Research Shows Strong Link Between Athleticism And Leadership

Research Shows Strong Link Between

Athleticism And Leadership

Teamwork. Dedication. Character. Leadership. Determination. Who knew that when young girls participate in organized sports, they are learning and developing crucial traits for future success in the corporate world? As athletes, albeit intuitively, they may have known it all along.

Here in the US, the groundbreaking federal law in 1972, commonly known as Title IX, changed everything. It prohibited sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding and mandated gender equality in athletics, among other areas. It is one of the key reasons why women’s athletics participation in high school and college has skyrocketed, increasing by 90 percent (by some estimates) over the past four decades.

The benefits of girls playing sports are diverse and far-reaching. Many studies have highlighted results in lifelong improvements in women’s health, education and careers. Title IX’s requirement of gender equality in athletics not only ensures that young women are not treated as second-class citizens and relegated to the sidelines when it comes to athletics, but has profound, oftentimes life-changing, implications in their lives.

Professional skills development starts very early in kids’ lives, unwittingly, takes place on rain-soaked soccer fields, sun-drenched beaches and the ubiquitously deafening school gyms throughout the academic year.

We can all nostalgically recollect that first character-defining moment, whether it was waking up at half past four on a Saturday morning, for a three-hour car ride, in order to compete in a regional sports competition, or the daily grueling regimen of running mile-after-mile with the hope of winning the cross-country league championship.

So many young girls have long toiled away, sacrificing sleep-overs and parties in order to reach peak fitness levels, and that is clearly evident by our numerous female corporate and heads-of-state leaders. For many of us, much like our predecessors, we have spurned the limitations of traditional professional roles for the opportunity to make the world a better place, and it all started with that first pitch or daunting hill, which we overcame beautifully.


  • PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi played cricket in India and later softball in the US.
  • DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman played college basketball at Tuft’s University.
  • Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played several sports, including basketball, soccer and softball.
  • Mondolez International CEO Irene Rosenfeld was a four-sport athlete in high school and played basketball at Cornell University.
  • Former US National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a competitive figure skater and tennis player.
  • Venus Williams, legendary professional tennis player, founded two companies, V-Starr Interiors (an interior design firm) and EleVen, an athletic clothing line.
  • Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, played volleyball
  • The first female head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, was a member of the French national synchronized swimming team.
  • The co-founder of Marvell Technology Group, Weili Dai, played semi-professional basketball in China.
  • London 2012 marked for the first time in history that each of the 204 participating nations had female athletes competing in the Olympics, including, for the first time, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei.
  • A survey of executive women found that 80% played sports growing up, and 69% said sports helped them develop leadership skills that contributed to their professional success.
  • By 2030, nearly a billion women will enter the economic mainstream. Called the “Third Billion”- the first and second are the populations of China and India- nearly 95% of these women are from emerging economies.
Stephen Doyle

"Steve Doyle, originally from Philadelphia, holds a B.A. Professional Writing from Penn State University. He's a blogger, short-story writer and has created several hundred marketing content pieces for clients such as: JC Ehrlich, Ambius, Henckels & McCoy, DDC Group, Burns Logistics Solutions, Inc., etc. Steve is an award-winning, highly skilled communicator who loves to help get others' stories told in as an engaging manner as possible."

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