Inspiring Leadership Through Sport

To know what truly makes a great leader you need to ask one.

Turns out, 74 percent of C-suite business women believe that their athletic endeavors developed their leadership muscle, attributing skills that they learned through sports—communication, problem-solving, confidence and resilience—as critical to driving their achievements in business.

Surprised? We’re not and that’s why we’re committed to our belief that play changes everything.

The Facts

  • Active girls aim higher on and off the field. Active girls are more attentive students, they retain more of what they learn and they do better on standardized tests.
  • The extra confidence, support of a team and work ethic earned while participating in sports positions young women to be more appealing candidates with more opportunities to succeed, earning nearly 10 percent more income than their inactive peers.
  • Girls report increased leadership skills (54%) as one of the top benefits of staying in sports.
  • 94% of C-suite women participated in sports at some point in their life—the majority (52%) played at the collegiate level.

Leadership in Action

Play Like a Girl builds a supportive sisterhood of coaches, teammates and role models who help develop the traits needed to succeed and lead, particularly in male-dominated careers in STEM and sports. We’re honored to share some of the stories of how sport and physical activity are preparing girls today to become leaders tomorrow.

Imisi, age 8

Imisi recently attended the Camp on Ice with the Nashville Predators. When asked about the benefits of Play Like a Girl, Iyanu, Imisi’s brother, states, “Women don’t get as many chances as men and they don’t get the same pay, so this is a chance to make a difference.”

As for Imisi herself, “I learned that you may fall but with practice you will get somewhere.” What a sentiment for hockey and for life!

Alana, age 10

Alana has been a part of multiple Play Like a Girl programs and events--most recently, our ice skating event with the Predators. When asked what she enjoyed most about the panel discussion by women employees in the Preds organization, Alana states, “I liked hearing about their jobs because I didn’t know about them.”

Alana’s mom echoes that sentiment, believing the long-term impact of Play Like a Girl will be that, “It lets her [Alana] see women in powerful roles in the sports industry.”

Jasmine, age 11

Jasmine also attended the panel hosted by the Nashville Predators. Her biggest takeaway was that, “Women can have the chance to do what they want in their careers.” And what does Jasmine want for her future? “To run track and later become a doctor,” she says.

Smarnunt, Jasmine’s mom, doesn’t want her daughter’s participation with Play Like a Girl to end with one event. She wants her to learn even more about STEM as well as have more “exposure to women speaking about their careers in sports.”

Lydia, age 8

Lydia came bursting through the doors at the Ford Ice Center last July, excited about learning to ice skate. Her mom, Melissa, is a big proponent of encouraging her daughter to step outside her comfort zone and try new things so that's exactly what she did.

Melissa states, “I currently coach youth sports and try to instill confidence and strong work ethic in my players. I see some girls who don’t feel confident or have anxiety. Sports can help them overcome those issues and change their lives.”

As evidenced by these short stories, girls who participate in sports learn a number of skills that can help them fulfill leadership roles in adulthood.

[bctt tweet="“When given some voice in their own participation, girls practice making timely decisions, recovering from failure, coordinating team members and setting and keeping schedules—just to name a few,” said Dr. Marlene Dixon, professor of sport management at Texas A&M University. “These are all valuable leadership skills that can be transferred to other realms of their life.”" username="iplaylikeagirl"]

If you want to help your girl gain transferable leadership skills, find a Sports Club or STEM Camp today! Or, Get Involved in our mission by partnering, fundraising, volunteering or donating.


Inspiring Confidence Through Sport

Girls today are up against some tough opponents—access, exposure, self-perception— trying to keep them sidelined, in sport and in life. Luckily we have the playbook to change that and it all starts with inspiring confidence.

The Facts

  • Ongoing participation in sports and physical activity is a high contributor to confidence in girls, and provides valuable skills to help them stay confident.
  • The strong connections made through sport help girls discover positive ways to combat emotional pressures, which helps them to develop a stronger sense of confidence and broader range of social skills that reduce their likelihood of smoking, becoming pregnant at an early age or using drugs.
  • The extra confidence, support of a team and work ethic earned while participating in sports positions young women to be more appealing candidates with more opportunities to succeed, earning nearly 10% more income than their inactive peers.

Our Girls in Action

Play Like a Girl builds a supportive sisterhood of coaches, teammates and role models to build our girls’ confidence on and off the field of play. There’s nothing like witnessing a girl find that spark of confidence for the first time, and we’re honored to share just some of the stories of how sport and physical activity are changing girls’ lives across the country.

Trinity, age 10

Trinity and her family drove three hours to attend Play Like a Girl's Softball Skills Clinic with the Nashville Sounds and Camp on Ice with the Nashville Predators.

When asked about the benefits of Play Like a Girl, Deloria, Trinity’s mother, states, “I believe it helps with character development and confidence building. Girls are often overlooked in sports. They are not given the same opportunities as boys despite their talent and skill. I want her [Trinity] to take the lessons she learns here and teach others. As a young woman, I want her to be able to empower other girls.”

Trinity plans to do just that, “I’m thinking about becoming a doctor.” And she’s thankful Play Like a Girl gives her the opportunity to try new sports “like rugby,” which helps her develop the grit and teamwork she needs in and out of the game.

Ella, age 13

Ella attended Camp on Ice with the Nashville Predators and has previously attended Play Like a Girl's Game Changers Camp with Google & Gatorade. She loves the camps: “They help teach girls that 'playing like a girl' is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

[bctt tweet="Ella's mother, Tamara, agrees, “Play Like a Girl provides the girls new experiences and exposure. It opens their eyes to new possibilities in all areas—especially careers in STEM and sports.”" username="@iplaylikeagirl"]

When asked about her future, Ella says “I want to have my own business and it’s important to have confidence to be able to do that.”

Lydia, age 8

Lydia attended the Play Like a Girl Camp on Ice with the Nashville Predators and her sister has previously participated in a softball camp.

They both loved the experience and their mom, Melissa, states, “Play Like a Girl encourages my daughters to step outside their comfort zone. Long term, I hope they never feel alone and embarrassed to be strong. I grew up being the only girl in some sports and even college classes, but it never bothered me because my parents raised me to be confident mentally and physically.”

These are just a few stories about how play is impacting the girls we serve at Play Like a Girl.

If you want to level the playing field for your girl, find a Sports Club or STEM Camp today! Or, Get Involved in our mission by partnering, fundraising, volunteering or donating.


Closing The Dream Gap

Research shows that gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children's interests over the longterm. The average age that girls stop thinking they can be and do anything is six years old. That's when girls become less likely than boys to see themselves as "really, really smart."

This phenomenon is called the 'Dream Gap' and it stands between every girl and her full potential. It runs the gamut for girls and women around the world--from being unable to identify as very intelligent to being far less likely to picture their future selves as scientists, engineers or working in any STEM career role -- even when girls outperform boys in math and science.

The erosion of girls' confidence and self-esteem is well underway at age six, and they cannot imagine the possibility of anything else. Dreaming is the key to a future in which more than 80% of jobs are STEM-related.

The Dream Gap not only robs girls of their ability to value themselves but it takes away their ability to imagine new possibilities, explore new worlds and think new thoughts, which is what makes innovation and new breakthroughs possible.

How do we keep our girls dreaming? We keep them playing according to Mattel, the maker of Barbie.

The richest forms of play can help girls imagine themselves as athletes, scientists, coders, engineers, mathematicians or anything.

For nearly 60 years, Barbie has led girls on a path to self-discovery and helped them to imagine the possibilities. This type of play has the power to close the Dream Gap.

At Play Like a Girl, we're seizing this opportunity to harness the natural properties of sport (or active play) to propel young women into male-dominated careers--especially at the intersection of STEM and sports.

We envision a world where all girls have the confidence and opportunity to become unstoppable women. Let's inspire the next generation by showing them that they can be and do anything they can imagine.


Beyond Innovation

Over 2.8 million STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs are expected to go unfilled this year alone and those filled won't be filled by women. While women continue to make gains across the broader economy, they remain underrepresented in STEM jobs and among STEM degree holders--just like in sports.

Though numbers are growing, only 27% of all students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the United States are female. The gender gap only grows worse from there: Just 18% of American computer-science college degrees go to women. And that's in the U.S., where many college men proudly self-identify as "male feminists" and girls are taught they can be anything they want to be.

Advancing gender parity in the workplace requires that we start early and design programs to tap into the potential of young women to contribute further in this vital sector. Middle school girls in Nashville are learning STEM lessons through the context of sport thanks to our programs at Play Like a Girl. They also are mentored by professionals whose day-to-day work crosses the lines of STEM and sports.

To do this work, we're continually developing our knowledge and partnerships through experiences like Beyond Innovation 2018 which brought together 200 global leaders from across the sports, tech, nonprofit, education, business, entertainment and development landscape, to create innovative cross-sector partnerships that use the global appeal of sport to advance STEM.

Former NASA astronaut and the first woman of color to go into space, Dr. Mae Jemison reminded us that we all have a responsibility to be beneficial to society as we are all connected and have all the answers we need to solve the world's problems. The renowned physician, engineer, social scientist, entrepreneur and educator suggested that “hands on, hearts on, minds on” is “the best way to teach STEM.” And we agree.