Using sport to develop leadership skills.

Written by Natalie Doyle

October 2, 2023

A female football coach walking alone on a football pitch carrying a bag of footballs

We’ve recently taken on a new project, which provides excellent leadership opportunities for girls. It’s got me reflecting on what a powerful tool sport can be in developing leadership skills. I’ve seen some fantastic ways that sports clubs have done this and I thought I’d use this week’s blog to share some of them with you.

  1. Give the girls a chance to help. A simple way to develop the leadership skills of the girls you’re working with could be to give them the chance to help set up for the session, or take the warm up. It requires very little additional work on your part but starts to sow the seeds on how they can take on a leadership role. Be available to answer any questions they have whilst they’re preparing, and stay close by for support, but also let them take the lead and try out new ideas.
  2. Introduce a leadership programme. If you’re feeling more ambitious, then why not look at introducing a leadership programme? I’ve seen many clubs do this really well. They provide volunteering opportunities, give funding towards coaching or refereeing courses and mentor their young coaches and referees. Once you’ve had some young people come through the leadership programme, they can become mentors for future cohorts, providing a steady stream of young people into volunteering roles.
  3. Find out their strengths and interests. Many might be interested in coaching or refereeing, but do any of your potential young leaders have other skills or interests? Perhaps they want to work in marketing or social media? Perhaps they want to be a YouTuber so could they develop their leadership skills by leading a YouTube project? Get to know the young people you’re working with and understand their motivations, and you’ll be able to find ways to both develop their skills and provide additional support for your club.
  4. Create a safe environment. Make sure that your young leaders understand that it’s ok to fail, or for things to not go exactly as they planned. Create an environment where making mistakes is ok, and give them the confidence to try new ideas. If you want to learn more about building confidence, we have a blog post on this subject too. Creating an environment where young people feel safe to make mistakes will open up a multitude of possibilities for your club and the young people you’re working with.
  5. Talk to the other adults in their life. Parents, grandparents, teachers – the more people you can involve in developing young people, the more joined up the approach will be. Talk to them about what you’re doing at the club and why. Encourage them to talk to you about what the young people in their care are doing at school, what their interests are, what they need support with. Work together to provide the best support and development network for those young people.

What ways have you and your club used to develop leadership skills through sport? What have the benefits been? As always, I’d love to hear your stories so please get in touch or comment on social media.

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