Women's Sport Leadership Academy NZ will bring together
up to 20 outstanding Olympians to take part in
a 2 year programme, 2017-18.

We are delighted to announce an exciting new initiative to support New Zealand’s female Olympians make a positive transition from sport performance to sport leadership and connect to an international network of women leaders in sport.

The first intake of the Women’s Sport Leadership Academy (WSLA NZ) will bring together up to 20 outstanding Olympians to take part in a 2 year programme. The programme will provide a unique learning environment that will support the women to further develop their confidence and leadership competencies

The NZOC is working in partnership with WSLA UK which is based at the University of Chichester (England) and has successfully delivered 3 international Academy programmes. Since 2014, 108 women from 31 countries have graduated from WSLA and joined a global network of women leaders in sport. We are fortunate to have Pauline Harrison, one of the Programme Leaders from the UK, to take the same role with WSLA NZ. Pauline has over 30 years of experience working in sport, including CEO of England Netball, and has played a significant role championing change for women internationally, advocating for and leading programmes that aim to improve opportunities for women in the leadership domain.


By the end of the programme the women will have:

  • Further developed confidence and competence in a range of leadership behaviours
  • Produced a Personal Development Plan with clear goals
  • Developed career strategies
  • Participated in regular networking
  • Greater self-awareness
  • Access to mentoring
  • Better knowledge and understanding of the women and sport movement in NZ and globally

Who is WSLA NZ aimed at?

We are seeking expressions of interest from retired or retiring female Olympians who:

  • are currently in middle management or recently appointed senior managers or Board members of sport/sport related organisations, including the NZOC
  • have key areas of responsibility such as heading up a specific department/area/project for their organisation or have current responsibility for influencing people and/or managing staff
  • are identified as future leaders by their organisations, and have the aspiration and commitment to pursue a leadership pathway
  • are committed to making a difference and enhancing opportunities for women and girls in and through sport
  • demonstrate a commitment to continuous professional development


Content of the programme

The content of the programme will focus on various leadership behaviours or competencies that research shows to be critical to a great leader:

Providing direction

Providing future direction for an organisation using resources efficiently and effectively to achieve the goals of the organisation

Creativity and innovation

Enabling creativity to flourish in people in how they analyse problems and identify opportunities for innovative solutions.

Performance management

Ensuring there is a culture of continuous personal improvement which supports people to maximise their potential while achieving goals and targets that meet the needs of the business.


Planning and taking responsibility for your own success; managing your own emotions in challenging circumstances.

Communication, team and partnership working

Ensuring that messages are understood by any audience; working effectively with internal and external people to ensure that the needs of the business are met.

Principles behind WSLA

We know that investing in women is of the utmost importance and that time and money spent in learning and development has to pay off. We fully recognise that changes in behaviour have to be embedded and sustained over time and ensuring that individuals take responsibility for their own self-sustained learning is at the heart of everything we do.

The following principles will guide all the activities:

  • The programme will be facilitative rather than prescriptive allowing the women to focus on self-sustained learning
  • Participants will be supported to take ownership of, and responsibility for, their own learning
  • We will create a safe working environment and nurture a sense of collegiality and trust among the women
  • We will develop a set of shared values to encourage reciprocity, mutuality and respect for differences and diversity
  • We believe that a flexible approach to meet the diverse needs of specific groups, individuals, and cultures is essential
  • We draw on a variety of theories, ideas, opinions, and approaches in order to develop learning that ‘sticks’ and are innovative and creative in our approach
  • The activities will be learner-centred and highly participative using discussion, small/syndicate groups, role plays and scenarios/case studies
  • Evaluation of WSLA will take place throughout the programme and will continue post-event, when the participants have returned to their work place

Programme elements

The 18 month programme consists of a number of elements all of which are essential for the critical learning and development that will take place during WSLA NZ

Residential Workshops

Workshops are an integral part of the learning process and will be designed to meet the needs of the learners. They will have clear learning outcomes and be tailored to maximise learning; they will be challenging, constructive and highly interactive. Dates will be set well in advance and will be run in various inspiring locations in New Zealand and include four two-day sessions; attendance at all workshops and events is critical to maximise learning.

Personal Development Plans

Each woman will produce a Personal Development Plan setting her goals on leadership behaviours, career strategies, future opportunities and to consolidate learning. Mentors will assist the women to revise their Personal Development Plans and help them monitor their progress.


Mentoring is a vital element allowing the women leaders to learn from their experiences, act as a sounding board and to support them to achieve their goals. Each participant will build a strong relationship with one generic Mentor and other technical mentors may be used as required.

Home teams

These teams consist of small groups of participants who work together throughout the programme. Their aim is to help each other reflect on learning, raise issues and concerns, complete projects, discuss hot topics, provide support and encouragement and play a key role in the evaluation of the programme.

Peer support groups

This element focuses on peer support and providing opportunities for the women to define, frame and communicate their key challenges and receive support from their colleagues. The sessions allow the women to have time to reflect on their experiences and to explore ways of doings things differently.

Physical activities

A range of physical activities will be designed to indulge our love of sport, to live our principle of an active lifestyle, to provide a physical challenge, to promote team-building, and have fun!

Guest speakers

Guest speakers will be at the WSLA to inspire the women and share their experiences. They will identify what leadership means to them, what motivates and challenges them and will provide top tips for the women


Membership of a New Zealand network of WSLA Alumni and other women leaders in sport


NOTE: Applications have now closed for the 2017 intake

For further information - Download a Brochure

Contact details:

Cathleen Bias at the New Zealand Olympic Committee
Phone: 021-905-396

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