Don’t you love that moment when you look up from your laptop and see that your kids have figured out how to scale the outside of the staircase using ropes and harnesses…
….wait, that doesn’t happen at your house?…
My kids love to climb, my daughter in particular. If she, alongside her brother, isn’t rigging climbing gear inside, she’s finding the best climbing trees outside.
There’s the part of me that wants to shout 'be careful, don’t go so high.' But there’s a BIGGER part of me that says 'higher...HIGHER!' whilst thinking about Beah Richards wonderful book, Keep Climbing, Girls.
She’s approaching the age where her confidence could begin to decline. Where elements of society can influence in a negative way what she feels about her image, her body, her intelligence.
I simply won’t let that happen.
According to a YPulse study conducted by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, until the age of 8, boys and girls are equally confident. But between ages 8-14, girls’ confidence drops 30% more than boys.
Without this confidence, girls stop taking healthy risks. Society rewards them for being 'perfect.' Therefore, failure is not an option. The same study found that the proportion of girls who say they are not allowed to fail rises from 18 to 45 percent from the ages of 12 to 13.
So to avoid failure, they avoid risk. Yet, the very process of trying, failing and trying again is how we grow. Confidence is cumulative. A study by EY and espnW said that of the women who held C-Suite positions, 94 percent engaged in some kind of sport when they were young, but the study noted that 'as long as there is a move outside of a girl’s comfort zone, and a process of struggle and mastery, confidence will usually be the result.' As in, they used sport and physical activity to practice, trying, failing, trying again and then mastering which grew confidence.
Like many others, we cheered when we heard the eagerly awaited news that the government would extend the PE and Sport Premium Funding in primary schools for 2020/2021. Within the language of the news, we repeatedly saw the words “wellbeing” and “mental health,” and a celebration of mental, emotional and physical benefits of activity. It helps young people with anxiety and depression. It builds resilience. It creates opportunities for self-expression, building self-confidence, social interaction and integration.
And more importantly, for girls, it creates much needed opportunities to proactively address inactivity before girls start to lose their self-confidence. This loss of confidence results in girls stopping any type of physical activity before they even leave primary school. This lack of participation in physical activity has a negative impact on girls aspirations and self-esteem later in life (Youth Sports Trust).
In Mini Mermaids, we work with girls age 7-11, using running as its simplicity makes it accessible to everyone. That said, Mini Mermaids isn’t about helping schools create ‘RUNNERS!’ Rather, we want girls to discover a safe environment where they can explore different types of movement.
Running, in all its various forms, acts as the conduit through which girls experience the joy of being active and feel the connection between movement and well-being and push themselves outside of their comfort zones. They get sweaty, they get wet and in some cases they get muddy. They get frustrated when it’s hard, and excited when it becomes easier.
Moving for 5 minutes becomes moving for 10 minutes. 10 minutes become 20. 20 becomes completing a 5km challenge. Completing a 5km becomes “I’m going to stick with that tricky science or maths problem even though it’s hard because I know I can do it.” It’s confidence. It’s resilience. It’s self-esteem.
When I see my daughter reaching for a particularly high branch in a tree, or attempt a tricky problem when she is climbing, or even when she is struggling with a maths problem my heart beats with fear. The thoughts of ‘what if she falls, what if she fails’ rattle around my brain.
But then I see the sense of pride and confidence in her whole body when she reaches the branch, or completes the climbing problem or gets the maths problem. Or, if she doesn’t get those things on that particular day, I see a flash of defeat, followed by a set look of determination as she vows to herself to give it another go.
That’s what I want her to harness throughout her life, to understand that the knocks and setbacks do not define her, they are a part of her story and what shapes her as does her determination, confidence and pride. So I will keep telling her to climb higher, keep reaching, keep trying, keep falling and to be unashamedly proud of herself.
Recently, I shared that we were working on a way that we could continue to bring our Mini Mermaid programme to girls during these unprecedented times. I’m happy to say that, in working with Nicky Adams and her team at Full of Beans Fitness, we’re now able to offer Mini Mermaids at Home, an online experience that combines our fun curriculum with a wealth of online activities from Full of Beans Fitness.
Wait….what?! A running club? Online?
Absolutely. At our core, we’ve always been about helping young girls discover and embrace physical activity as well as mindfulness practices. We want to engage those girls at risk of stopping physical activity, by creating a fun, judgement-free environment, in which girls feel safe exploring different types of movement.
As part of that, we want to help girls understand, acknowledge and manage how they’re feeling, be kind to themselves in that moment, and consider how physical activity can play a role in that process. This is so important, now more than ever. It's hard when life changes and there's a new reality to navigate. No school. No access to friends. No certainty. It's frustrating, a bit frightening, and tiring.
As a community, country and world, these feelings of anxiety and uncertainty can be overwhelming. This is why we want to be able to help girls and their families to navigate through these feelings, along with supporting our community to stay active.
So alongside the team at Full Of Beans Fitness, we are launching Mini Mermaids at Home. It’s Mini Mermaids with a twist! We are really looking forward to working with Full of Beans as we manage this new world that we are living in. You can find all the details on how to sign up here or email Corrie@fullofbeansfitness.co.uk for dates and availability.
Hope you and all of yours are staying safe.
MINI MERMAID DANCE PILOT TO LAUNCH THIS SPRING, THROUGH GRANT FROM THE HILL DICKINSON FOUNDATION and THE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION FOR MERSEYSIDE
At Mini Mermaids, we’ve always said that we’re not out to create “RUNNERS!”
Ok, maybe we don’t yell it.
But we’re not out to create “runners.”
What we have always wanted is for girls, particularly those who might shy away from any type of physical activity, to discover the joy of moving their bodies, feel confident doing it and experience how it impacts their overall well-being.
We started with running and its various forms; the simplicity makes it accessible to everyone. But we’ve always envisioned branching out and creating new programmes that incorporate different types of physical activity.
Today, our vision became one massive step closer to reality, thanks to a generous grant from the Hill Dickinson Foundation, on behalf of the firm’s Leeds office, and the Community Foundation for Merseyside .
At the core of the Mini Mermaid ethos is physical activity combined with mindfulness practices to help strengthen a girl’s self-esteem, self-confidence and self-compassion. With this grant, we plan to take these powerful tenets and to pilot the Mini Mermaid Dance Programme, a natural progression of our running-based curriculum. We will start the programmes in Leeds later this year.
Much like running, dance has proven to positively impact physical, mental and emotional confidence. In fact, an Arts & Health research paper titled, ‘The effects of recreational dance interventions on the health and well-being of children and young people’ found that among 5-12 year olds, dance not only improved cardiovascular fitness and bone health of children and young people but also that dance has the power to improve how a child views themselves and reduces anxiety. The mind/body connection is evident in many cultures who use dance as therapy to strengthen this connection.
We’ll have more details later this year as we develop and activate the programme. But we wanted to publicly thank the wonderful team at Hill Dickinson Leeds and the Community Foundation for Merseyside for making this programme a reality.
High Fins to the entire team.
4 December 2019 - Mini Mermaid Running Club, set to launch in Hull in Spring 2020, will offer 15 funded programmes, made possible through a generous grant from the Jane Tomlison Appeal.
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. Mini Mermaid Running Club provide a grassroots antidote to this challenge, creating a safe, fun environment in which girls can experience the emotional, mental and physical benefits of physical activity.
“The support from Jane Tomlinson Appeal enable us to deliver our very timely and very relevant programmes to help primary-aged girls preserve their self-worth and value,” said Hannah Corne, executive director of MIni Mermaid Running Club UK. “By combining mindfulness with physical activity, our proven curriculum strengthens a girl’s self-confidence, self-esteem and self-compassion before it starts to decline, starting at age 8.”
Mini Mermaid Running Club provides schools with ready-to-activate programmes, including a full resource kit and 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 programmes include themed discussions, journal work, games and structured workouts and culminates with a 5km challenge. Throughout the programme, Mini Mermaids work to discover and understand what underlying things make a girl say “I can’t” and change the discussion to ‘I can.’ This develops a power within each girl that shows her just how strong she can be.
Vicki Robinson, Manager of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal, said: “The launch of Mini Mermaids in Hull brings this empowering experience to school age girls in this community and we’re thrilled to provide the funding, thanks to our fantastic fundraisers.
“The Jane Tomlinson Appeal is committed to supporting young children and their physical, emotional and mental well-being; Mini Mermaids delivers this and more to the communities in which they work and we are proud to work alongside them.”
Interested in activating one of these funded programmes in your schools? We'd love to hear from you.
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.