What Predicts Coaching Success?

Every year, fans across the nation have the opportunity to witness the impact coaches have on their teams.  As the late Billy Graham once said, “A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime.”  Indeed, these great coaches build relationships and develop the character skills that will stick with the players for the rest of their lives.  In seeing the impact these great coaches have, we began to wonder: what makes these great coaches tick?  What drives and ultimately predicts whether a person will be a great coach?  

Captivated by this curiosity, we partnered with the 3D Institute, an organization working to build transformational coaches in countries around the globe, and then used the MindVue Profile to measure key mindset skills such as grit, growth mindset, resilience, self-control, and numerous other factors we find in research to predict performance.  We wanted to know: which of these skills would do the best at predicting coaching success?

To study this, we worked with the 3D Institute to first create a set of questions to help us identify those great coaches – designing questions to measure factors that contribute to high coaching performance such as whether the coaches:

  • had a strong sense of purpose for coaching, 
  • cultivated positive relationships with members of their team, 
  • had structured programs in place to develop the athletic skills of players,
  • possessed high levels of engagement in their careers, 
  • created strong interest and enthusiasm for their programs, 
  • engaged in positive communication patterns with the members of their team, as well as 
  • had winning programs as measured by the coach’s career win percentage. 

We then aggregated these items together to generate a “transformational coaching score”. 

Next, we used these items as well as the MindVue Profile to measure the personal characteristics of over 1,400 coaches from 23 different countries across the world to help us learn what makes these great coaches tick.  What we discovered was amazing…  

We first examined the correlations between coaches’ scores on each mindset factor measured by the MindVue Profile and the transformational coaching score.  In running this analysis, every mindset factor was positively correlated with the transformational coaching score.  As shown in the chart below, the constructs correlating at the highest levels included grit, conscientiousness, self-awareness, and self-efficacy.  


*All correlations were significant at the 0.01 level.  

Said another way, we found that the great coaches we studied were so passionate about their work that they were unwilling to quit.  They were coaches that paid close attention to detail and were thorough and disciplined in their work.  Next, they had a clear sense of their identity as a coach, which helped them become confident in their abilities.  Finally, these great coaches knew what goals they wanted to accomplish and then pursued these goals with great energy and initiative.  

We then took it a step further - we combined the variables together in various regression analyses to figure out which mindset factors would predict each item composing the transformational coaching score.  The results, we found, varied based on the question.  

Who is most likely to have a strong sense of purpose in their role as a coach?  

   Answer - those high in self-determination, integrity, and grit.  

Who is most likely to cultivate positive relationships? 

    Coaches high in integrity, self-awareness, and adaptability.  

Who is most likely to have structured training and conditioning programs?  

   Those with self-efficacy, self-determination, and conscientiousness. 

Who is most likely to develop high levels of interest in their programs?  

    Coaches high in conscientiousness. 

Who is most likely to utilize positive and proactive communication styles with their players? 

     Those that are resilient.  

And finally, what best predicted career win percentage?  

       Coaches high in self-awareness and conscientiousness.  

We then ran an additional analysis to figure out which mindset skills would predict the overall transformational coaching score.  After doing this, two factors emerged supreme – the same two that predicted coaches’ career win percentage: 1) self-awareness and 2) conscientiousness.  

Our data suggests for coaches to excel, it is important for them to be comfortable and confident in their own skin.  They must recognize their strengths, utilize those strengths on a regular basis, and ultimately have clarity and comfort in their identity.  Additionally, our results illustrate the importance of coaches being conscientious – possessing the ability to remain focused despite distractions, having the ability to pay attention to details, and being able to remain diligent while avoiding procrastination in their work.  

In summary, in doing this study, we sought to find out what predicts a great coach.  In studying over 1,400 coaches from all over the world, we came away with the following conclusions:

1. Mindset skills matter for coaching performance.  

In seeing the positive correlations that existed between each mindset factor and the transformational coaching score, it became clear that these various factors serve as key ingredients to coaching success.  

2. Coaches that possess an array of these skills will likely do best.

Great coaching requires a tremendous skill-set – one that goes beyond possessing one or two skills.  We discovered that various mindset factors predicted different aspects required of coaches to succeed and that a combination of skills served as the best predictors of success.  As we found with a previous study when looking into the minds of champions, elite coaches possess a variety of these mindset skills at high levels.  Great coaches then build teams that possess these skills.  And finally, it is this collective team culture that ultimately leads to greatness.

Legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, once said, “A good coach can change a game.  A great coach can change a life.” In the end, while we cannot predict which teams will win this year’s NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, we are confident in one thing: the coaches who do well in this year’s tournaments will possess these skills at high levels.  More importantly, they will use these skills to help make a positive, lasting impact on many lives.  And together, it will be these teams that go on to cut down the nets.       


For those wanting to empower coaches at every level to fulfill their transformational purpose by helping them become fundamentally sound, skilled at coaching the mind, and focused on developing the heart, please contact the 3D Institute.  

**We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the 3D Institute as well as the numerous coaches around the world that assisted us in this research.

Located within: Insights, Research.