Leading the way for young women in sport

15th May 2024

As our first Young Women in Sport leadership programme enters its final stages, Kirsty Stewart, our Partnership Development Lead in Physical Activity & Sport, shares how we have supported young women so far.

We are currently in the eighth month of our Young Women in Sport leadership programme, which provides a year of mentoring to women aged 18 to 24 working in the sport sector.

Our programme has been tried, tested and developed by young women, with the core aim of increasing the confidence, self-belief and support and social networks of participants. Only one in five chief executives of our sport governing bodies and just over a quarter of coaches are women.[1] Ultimately, we want to support more women into leadership roles across sport in Scotland, equipping them with essential leadership and mentoring skills by placing mental health and wellbeing at the heart of their practice.

This has been an exciting year so far, and I feel so proud to oversee this programme and watch our participants grow and develop, personally and as a group.

How does the programme support young women?

Our brilliant mentors, trained by SAMH and sportscotland, range from athletes and coaches to PE teachers and sport governing body staff. As well as more formal events on the programme, participants have the chance to regularly connect with their mentors for additional support and guidance.

In the first six months of the programme, our 40 mentors and young women took part in several online taught sessions. The young women have so far received four of their five online sessions, focusing on:

  • maintaining wellbeing
  • identity
  • coping with and controlling stress
  • resilience.

They are also hard at work completing their Adult Achievement Awards, which will see every young woman who completes the programme receive an SVQF award from Newbattle College.

Celebrating our first six months

In March we celebrated the halfway point of the programme by gathering all our mentors, mentees, partners at Scottish Women in Sport and representatives from Scottish Government at an event in Edinburgh.

We heard from Aileen Neilson (Paralympic bronze medallist, wheelchair curler and Scottish Disability Sport board member) and Maureen McGonigle (Chief Executive of Scottish Women in Sport) on their journeys through the sporting world. Aileen said: “It was a great opportunity to hear about the work being done to encourage, inspire and support young women. Through various questions, I was able to share my journey in sport and the role many females played in my curling career. It was also a valuable chance for the mentees to chat to each other, sharing their stories, their successes and the challenges they face.”

In the afternoon we took part in “come and try” sessions to enjoy a taste of less well-known types of sport and physical activity, like Boccia, a Paralympic sport similar to bowls, and a Highland dance-inspired fitness workout – a bit like Scottish Zumba, and just as fun!

Our young women’s achievements

The day was full of new activities and energy, but it was also the perfect opportunity to reflect on the impact we have already had. One young woman has increased her confidence so much since the start of the programme that she is now going to spend the summer at Camp Canada, another has been put forward for an award at university due to her work on the programme and a third is looking to create resources for officials in her sport to support their mental health and wellbeing.

We are currently in the process of evaluating this programme and seeking funding sources with the hope we can launch a new cohort of Young Women in Sport by next year to support more future leaders. The young women in this programme are already doing amazing things, and the next four months are shaping up to be just as inspiring and empowering – watch this space!

The Young Women in Sport Leadership Programme is delivered in partnership with Scottish Women in Sport and is funded by the Scottish Government (Active Scotland).