Playing sport in your youth is not just great for your health and social development, it can also aid your career as an adult, according to a new report.
The Imagination Gap report commissioned by Atlassian, in partnership with the AFL Women’s League, aims to start a conversation on the strong link between team sports, role models and leadership success, while also addressing the gender gaps in boys and girls dropping out of team sports before adulthood.
It highlights the need for more female role models to bridge ‘the imagination gap’, a gap it says occurs when girls and women can’t see enough women succeeding in male dominated areas, like sport.
Indeed, it highlights one very good example where the increased visibility of role models has dramatically increased women’s participation: women’s AFL. Since the introduction of the women’s national league, women’s participation in the sport has increased a massive 30%, with a 76% increase in female teams across the country following the inaugural season. As Nicole Livingstone, the Head of Women’s Football at the AFL puts it: “If girls can see role models at the elite and leadership level, they are more likely to believe they too, can make it.”
According to the survey of 1000 respondents, 82% of Australian directors and senior managers said they played teams sports in their youth, and 95% of Australians believe such involvement helps develop key skills for future leadership.
The research also found 80% of respondents believe team sports contributed to them building a strong work ethic, and 78% say such involvement helped to build their competitive edge in the workplace.
Unfortunately though, women are dropping out of team sports at a higher rate than men, according to figures cited in the research. Just 34% of women continue paying teams sports into their adult years, compared with 50% of men.
Atlassian’s head of global diversity & inclusion, Aubrey Blanche, said team environments can help create safe spaces for girls to stretch themselves and grow among their peers. “[It’s] where they can build confidence and resilience. Skills which we know are vital for success in the workplace,” she said.
“Encouraging girls to participate in teams – whether it’s sport, scouts, debating or whatever else piques their imagination – will help develop these critical skills and foster our next generation of leaders.”