Changing the game : university sport to develop transformational leadership skills in female student-athletes
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Subjectfemale student-athlete; leadership; sport; transformational leadership; university sport program; women in sport
In collegiate sport in Canada, 24% of athletic directors and only 17% of head coaches are female, with even less female representation across national team and Olympic coaches (CAAWS, 2016). To address this issue of gender inequity in sport leadership, the study explored how a university sport program can lead and support female student-athletes to develop transformational leadership skills. Through a cooperative inquiry inspired approach with a feminist framework, the study gathered the experiences and reflections of seven members of the Mount Saint Vincent University athletics department to find how the university sport program could help female student-athletes learn and practice transformational leadership skills. A thematic analysis of transcribed CI reflection meetings and observation notes found the university sport program helped to develop skills in each component of transformational leadership while combating feminist issues in sport. Organizational culture of the athletics department helped to support and facilitate these opportunities through shared values, athletic leaders, ‘see it to be it’, growth mindset, and believing everyone is a leader. Challenges were faced in the process (time, staying intentional and player load); however, learning environments that included intentional planning (session planning, resources and community events/volunteering) and reflective exploration (self-reflection, debriefing with athletic leaders and group discussions) were found to mitigate the aforementioned challenges. By using university sport programs to more effectively develop female student-athletes into transformational leaders, these women will be better prepared to lead in sport and in society.
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