Women hold only 25% of critical C-suite positions and account for only 6% of CEOs across the country. What do these few women have in common? What brings women to the top? 94% of women who hold C-suite level positions are former athletes according to research from Ernst & Young and espnW. Fortune estimates that 95% of its Fortune 500 CEOs played sports. Of the proportion of women CEOs, 90 percent reported playing sports at some point and 54% at the university level.[i]

We have the opportunity to help prepare girls and young women for future success as leaders.  If experience in sport is one of the best resume builders, let’s do our part.  Each opportunity provided is a building block that will strengthen their foundation as they work to achieve their goals.

THE STATS (they’re shocking!):

  • There are 1.3 million fewer opportunities for girls to participate in high school sports than boys[ii]
  • By age 14, girls drop out of sport at twice the rate of boys the same age[iii]
  • Girls of color in urban and rural areas drop out of sport at twice the rate of suburban white girls[iv]
  • Only 31% of girls ages 6-12 play sports on a regular basis[v]
  • 40% of teen girls are not participating in a sport[vi]


Strong Girls United is a pathway for social change and our STRONG GIRLS FEMALE ATHLETE MENTORSHIP (FAM) program is our way to bring that change to young girls across the country. We meet them where they are, at home through virtual sessions, as we pair elementary and middle school girls with female college and professional athletes for 1:1 mentoring.

Mentorship provides innumerable, powerful benefits for both the mentor and the mentee.  Exposing young girls to strong female mentors provides a chance for connection and inspiration. These relationships promote empowerment and instill confidence in girls who then dare to demand more.  Mentors take pride in helping to develop the next generation of Strong Girls as they reflect on their athletic experiences - both their most memorable successes and challenging failures.  Mentors lead by example, demonstrate strength and encourage our young community to achieve the strongest and happiest version of themselves.

77% of female leaders reported that a lack of female coaches and role models limits girls’ sports participation.[vii] We’re here to change that.


Female athlete role models are so important for young girls. They act as a powerful force to help youth see individuals like themselves in and around the game, they directly understand the unique experiences and challenges that the young girls face in sport, and they serve as models for young girls to aspire to emulate. Related research emphasizes the following four areas:

  • RELATABILITY: Two-thirds of current players and two-thirds of youth who have dropped out of sport in the current study have or had a male coach, and male assistant coaches were equally as prominent as male head coaches.[viii]
  • SUPPORT: Only 15% of parents of current players and 12% of those who dropped out are encouraged to follow sports figures in the media.[ix]
  • EXPOSURE: Likewise, only a third of parents of current players (and 26% of those who dropped out) reported they take their children to watch sporting events, and this was disproportionately a resource provided to youth from middle- to higher-income households, especially boys.[x]
  • CONFIDENCE: Fostering youths’ continued love of sport through building confidence, a sense of mastery, and connection to one’s teammates is critical. Additionally, building the sport experience to include community outreach, character education, academic support, and other positive social experiences can help meet youths’ varied developmental needs.[xi]


Research from The National Mentoring Partnership, gives us further evidence on the importance of these relationships. Namely,

  • 1 in 3 young people will grow up without a mentor.[xii]
  • Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor.[xiii]
  • In addition to better school attendance and a better chance of going on to higher education, mentored youth maintain better attitudes toward school.[xiv]

Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are:

  • 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.[xv]

Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are:

  • 81% more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not.[xvi]


If we can help engage girls in fitness and physical activity, mindfulness, and mental skills training alongside a mentor, we believe it will contribute to a better future for them and for society. There are other benefits we have not yet mentioned that are important to informing our work. Our programs are unique in that we supply a research informed curriculum focused on our motto: strong bodies, kind hearts, and unstoppable minds. This mind-body connection is taught and reinforced throughout each session. We believe mindfulness and movement are important. Here are some reasons why:

  • Research has shown that sports participation and physical activity support long-term health, achievement, and well-being[xvii]
  • “Evidence suggests a positive relationship between physical activity and a host of factors affecting girls’ physical health, including diabetes, blood pressure and the ability to use fat for energy. Second, physical activity could reduce the risk of chronic diseases in later life.”[xviii][xix]
  • Female high school athletes are 41% more likely to graduate from college within six years compared to female high school students who did not participate in sports[xx]
  • Girls who participate in athletics report being more content with their lives than girls who do not participate in athletics.
  • Physical activity impacts chemicals in the brain that promote certain functions that improve thinking, memory, focus, concentration and impulsivity. There are connections between these functions and achievement levels[xxi]
  • Much of the social, educational, and health benefits of sports participation become visible in elementary school years for girls and boys.[xxii]
  • Half of all girls who participate in some kind of sport experience higher than average levels of self-esteem and less depression[xxiii]
  • Curriculum that incorporates well-being will ideally prevent depression, increase life satisfaction, encourage social responsibility, promote creativity, foster learning, and even enhance academic achievement”[xxiv]
  • A meta-analysis with 4,266 participants found that positive psychology interventions do increase happiness and decrease depressive symptoms[xxv]
  • The positive effects of mindfulness practice are vast: it can help us feel less stress and sadness, better deal with change, improve sleep, increase feelings of connectivity with others, express gratitude, be more confident, be more resilient, have more compassion, perform better in school and/or sports, concentrate and focus better, feel content and happy, feel less anxious, and learn to pause and respond to situations rather than react.[xxvi]
  • Mindfulness is believed to have a positive impact on the physical body, in particular a calming of the stress response and improvement of immune functioning.[xxvii] In addition, mindfulness creates a state of relaxed attention that enables the individual to achieve more flexibility in their psychological and physical responses to various situations.[xxviii] Regularly practicing mindfulness is believed to lead to deeper self-awareness and increased capacity to manage emotional responses respectively.[xxix]


[i] Orr, Evelyn. “Forget the Score. Just Play.” Korn Ferry, November 16, 2017.

[ii] Sabo, D. and Veliz, P. (2008). Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America. East Meadow, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] “State of Play 2019: Trends and Developments,” The Aspen Institute: Project Play (Sports & Society Program, October 8, 2019),

[vi] Zarrett, N., Veliz, P., Sabo, D. and Lee, B., 2020. Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters Executive Summary. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 July 2020].

[vii] Staurowsky, E. J., Watanabe, N., Cooper, J., Cooky, C., Lough, N., Paule-Koba, A., Pharr, J., Williams, S., Cummings, S., Issokson-Silver, K., & Snyder, M. (2020). Chasing Equity: The Triumphs, Challenges, and Opportunities in Sports for Girls and Women. New York, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.

[viii] Zarrett, N., Veliz, P.T., & Sabo, D. (2020). Keeping Girls in the Game: Factors that Influence Sport Participation. New York, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] "Mentoring Impact". 2020. Mentoring.Org.

[xiii] Bruce, Mary, and Bridgeland, John. 2014. “The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring.” The Mentoring Effect Full Report. January 2014.

[xiv] Herrera, Carla, DuBois, David, and Grossman, Jean. 2013. “The Role of Risk: Mentoring Experiences and Outcomes for Youth with Varying Risk Profiles.” MDRC. February 2013.

[xv] Tierney, JP, Grossman, JB, and Resch, NL. 1995. “Making a Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters.” Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. 1995. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.

[xvi] Bruce and Bridgeland, The Mentoring Effect Full Report

[xvii] Women’s Sports Foundation. 2009. “Women’s Sports & Fitness Facts & Statistics.” March 26, 2009.

[xviii] Sabo, Donald, Miller, Kathleen, Melnick, Merrill, and Heywood, Leslie. 2004. “Her Life Depends on It: Sport, Physical Activity and the Health and Well-Being of American Girls.” Brockport Bookshelf 160 (January).

[xix] Després, J. P., C. Bouchard, and R. M. Malina. 1990. “Physical Activity and Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors during Childhood and Adolescence.” Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 18: 243–61.

[xx] Women’s Sports Foundation, 2009

[xxi] Ratey, John J. 2008. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. New York, NY, US: Little, Brown and Co.

[xxii] Women’s Sports Foundation, 2009

[xxiii] Ibid.

<[xxiv] Waters, L. 2014. “Balancing the Curriculum: Teaching Gratitude, Hope and Resilience. In H. Skyes (Ed.) A Love of Ideas.” Future Leaders Press, 117–24. Retrieved from

[xxv] Sin, Nancy L., and Sonja Lyubomirsky. 2009. “Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depressive Symptoms with Positive Psychology Interventions: A Practice-Friendly Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Clinical Psychology 65 (5): 467–87.

[xxvi] Ackerman, C. 2017. “The 23 Amazing Health Benefits of Mindfulness for Body and Brain.” Blog post. Retrieved from

[xxvii] Kostanski, Marion, and Hassed, Craig. 2008. “Mindfulness as a Concept and a Process.” Australian Psychologist 43 (March).

[xxviii] Greenberg, Mark T., and Alexis R. Harris. 2012. “Nurturing Mindfulness in Children and Youth: Current State of Research.” Child Development Perspectives 6 (2): 161–66.

[xxix] Norrish, J, Robinson, J, and Williams, P. 2011. “Positive Relationships.” Geelong Grammar School. Retrieved from


SG United Foundation ("Strong Girls United") is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission is to empower girls to be strong, confident, and resilient. 

EIN: 84-2731661




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