If designed with intention, team sports present endless opportunities to practice leadership skills. At SWB, we create opportunities for participants to develop their leadership through captainships, refereeing, coaching, public speaking, mentoring, service projects, and more. Our staff structure takes the same approach. We create pathways for every role to have opportunities to lead with increasing responsibility and ownership, access to new leadership opportunities, ongoing feedback, and mentorship from veteran staff.
We view leadership pathways as both an individual journey and a systemic challenge. We support this journey at every level – developing pathways from participant to coach, from coach to trainer, from staff to director, and from director to organizational leadership – and design experiential learning using a "see one, do one, lead one, teach one" model. As an organization, we invest significantly in gathering feedback and learning opportunities while aiming to equitably distribute opportunities for advancement, professional development, and training.
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Reducing barriers to access is an essential first step to any leadership journey. Financial costs, access to play spaces or transportation, and lack of enjoyment are three of the top barriers that youth face in accessing and persisting in sport.
At SWB, all of our programs are provided free of cost, including coaching, equipment facilities, and transportation to game days. Programs are designed to maximize the social benefits of a team, with 95% of youth reporting that they made a new friend from another culture at SWB.
Research shows that engagement in youth employment programs predicts higher job quality and income by age 23. Additionally, it is linked to lower involvement in the criminal justice system and an increase in SEL skills (AECF, MIT).
SWB programs employed over 140 youth leaders in coaching, refereeing, translation, and mentoring roles in our most recent year.
According to the Search Institute, when children have strong relationships with caring adults (including youth program providers like coaches) they are more likely to be engaged at school and more motivated to succeed academically.
All SWB coaches are trained in inclusive practices and utilize our FAMILY coaching framework. In addition to SWB coaches, last year we trained 330 coaches across 73 organizations.
Retaining talented program practitioners is a challenge across the sport and education sectors. In fact, a recent study found that 44% of new teachers quit within five years.
Our Program Managers are all veteran coaches with an average tenure of 8 years at Soccer Without Borders. In our most recent staff survey, team members cited team culture, teammates, inspiring leadership, and professional development opportunities as the top four reasons why they stay at SWB.
Impact by the Numbers
Most Recent Year
participants had a paid employment opportunity in an SWB program
paid workdays of professional development per full-time staff member (average)
of all full and part-time staff are alumni of our programs (70% of Nicaragua staff)
of current full-time staff have been promoted to a new role with greater leadership responsibilities
Leadership Pathways Spotlights
I decided to join SWB because there is something that I like that is called football and it helps me gain confidence. When I am at SWB I can do anything like anyone else.
Micheline, participant originally from the DRC