Learning to be a female leader – Soccer Style

Like Brett’s son, Aidan (Brett is our Founder & CEO) my daughter, Avery, plays sports. She’s 15, a sophomore in high school, and plays soccer for both her school and at the club level. She is going to be a success! You can see it in her already.

Sport has become a platform to conquer gender equality and empower women and girls along their way to professional success.  Recent research conducted by ESPN and EY shows that 94% of women in the C-Suite played sports. While not every girl is destined for the C-Suite, they can all be destined for greatness in life itself. Here are 5 leadership lessons I’ve seen my daughter develop playing soccer.

Tenacity! Defined as that fierce blend of determination, persistence and grit. For leaders and their organizations, it’s the trait that can mean the difference between failure and success or takes their teams from doing all right to thriving. Avery was the smallest player on the field for years so she had to be tenacious and forceful if she wanted to play. She learned to never quit and not to let anyone push her around. Great leaders aren’t just tenacious – they are tenacious for something. Their commitment to a cause helps them look beyond an obstacle and treat it as an opportunity to improve. Simply put, tenacity gives them the confidence and determination to find a way, even if they currently don’t know how.

Have you ever seen a player make a goal in her own net, an own-goal for those in the know? It’s hard to be that girl and that coach and that teammate in that moment. I watched my young daughter come off the field and sit next to that girl, tell her not to worry and that she wasn’t upset with her. I was so proud she showed her such compassion and she let her know that we all make mistakes, and it could happen to anyone. Compassion in leadership creates stronger connections between people. It improves collaboration, raises levels of trust, and enhances loyalty.

Practice makes Perfect
In Texas you know that if you play an outdoor sport, you’re at the mercy of the weather. Rain, snow, ice, you name it, we have it, ok maybe mostly rain! That means canceled practices, games and tournaments. I’ve watched Avery’s skills deplete during times of cancellations and then, low and behold, once she’s steadily back to practice, she begins to excel again. To be great at anything requires practice, you need to break old habits and perfect new ones. Practice makes perfect when it comes to developing any skill.  Leadership is no different.

There’s No “I” in Team
We can’t write a piece about women’s soccer and not mention the USWNT from 2019. Avery followed every game and of course team Captain, Megan Rapinoe. The one thing I specifically remember talking to my daughter about was when Rapinoe suffered a hamstring injury. There was no formal announcement—no press release, simply a tweet one hour before game time. Coach Ellis knew exactly what she was doing. She had 23 players ready to play that day. Rapinoe didn’t win the World Cup, the TEAM did. Great leaders value the contributions of each team member and trust that anyone on their team is ready to step in when the stakes are high.  

Avery believes she is amazing. She thinks she’s better at her position than anyone else on the team. Though I love her confidence, like so many other 15-year-olds she’s still learning that humility is a key skill to develop. One you can’t fake. In leadership, it’s being willing to admit mistakes, share credit, and learn from others. Being humble helps to build trust and facilitates learning, key aspects of leadership and personal development. One day I hope to see in her a good balance of confidence and humility – we’ll get there.

Anna Parrish    
Client Relationship & Operations Manager
The CFO Suite, LLC