s greatest marathons.
6. What are you most excited about come Marathon Day? Most nervous?
I’m excited about getting on the train to London on the Friday, picking up my race number and meeting up with friends. There will be a lot of nervous faffing around with my race kit on the Saturday. On Sunday morning, I’ll just want to get to the start line and get going. I’m really hoping that my calf will feel ok (it’s been a bit tight over the past week) and that it’s not too hot. 12 degrees would be perfect, but unlikely...
7. What would you say to someone nervous about taking on a new challenge, of any kind?
I’d say it’s a good thing to feel nervous. It means you’re about to do something a bit out of your comfort zone. Start small, so that you’re breaking it down into challenging but achievable steps. How will you know what you’re capable of if you don’t give it a go?
It will be worth any discomfort for the immense pride and self-belief you get afterwards. That’s with you forever, and who knows what will happen when it starts to spill over into the rest of your life.
Remember back in December when we gave a sneak peek at new programming in Sheffield? Well, we're officially live with the first four of 16 programmes! Read the whole release here. Thanks to the team at Jane Tomlinson Appeal for the ongoing support!
Mini Mermaid Running Club UK Launches in Sheffield, with Support from Jane Tomlinson Appeal
SHEFFIELD 6 February 2019 - Welcome to Sheffield, Mini Mermaid Running Club UK! First started in the UK in 2015, this programme for girls age 7-11 launched in four Sheffield schools in the beginning of February. Mini Mermaids’ unique programme combines physical activity with mindfulness exercises to increase self-esteem and well-being during girls’ formative years. The new programmes are funded by a grant from long-time supporter, the Jane Tomlinson Appeal.
As more research shows correlations among girls reticence to partake in physical activity, the role of lack of self-esteem, and the social, mental and physical negative long term effects, Mini Mermaids offers a timely, relevant preventative programme to counter those trends. Key elements of the programme include two characters, who represent girls’ inner cheerleader and their inner critic. Girls learn to identify and acknowledge both voices, while developing strategies to following their positive voice.
Vicki Robinson, Manager of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal, said: “One of our core aims at the Jane Tomlinson Appeal is improving the physical and mental health and well-being of children. Mini Mermaids helps us achieve just that.
“We’ve already seen the benefits Mini Mermaids has brought to communities elsewhere and we’re really pleased to be able to provide the funding to allow primary school age girls in Sheffield to benefit from this programme, too.”
According to recent reports from Youth Sports Trust and Sport England, 96% of girls do not take part in any physical activity by the age of 14. Among 7-11 years old, girls cite a lack of confidence as a key factor, with their confidence peaking at 9 years of age. According to Youth Sport Trust, this lack of physical activity among girls leads to poor mental health and low aspirations later in life.
‘From the beginning, we’ve taken a 360 approach, with a collective focus on mental, emotional and physical strength and how they interconnect,’ said Hannah Corne, Executive Director, Mini Mermaid Running Club UK. ‘This allows us to have a positive impact and influence on girls before they drop out of physical activity and begin to lose their self-confidence. We encourage them to understand that physical activity isn’t about how far they run or how fast they are but how it makes them feel and what they can accomplish.’
The eight-week curriculum includes group discussion, journal work, games and workouts, all while training for a 5km challenge, which girls complete however they choose - walk, run, skip, jog. Outcomes of Mini Mermaids include:
More than 1,400 children have completed Mini Mermaid programmes in schools and community centres in Leeds, Cardiff, London and the Wirral. The Sheffield schools include:
About Mini Mermaid Running Club UK
Established in the UK in 2015, Mini Mermaids Running Club UK work with girls between the ages of 7-11 to build self-worth, confidence and resilience. Mini Mermaids combine mindfulness, physical activity, and games. Girls learn to be brave, rather than perfect, which can impact their lifelong emotional, mental and physical well-being. MMRC UK has more than 140 programmes in schools and community centres in Leeds, London, The Wirral, Cardiff and Sheffield.
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Helo o Galiff!
Oooh, i’ve always wanted to speak Welsh!
Last week, I was super, super proud to spend a wonderful day in Cardiff, supporting, running, walking and cheering on the tremendous team from All Saints Primary School CW. After arriving in rain like I have never seen, the clouds parted and the sun (almost) shone as the team, their coaches, teachers, parents and the Head Teacher made the journey to the National Athletics Centre in Cardiff. This multi-million pound facility opened 18 months ago and where Gethin Smart, the Sport Neighbourhood Coordinator, runs community engagement. We were gifted the track for the afternoon for the Mini Mermaids to run, walk, hop, skip and cartwheel their way around.
There were nerves a plenty, however I was so impressed with all of the girls embracing their Mini Mermaid voices as they circled the track 12 times. As the girls finished, they’d go back back around the track to help their other team mates, taking everything that they have learnt about teamwork, inner strength, resilience and moving at their happy pace.
How did this all come about? Earlier this year, Coach Sophie got in contact with us after her friend was a coach in Leeds. Once we had reached out and found a school for her, with the support from the schools year 6 teacher (Georgia) she was off and flying! Sophie and the team from Cardiff show that all you need is a passion for improving the health and well-being of girls, teamwork and determination and you to can deliver your own Mini Mermaid programme!
We are SUPER proud of them all!
Ni allwn aros am yr un nesaf!
In the past week, Youth Sport Trust, Sport England and the Islington PESSPA have released powerful reports that explore the intersection of children’s emotional, mental and physical well-being. Common themes among the reports:
We chose to introduce Mini Mermaid and Young Tritons Running Club UK in 2015 based on the belief that a 360 approach to the whole child would have lasting impact; our curriculum includes group discussion, journal work, games and workouts that engage the head, heart and body.
Mini Mermaids works with girls on their self-esteem, sense of self worth and instills a love of movement. As seen in recent reports, 96% of girls do not take part in any physical activity by the age of 14. Among 7-11 years old, girls cite a lack of confidence as a key factor. According to Youth Sport Trust, lack of physical activity among girls leads to poor mental health and low aspirations. Amongst our Mini Mermaids, we see an increase in confidence, resilience and adoption of movement that translates into all aspects of their everyday lives.
Young Tritons inspires every boy to become emotionally and physically balanced through self-compassion, empathy, cooperation, and a broadened definition of strength. In the UK, according to Young Minds, suicide is the most common cause of death among boys age 5-19. Our Young Tritons learn the value of conversations and truly listening to each other, while experiencing a different type of teamwork, built on support rather than competition.
We welcome the ongoing research and dialogue by these reports and other organisations. We know, and this growing body of research emphasises, the benefits of physical activity on mental, physical and emotional health. However, it is not necessarily linear. It is all interconnected, requiring a collective focus on all the levers - earlier and more in depth. It must happen before girls drop out of physical activity and their sense of self worth is lost and before boys find themselves in a place where they can’t express their emotions or have the emotional resilience to combat their sense of failure.
This is why we are proud to play a grassroots role in positively impacting children aged 7-11 and then to offer further support to teenagers. The anecdotal evidence that we collect from children, parents and school teachers shows the positive impact of our programmes. We welcome the opportunity to contribute to future research and initiatives by the Youth Sport Trust, Sport England and Islington PESSPA.
We’re well into our autumn programmes and I’ve had such a time getting to know so many of our tribes. Whether at schools and community centres, at 5km challenges or out and about at events and volunteer fairs, I feel like I walk away a bit smarter and more conscious of how our young people navigate their worlds.
One story really got to me. A Mini Mermaid came up to me to tell me about a Siren moment that she had had. While at the top of a waterslide, she was so frightened that she didn’t go down it. Meanwhile, her younger cousin did.
I asked when she heard her Siren voice. 'When I was scared at the top,' she said. I wanted to explore this a bit more to understand what she meant. It’s ok to be scared; I needed to make sure she knew that. To be scared isn’t 'Siren'. It’s a natural instinct that’s valid and real.
After a bit more chatting, she told me how she felt after she didn’t go down the waterslide. She felt ‘annoyed and cross with myself and babyish because my younger cousin went down.’
Ok, that’s Siren.
We spent some time working through it. Her Mini Mermaid voice was actually the one at the top of the slide telling her that she wasn’t ready to go down and that it was ok, and probably pretty smart, to make that decision.
We all experience fears and worries. Sometimes though, I think we let being scared turn into shame for being afraid. In reality, being scared and worried is ok; it can take courage and strength to stand up and say ‘I’m not doing that because I am not comfortable with it and I am scared.'
It's the conversations like this that make me determined to bring our programme to more areas in the UK. And as always, we couldn't do it without the support of our volunteers, supporters and the schools and communities with which we work. To all of you, thank you, for helping us create opportunities to have conversations like the one above and help a young girl, and many girls and boys like her, distinguish among a ton of emotions and understand their true voices. #highfins #ittakesatribe