Article: New Research finds Football Coaches are above average on leadership, empathy and social skills

By Mike Conway, Creator of FCA XV Essential Skills, Emotional Agility and Mind Coach, Socceroos

Here’s a short extract from a new piece of research undertaken by Mike Conway involving 60 coaches who are undertaking the Essential Skills program.

In the emotional intelligence module of the Essential skills program, we discuss the significance of having an optimistic outlook and building a performance improvement mindset. As the founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman states: “The basis of optimism does not lie in positive phrases or images of victory, but in the way you think about causes” (Martin Seligman Learned Optimism 2006).

Scientific evidence confirms that an optimistic outlook has a positive impact in an individual’s well-being and in performance too.   An important point for coaches to consider for themselves and their team. 

This idea of learned optimism became a hallmark of the XVenture Family Challenge TV show broadcast on Channel Ten in 2019.  It prompted me to create a tool that would help introduce contestants, both parents and teenagers to the notion of learned optimism.  I did this through the development of the EARL measure:  a 36-item questionnaire focussing on key aspects of emotional agility, resilience and leadership. Higher scores appeared to correlate with an optimistic outlook both in terms of objective results and subject perspectives when working with families. We measured the families before and after participating in the tv show. The results were telling.  Those families who performed better in the competition also increased their EARL scores during the show. 

In the Essential skills program, we encourage coaches undertaking the modules to also undertake the EARL measure. Here are the first consolidated EARL results from a sample cohort of 60 coaches.  The coaches are from many different backgrounds, different regions and countries and from different levels of coaching. 


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There are some exciting things to note from these scores.  Overall, this is a healthy EARL score and above average.  (From the dataset of over 2000 people the average score is 68) It is pleasing to see levels of empathy, leadership and social skills are the highest in the coaching cohort.  All relationship-related elements in the EARL measure.  The lower scores relate to coaches’ resilience levels, possibly connected to negative thinking due to moments of frustration, fear or disappointment.  Also, self-awareness was lower than expected.  This suggests that there is room for greater reflection on our own behaviours and how they can affect other people.   Imagine what impact coaches will have on their team with these additional skills?  When a whole team has greater self-awareness, self-management, motivation, social and communication skills, empathy, resilience and strengthened leadership. 

The Essential skills program’s 103 mini subjects targets the development of these skills, critical for coaching.  

In a few months, these 60 coaches will have completed their Essential skills program. We will seek their involvement to undertake the EARL measure again.  Bets are on for the improvement percentage.

Are you keen to develop your EARL competencies? Do you need CPD points for license re-validation? Check out the FCA XV Essential Skills Program by clicking HERE.