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Developing sporting leaders

How the Scottish Sporting Leaders Programme has supported sporting leaders through the changes that Covid-19 has created.

The Scottish Sporting Leaders Programme (SSLP), introduced by sportscotland, is a leadership development programme that was created to develop the leadership skills of Active Schools managers, sports development managers, heads of development and other senior members of staff throughout the country.

However, for the most recent cohort, the journey of the project was interrupted halfway through the programme by the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the dynamic has been a little different.



The first cohort of the SSLP was launched in September 2018, to give participants in the programme a variety of different learning opportunities, each delivered by specialists Ethos Consulting. These opportunities include team workshops, 360-degree feedback process and a personalised learning development programme.

Bruce Milroy of delivery partners Ethos Consulting said;

“The programme creates an environment for the cohort that allows them the space and time to realise that they’re not alone in facing some of the challenges they face every day.”

The programme was designed this way to take into consideration the wide spectrum of organisations in the sporting sector. Stewart Harris, Chief Executive at sportscotland added:

"We believe that world class leadership will help deliver a world class sporting system for everyone and investing in the development of the professional staff within our networks is a priority for us."



While the overall objective of the programme is to help generate higher-skilled leadership capabilities across the Scottish sporting system, each individual is entering the programme with his or her own goals. For many participants, these have been adapted due to the COVID-19 situation. In many ways, the programme became a comfort and a useful network during these trying times. The programme has continued during Covid-19 and the current cohort have maintained online contact between the whole group, sub groups, and individuals.

Adam Szymoszowskyj, National Development Manager of basketballscotland and member of the current cohort, found this a comfort;

“We connect regularly, especially during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown. This was great, to be able to share thoughts and different organisational approaches to the pandemic.”

Another member of the cohort, Jamie Smith, Development Manager at ClimbScotland, agreed this this;

“There is a real mixture of experience and variations of the impact on the sporting sectors. It’s been beneficial to hear how others have approached challenges and their personal reflections of this.”

The group members have all faced widely varying degrees of adversity through Covid-19, all of them in the certain knowledge that they have a group of trusted colleagues, not directly connected to their own sport, who can offer them support and help when they needed it.

Bruce Milroy of Ethos Consulting was clear on how the programme had to adapt to offer a different kind of support for the current cohort;

“The coronavirus pandemic has created multiple situations in our business lives that none of us have ever dealt with before. Whether it’s dealing with the immediate impact of working from home or managing teams from home, or the longer term implications of steering our teams through uncertain times when the future isn’t entirely clear - all of us have been challenged to take on new responsibilities and new personal challenges.”

“The programme has supported sporting leaders to enhance their existing skills and learn entirely new ways to manage through the huge changes that Covid-19 has created. It will create new networks across Scotland, allowing participants to benefit from knowing other leaders who may have a different approach to a similar situation. As a result, the programme sustains a new way of working for us all, bridging gaps and making connections across many of our sporting partners. “



The idea behind the programme is about creating a community of sporting leaders who can share ideas, offer each other support, and challenge each other to perform at an even higher level. It is hoped that each cohort will continue contact with the SSLP network once the programme has come to an end.

This cohort believe they will do this.

Leanne Hillan-Fowler, the Active Schools Manager for North Ayrshire Council believes the unique circumstances will help them to do that;

“The cohort have grown closer throughout the course. Particularly through the Lockdown period. We have experienced a pandemic together, not many people can say that.”

Jamie Smith, Development Manager at ClimbScotland agreed this this;

“Moving forward, I hope that we can all stay connected both in a professional capacity, but also socially and will hopefully have the opportunity to catch up in the future over a coffee.”

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