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Young girls today have quite a few options to choose from when deciding which sport they wish to dedicate their time and effort to, particularly regarding sports that have traditionally been reserved for boys. While the number of girls in sport is growing and the gender gap is getting smaller, there is still a noticeable absence of women in sport leadership positions. There are many factors that have led to this lack of representation and one way to address this issue is to focus on teaching leadership skills to girls starting at a young age.

“Youth leaders [are] individuals who think for themselves, communicate their thoughts and feelings to others, and help others understand and act on their own beliefs.” – The Power to Lead: A Leadership Model for Adolescent Girls

Studies have shown that girls can learn many skills through sport, most notably those that directly affect their ability to lead. Of course, the more skills they acquire at a young age, the better equipped they will be when moving on from youth into adulthood.

Self-esteem and decision-making – Part of becoming a leader means assuming the responsibility of making decisions that will impact you or your team, and then having the determination to stick to that decision when challenged. When a girl develops competence in her skills, it positively impacts self-esteem and leads to that girl confidently sharing that expertise with others.

Persevere through failure – We all know that we can’t win every game or competition. The best leaders learn how to handle failure (and success) gracefully, learn from setbacks, and make a plan moving forward. An extension of this is learning resilience, keeping motivated after a loss, or even more difficult, through a series of losses; to keep pushing and improving, while eventually coming out better than before.

Mentorship opportunities – As girls progress to higher levels of skill within their sport, they can keep younger members of the team accountable for their actions and show them first-hand how their performance affects the rest of the team. Senior girls can be encouraged to be available to provide guidance to novices, on and off the playing field.

Practice confident communication – Participating in individual and team sport introduces girls to a wide variety of people. This includes fellow team members, opposing athletes, coaches, officials, parents, and judges. Positive and respectful interactions with peers and authority figures help to develop important social skills through praise, encouragement, and collaboration as well as through constructive criticism.

Girls with leadership potential don’t become leaders overnight. It’s up to the existing people in their lives, coaches, parents, etc., to guide the next generation and help them explore their capabilities in order to build the future leaders we want to see.

References from the SIRC Collection:

Glenn S, Horn T. Psychological and personal predictors of leadership behavior in female soccer athletes. Journal Of Applied Sport Psychology. March 1993;5(1):17-34.

Litchfield C. Gender and leadership positions in recreational hockey clubs. Sport In Society. January 2015;18(1):61-79.

Martel J. Developing Female Leadership in the Canadian Sport System: Recommendations for High-Level Sport Organizations. Canadian Journal For Women In Coaching. July 2007;7(3):1-7.

Mazerolle S, Burton L, Cotrufo R. The Experiences of Female Athletic Trainers in the Role of the Head Athletic Trainer. Journal Of Athletic Training (Allen Press). January 2015;50(1):71-81.

Morris E, Arthur-Banning S, McDowell J. Career Strategies of Millennial Generation Female Assistant Coaches. Journal Of Intercollegiate Sport. December 2014;7(2):175-197.

Taylor J. The impact of the ‘Girls on the Move’ Leadership Programme on young female leaders’ self-esteem. Leisure Studies. January 2014;33(1):62-74.

Contributed by Michelle Caron

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.