Leadership is a choice

That's why we choose to integrate leadership development into our academic programming and student-athlete experience.

In 2015, a joint Ernst & Young and EspnW survey found that 94 percent of female C-suite executives were former athletes; and of those, 50 percent played their sport at the collegiate level, and 74 percent believed that a sports background can accelerate a woman’s career.

Inspired by this research — along with research on how girls learn best — Agnes Irwin's Center for the Advancement of Girls and Athletic Department teamed up to create AthLEADs, a leadership development seminar series for student-athletes designed to explore leadership traits that are transferable to the playing fields and in future career pursuits.

Three Reasons Female Athletes Make Great Leaders

Key findings from: Where will you find your next leader? © 2015 EYGM Limited. 

Sports participation helps girls grow up confident

Girls who play sports have greater personal safety and perform better in school.

Sport experience helps young female leaders rise

74% of executive women say a background in sport can help accelerate a women's career.

Sport backgrounds help C-suite leaders succeed

94% of women in the C-suite played a sport and and 52% played at the university level.

AthLEADs Seminar Series at Agnes Irwin

After a year of research and program development, Agnes Irwin’s Center for the Advancement of Girls and Athletics Department hosted the first AthLEADs seminar in September 2018, with 160 student-athletes in attendance. This female-driven seminar series for student-athletes helps build leadership skills that are applicable on and off the field, with several workshops held for student-athletes throughout each school year. 

Our athletes can take concrete lessons that they’re learning on the field, in the pool, on the river, and translate them into leadership skills they can take with them to college, to the workplace, and beyond.

Courtney Lubbe, Athletic Director

Seminar Topics:


Athletes learned how the brain can trigger an emotional response based on whether a player is feeling included or excluded by teammates and how that can affect individual performance on the athletic field. Behaviors and skills of high-performing teams were explored through engaging conversations and exercises aimed at building a culture of inclusivity. Additionally, the importance of risk-taking for future performance growth of individuals and teams were discussed.


Athletes discussed common causes of miscommunication and how it can impact team dynamics. Non-verbal communication and microaggressions — brief, involuntary facial expressions that show emotions including happiness, anger, surprise, and fear — were also explored.

Leadership as a choice

Being a leader on a team is not defined by a rank or title, it is a choice. Athletes learned about the perils of groupthink — the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity — instead of speaking up to express a differing opinion that can lead to positive growth. Students also explored the value of self-discipline and the importance of doing what is right, even when it is challenging.


Student-athletes explored the many facets of confidence — what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like — and engaged in exercises to build confidence. Students learned about the societal pressures of perfectionism in adolescent girls and its correlation to risk adversity, and practiced skills to utilize during adverse situations that will generate positive outcomes.

Giving and receiving feedback

The art of giving and receiving constructive feedback is a learned skill. Student-athletes explored how positive and negative feedback can affect individual and team performance and ways to give and receive feedback to fuel growth. Students learned that feedback which is high in information and low in emotion is most effective and met with teammates to discuss how to incorporate this during practices and competitions.

The feedback from the students on the AthLEADs seminar series has been amazingly positive; they have been engaged in all of the topics, responsive to the content we’ve developed, and participatory in the future areas that we will explore together.

Alison Monzo, Director of Programs for the Center for the Advancement of Girls

Learn More About Agnes Irwin