If a coach supports you then a great coach empowers you. Vancouver’s Ashley Wiles is one of those coaches. She combined her passion for running and coaching into a network support group for preteen girls called Sole Girls.
Her dedication was recently recognized with the Brooks Running 2016 Inspiring Coach of the Year award. Wiles beat out 12 other finalists across Canada and USA for the award. In addition to a trophy, Sole Girls receive $10,000 in Brooks performance gear and $2,500 cash to further their goals.
The Sole Girls program is focused on teaching life skills through running, an experience Wiles herself holds dear to her heart as it helped her through her own preteen angst, awkwardness and anxiety. As a community-driven empowerment group for girls aged 8 to 12, it teaches “confidence, self-expression, self-esteem through running and fun active games”. As a platform for youngsters to build confidence and improve health, it tackles intertwining needs with one solution: running.
We chatted with Ashley Wiles about her running program:
How did you get drawn to running as a personal outlet and how has it benefited your life?
I started running because my mom and grandpa were runners and they were always entering events and I thought it was neat to try because it looked fun. But what I got out of it was much more personal success, mental freedom and just feeling good. In my life it has opened space for me to pursue my dreams, make amazing friends and deal with my anxiety.
What motivated you to start a running program for pre-teen girls?
In 2012 a girl named Amanda Todd posted a video of being bullied and depression, and it went viral. She committed suicide and she was only 15. I realized that girls need help, and more people than we think are dealing with mental and physical health struggles. I remember being that age.
30 was Epic. I PB’d my second Ironman, went to 70.3 World Champtionships, travelled (happily) with my mom, climbed the highest peak of Panama, sat my 3rd Vipassana, Learned hard business lessons and refound my mojo, I took new opportunities and risks, I trusted more, let go of more, let in more, I got injured & started the recovery process but cheered harder, supported deeper especially when I couldn’t compete, I’ve also had my first DNF but made it into something fun. I was Impact Magazine’s top 5 motivators in Canada and I’ve been featured in the @VancouverSun, @womensrunningmagazine Magazine, and local newspapers. I brought over 350 girls, boys, parents and community members together for a 2nd Year at Sole Awesome celebrating #mentalhealth and FUN physical activity. I’ve spent 3 years working hard for a movement that is change lives @solegirls and started a boys program @sole4boys. I rang in my birthday with the most epic party last weekend in Seattle by winning North America’s Most Inspiring Coach by @brooksrunning and I felt like a celebrity CinderEva with the golden shoe surrounded by my amazing team and then we shook it off in the @runrocknroll Seattle the next day. Today I attempted triple crown (3 mountains 1 day), but atop peak #2 it started to pour and I realized that apart from getting stronger this year, I’ve also become wiser and that it’s smarter to let go of things and stay healthy than hold on and get hurt. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to every single person that I’ve had to opportunity to talk to, to love, to connect with, to collaborate with, to support, to learn from. If I’ve learned 1 thing of being 30 is that life is just moments. short moments all added up together. Some are good, some feel awful, some are scary, some are hurtful, some feel like winning the lottery but they just come and go and then keep coming. How I spend them, and who i spend them with is the magic. ✨✨ You guys… I think I’ve found my happy pace… ????
What sort of success have you seen with your Sole Girls program?
We have had over 600 girls through our programming and recently started a boys program. We run 12 locations around the Lower Mainland and continuing to grow. We empower coaches with tools to empower tweens to stay in sports and be mentors. We were a Top 5 small business in BC with a community impact in 2014.
Is there one overarching important aspect of overall health and wellness?
What’s the key to empowerment as a life coach?
It really depends on the individual, everyone is going through their own story and has ups and downs and we all need a little bit of support to help us clear away the distractions and focus on what is going to make us feel good and feel successful.
Advice for young girls dealing with negativity or body shaming?
You are not alone. Everyone is dealing with something, and taking the first step towards loving yourself might just be that look in the mirror. Find one thing that makes you awesome, and start there, focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t.
Interview by Amar Mirchandani @amarmirch