The promise of youth leadership
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a boy sits on the grass with a football
Youth leadership has begun to emerge as a central element of workforce development programs. The increasing recognition of its importance for youth provides both promise and challenge.

Effective youth leadership programs build on solid youth development principles. This article has been written by Soccer for Christ from Uganda to assist youth service practitioners, administrators, and policy makers in defining, differentiating, and providing youth development and youth leadership programs and sports activities.

While definitions vary, Soccer for Christ defined sport as a purpose of development, in “all forms of physical activity that drives to physical fitness, mental well-being and social interaction, such as play, recreation, organized or competitive sport, and indigenous sports and games.” Support for sport for development and leadership is rooted in the recognition that sport possesses unique attributes, discussed in detail below.

Sport for development

Sport is an inherently social process, bringing together players, teams, coaches, volunteers and spectators. Sport creates a horizontal bridge at the community level, with vertical links to national governments, sport federations, business leaders and other forms of support. Sport has emerged as global mass entertainment and has become one of the most powerful and far-reaching communications platforms in the world, thus also working as a platform for public education and social mobilization.

Sport is an integral part of the culture of almost every nation. While many perceive it to be unsuitable for girls and women, it can be used as a tool to promote gender equity and empower girls and women. Research on sport, gender, and development indicates that sport can benefit girls and women by enhancing their health and well-being, increasing their self-esteem, and challenging gender norms.

The private sector brings a wide range of unique skills, expertise, resources and relationships to the sport for development and leadership sector. According to recent research undertaken by the International Business Leaders Forum, these resources extend well beyond funding and include contributions like project management skills, branding, communications and marketing expertise, management support and fundraising activity.

Youth leadership

Often, and mistakenly, the terms “youth development “and “youth leadership” are used interchangeably. Youth leadership is the ability to analyze one's own strengths and weaknesses, set personal and vocational goals, and have the self-esteem to carry them out or the ability to identify community resources and use them. Youth leaders also establish support networks to participate in community life and to effect positive social change.

A leader is someone with a vision, who has the ability to see beyond current conditions to future possibilities and to create actions to make those possibilities into realities. Identifying youth leaders to direct a program is critical. The best programs to have an abundance of resources, but without the right leadership you will not have a successful program. Here are some of characteristics of a good leader: they must be totally committed to the program with great love, intelligence, honesty, trustworthiness and creativity.

There are 6 principles which are important for youth leadership programs. The program must:

  • Speak to the outcomes and the content of leadership programs, as well as to the process of leadership development
  • Help youth learn specific knowledge and skills related to leadership
  • Enable youth to understand the history, values, and beliefs of their society of individual strengths and leadership styles, ethics and values
  • Promote awareness, understanding, and tolerance of other people, cultures and societies
  • Emphasize experiential learning and provide opportunities for genuine leadership
  • Involve youth in service to their community, country and world in significant relationships with mentors, positive role models, and other nurturing adults

Activities that could enhance the connecting area of development in the context of leadership development include the following:

  • Workshops in public speaking
  • Research on leader and connecting with local leaders
  • Strategic planning
  • Mentoring activities and building interpersonal skills that are needed to relate to older people


The implementation of youth development and youth leadership have begun to emerge as central elements of workforce development programs for youth. The increasing recognition of their importance for youth provides both promise and challenge.

There is promise in the emergence of common definitions and program components across the fields of youth development, youth leadership, and disability. An ever-growing body of research has validated the effectiveness of quality youth development and youth leadership programs.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]


Football (Soccer)
Sustainable Development Goals
4 – Quality education
5 - Gender equality
Target Group
Girls and women

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