Africa’s Debbie Alexander Ready to Lead an International Sports Code

When you mention the name Debbie Alexander, the first word that comes to mind is ‘leader’. She is at the top of the game in her field of sports administration and is leading the way for women in the industry. Photo:

When you mention the name Debbie Alexander, the first word that comes to mind is ‘leader’. She is at the top of the game in sports administration and is paving the way for women in the industry.

Alexander holds the position of First Vice President of World Triathlon (WT), a role she has excelled in since 2020. Her journey in sports administration began in 2006, and she has since amassed an impressive list of accomplishments. She also serves as 2nd Vice President of the South African Sports Olympic and Paralympic Committee (SASCOC) for the 2020-2024 term. In 2017, Alexander was appointed to the International Paralympic Committee Governing Board.

Her career in sports leadership stems from her previous leadership roles outside of sports. Alexander has consistently stayed true to herself as she has advanced in various organisations.

“I was a leader before I was a sports administrator. It was through the former that I was invited to contribute to the latter.”

First Vice President of World Triathlon, Debbie Alexander

“Over the years, I have learned that leadership can be a lonely journey and that it’s impossible to please everyone,” Alexander reveals. “Good leaders lead by example, ethically, with vision, competence, courage, accountability, and integrity. They balance firmness with fairness, ask tough questions, make tough decisions, and serve their communities, not themselves.”

Having been part of WT for almost 20 years, Alexander has played a crucial role in improving the sport, especially for women. She shared with gsport some of the biggest positive changes for female athletes over the years.

“World Triathlon was founded in 1989, and since its inception, there has been gender equity in leadership, access to competitions, coaching, and prize money. Some of the significant changes include the implementation of safeguarding policies focusing on athletes’ physical and mental well-being; giving athletes, particularly women, a seat and voice at the leadership table; mentorship programs for developing female athletes, coaches, technical officials, and administrators; women’s leadership programs; and equal opportunities for athletes with disabilities to compete at the highest levels in triathlon.

“The most significant change in sport in general, in my time, is that women have found their voices and have more courage to speak up and call out issues. More importantly, in many countries, women’s voices are being heard, and women have more agency than ever before. However, in some areas of the world, we still have a long way to go to improve the agency of women.”

In addition to her extensive commitments in sports administration, Alexander is also a clinical psychologist with a practice in the Western Seaboard in Cape Town.

“Most of what I do as a Clinical Psychologist and Educator can be applied in all areas of my life, including my roles as a sports leader, administrator, and mentor. The competencies that come to mind include being present, attuned, authentic, and creating a safe space for dialogue through active listening, building trust, and relationships.”

“Problem-solving, critical thinking, patience, a positive attitude, and a passion for working with people have also helped me facilitate change in individuals and organisations. The ethical, legal, and regulatory frameworks of my profession have provided solid foundations for understanding and honouring good governance in organisations.”

Empowering women in sports is a passion for Alexander, and she has used her position to bring more women into leadership roles. She believes that getting more women into positions of authority will inspire the younger generation and positively impact the future of leadership.

“Leaders in sports (men and women) must provide younger women with opportunities for mentorship, learning, growth, networking, and collaboration. Women leaders need to act as sponsors for young women leaders by advising, supporting, and promoting them. Women leaders can use their influence to create opportunities for young women leaders, encourage, recognise, acknowledge, and applaud their achievements. We can also share our stories and lessons learned to inspire the younger generation, showing that setbacks are normal and vital for growth.”

With her wealth of experience, Alexander offers this advice to young leaders: 

“Take care of people and relationships, and practice good governance in your organisations. Remain courageously innovative in your quest for excellence. Accept that there will be challenges, and when your head wants to hang low, lift it up, pause, breathe, and start again.”

“Stay curious, open to new learning, and committed to doing the right thing and doing things right,” Alexander continues. “Finally, remain your brave, bold, beautiful, and brilliant self; forge your path, follow your voice and heart, and leave an unforgettable impression on others—be a legend.”

It’s safe to say that Alexander is at the pinnacle of leadership, but like every successful leader, she still harbours dreams of reaching even greater heights.

“To be the first South African and African woman to lead a sports code at an international level. I believe this is possible given my achievement of being the first woman from Africa and the first person from an International Federation to serve on the International Paralympic Committee Governing Board.”

Photo caption: When you mention the name Debbie Alexander, the first word that comes to mind is ‘leader’. She is at the top of the game in her field of sports administration and is leading the way for women in the industry. Photo:

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