How Do You Measure Success?

First, you have to know what success looks like—that is, the end you have in mind. To do this for coaching soccer, I’ve developed this set of questions that I must answer thoughtfully to build a complete picture of the end goal:

  • Q1: What are you preparing them for?
  • Q2: What will they know?
  • Q3: What will they be able to do?
  • Q4: What personal qualities will they possess?

And I’ve learned that this process works not only for coaching, but also in the context of educating and employing. This gives you a glimpse of the process involved; without going in to the details, let’s just say we’ve done this process (check out my book for more on defining your goals, engaging the stakeholders, and developing the plan to get there).

If you’ve gone through this process, you’ve figured out that there is more to successful coaching than a win-loss record. If we focus only on the outcome, we miss all the great things going on in front of us on the way to the win or loss. You need to promote a “growth mindset” and measure individual and teamwork progress with a process orientation, not just the win (profit, “A” grade) or loss.

If you can’t measure it, you have nothing to document what you achieved, you cannot manage it, and you cannot demonstrate improvement. Measurement creates feedback, which we know is the breakfast of champions.

I am a strong advocate for using an assessment system that has three components:

  1. Promotes the attributes of a “growth mindset.”
  2. Uses both outcome- and process-oriented measures to capture a variety of attributes that document the overall success and progress of individuals and/or team.
  3. Provides feedback that triggers Pink’s three elements of motivation.

Three components for effective assessment, including Pink’s three elements of motivation (from Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us (Penguin Books, LTD, 2009)) and Dweck’s concept of the “growth mindset.” (See Dweck, C.S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Ballantine Books, 2006).)

For help in this area, I’ve found great information for the coaching application from the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) ( PCA was founded in 1998 at Stanford University. The PCA emphasizes that coaches have a potentially significant influence in the lives of their athletes because many players may spend more time with their coaches than anyone else outside of their immediate family. The mission of the PCA is to develop “ . . . ‘Better Athletes, Better People’ by working to provide all youth and high school athletes with a positive, character-building youth sports experience.” One message that I find particularly compelling from the PCA is the importance of competition as they promote it, in their motto of a competitor:

  • Making oneself better
  • Making teammates better
  • Making the game better

PCA uses the ELM Tree of Mastery for players to remember the key elements of mastery. In ELM, the E is for Effort, the L is for Learning and the M is for Mistakes are OK.

Let’s go over some details: E is for Effort. The ELM Tree is clearly consistent with a “growth mindset” in that focus is on effort and learning, on the way to whatever outcome happens. Effort, learning, and response to making mistakes are all in the hand of the athlete. They can all be defined using both qualitative and quantitative measures as well. In fact, PCA provides a number of assessment tools for coaches and players related to ELM. At PCA, they also promote every athlete to become a Triple-Impact Competitor®—someone who strives to make themselves, teammates, and the game better as a whole. They provide assessment worksheets to help the athletes identify strengths and weaknesses, and then promote the use of self-reflection to remind them who they are, where they are, and help them improve in all three areas as they move into the future. All of these approaches include the use of effort and stretch goals that the athlete defines, controls, and sees their progression toward achievement as they move to a new level of mastery, consistent with Pink’s elements of motivation—mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Athletes experience increments of success while developing skills for their sports and other aspects of life. This approach also provides many opportunities for various types of feedback and discussion between players and coaches.

Another important constituency that coaches need feedback from is the parents, regardless of whether the players are eight-year-olds or college players. Parents should be brought into the feedback loop because they provide feedback to the players on a variety of levels, whether, as coaches, we like it or not. To create an alliance amongst parents, players, and coaches will only make your team stronger.

I hope this introduction to how to measure success helps you to see where you need to go. Visit my blog, post a comment, contact me, or take a look at my book for more.