I haven't held a racket in 10 years, but my high-school memories of winning varsity badminton championships at the end of senior year (as co-captain, might I add), are still some of the fondest ones I have.
Things I remember: coming back from a few bad plays with my doubles partner and co-captain; the focus it required not to let my nerves interrupt my focus; tamping down on my fury that the other team was mis-calling bad shots (a.k.a. cheating) during the sets; and the sheer joy I felt at making my coach, my team, and myself really proud. I navigated a kaleidoscope of emotions, both positive and negative, and came out whole, and even victorious at the end of it.
Playing sports isn't the only way to learn how to make one's way to a longed for, but hard-to-reach goal, but it can be a very effective one — especially for women. Various studies have showed a positive correlation between female leadership and competitive sports. Sixty-five percent of the women on Fortune's 2017 Most Powerful Women list "played sports competitively in either high school or college; sometimes both."
There may be non-athletic reasons for the link; perhaps parents who enroll their kids in sports come from the better-connected, more financially well-off backgrounds that often lead to high achievement. However, girls who are able to participate often reap intrinsic rewards that are cultivated through the sport itself, not only their lineage. A 2015 joint report from EY and espnW indicated that "girls who play sports have greater social and economic mobility, are less likely to use drugs, and perform better in school."
As ABC News reporter Claire Shipman and BBC World News America anchor Katty Kay investigated while conducting research for their book The Confidence Code, perhaps playing on "the sports field, [where boys] learn not only to relish wins but also to flick off losses," can generate a kind of resiliency in girls who aren't discouraged that is necessary for executives in business. (Or for entrepreneurs.) In a space where girls and women may be less sanctioned for aggression and drive, they might cultivate a belief in themselves that isn't reliant on perfection, but weathering failure — and reveling in victory.
Here are some of the leadership and business lessons 10 top women have learned through sports.
Refinery29 is partnering with Gatorade to find out why girls are dropping out of sports at a faster rate than boys. Click here to read more about Gatorade’s recent “Girls In Sports” study.