True leadership knows no age

How young people can develop their confidence through sport

Sport gives young people unique opportunities to develop not only their sporting ability but also their leadership skills and, in turn, their confidence. Here we investigate the roles sport offers to young people and the mutual benefits gained from the experience.  

What makes a great leader? Is it excellent communication skills? Is it confidence and expertise? Or is it the ability to motivate and convince others? Most strong leaders have a combination of all these qualities, separating them from the crowd and encouraging others to look to them for direction.

But one thing is certain — a leader is not defined by age, and embracing young people as leaders can drive innovation and productivity.

Supporting young people as leaders is a priority

It’s sportscotland’s ambition to develop a legacy of confident, knowledgeable and experienced young people who, throughout their life in sport, will strengthen the sporting system and benefit from the role that sport plays in their life. Supporting young people as leaders is a priority and we want young people to embrace the opportunities in sport to help them on their leadership journey.

Leadership qualities

Taking initiative, mobilising support and setting a positive example are all recognised leadership qualities and we know that sport provides endless opportunities to develop these skills.

Five steps to successful, confident, responsible and effective

Jacqueline Lynn, Head of Schools and Communities at sportscotland, told us: “We want to help young people be the successful, confident, responsible and effective individuals that Scotland needs. We’ve developed a set of five principles to support the sports sector in ensuring that young people have multiple opportunities to develop as leaders in sport.”

These five principles are:

1. A recognised role

Young people’s contribution as leaders in sport is meaningful and important, and this is accepted by the sports sector. In return, the sector gives them responsibility to play a key role in sport and its development. 

2. A positive experience

Young people have a positive experience of being involved in leadership roles in sport. They gain from each opportunity personally – developing new skills and attributes to benefit them in life and work.


3. A wide range of options

Within sport, young people have access to a wide range of leadership roles and opportunities. They can then choose to sustain or further progress these throughout their lives and into adulthood. 

4. A valued voice

Young people’s views are heard and valued across the sector. Young people and their views influence decision-making and drive change. 

5. A world of support

Young people are encouraged, supported and mentored by the right people to reach their potential in their sport leadership roles. 

These five principles are then put into action across the five key leadership opportunities:

  • Decision makers
  • Event and competition organisers
  • Deliverers and coaches
  • Technical officials
  • Ambassadors

Together, these roles and principles ensure that effective leadership is more than a title — it’s an approach to engaging with people to achieve a positive outcome. 

By listening to young people and working with partners, together, we will deliver a coherent local and national provision for young people as leaders in sport. We know that true leadership knows no age.

Here are two examples from our local authority partners of young leaders in action.

Young leaders in action: The Borders

Graeme Murdoch, Active Schools Manager, Borders Sport & Leisure, said: “We run a year-long Young Coach Programme in which we provide mentoring and education for 24 young people.

“Participants finish with a minimum of a UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC) Level 1 or equivalent in a sport of their choice, which helps to provide sustainable coaching for the future.

“So far, 54 young people have completed the programme, offering over 3,000 volunteering hours to support school and community sport.”

Young leaders in action: Argyll & Bute

Nicola Hackett, Active Schools Manager, Argyll & Bute Council, said: “We provide support for young leaders in primary and secondary schools and it’s having a real impact.

“For example, 15 Young Leaders from St Andrew’s RC Primary School on the Isle of Bute have helped increase their schools’ participation rates in extracurricular activities to 83% in just one year. 

“In eight secondary schools, 88 pupils attended the annual Sports Leaders Conference. They’re now deployed within school and community clubs, which is key to increasing participation.”

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