Using the 3D Framework to Teach Non-Cognitive Skills
By Marc Matthie

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) was created in 1920 for the development and management of educational–based interscholastic sports and performing arts activities. It was during the late 19th century that America placed a VALUE on athletics as an educational and character-building resource.

The VALUE athletics provided our K–12 public schools were educational and character lessons learned in athletic practice and competition. The opportunity to teach character, discipline, teamwork and perseverance through the vehicle of athletics was promoted by both education and community leaders.

When the following criteria are met, the NFHS has determined that interscholastic athletics are a vital part of the educational process:

  • Learning objectives are clearly stated and integrated into the experience. Coaches must purposefully plan for learning to take place. Coaches need to be purposeful in explaining to students what they are going to teach, teach what they said they were going to teach, and reinforce what the students learned.
  • The program is designed to enhance academic achievement and never interferes with opportunities for academic success.
  •  The unique teachable moments that occur in athletics are used in the development of each individual
  •  Personal responsibility and accountability are stressed for each participant.  

What value does athletics add to the educational process today?

This is the question that many administrators, parents, student-athletes, and tax paying community members are beginning to ask. Are interscholastic athletics still providing the educational and character–building value to student–athletes? Are interscholastic athletics still a part of the educational process? Do they still add value?

Putting Value Into Focus

Interscholastic athletics and other extracurricular activities serve as the best environment to teach non–cognitive skills. New research in psychology, education, and behavioral economics is highlighting that while cognitive ability is important, non-cognitive skills are equally (if not more) important to success in school and life. Non-cognitive skills include “success characteristics” like growth mindset, grit, hope, self–control, conscientiousness, and resiliency.

Non-cognitive skills have been shown through research to be excellent predictors of numerous successful life outcomes such as academic achievement, workplace performance, and leadership effectiveness. It is in this space that playing sports can provide a great value to the educational process.

The Non-Cognitive Skills Ecosystem

Interscholastic athletics and extracurricular activities provide the perfect ecosystem for the growth and development of important non-cognitive skills that lead to academic achievement, success in the workplace, and positive work outcomes. A main objective for athletic/activity involvement should be to provide an engaging, challenging and real-world environment that facilitates a continuous striving for a desired outcomes. This environment provides the perfect space for the growth and development of these valuable non-cognitive skills:

Conscientiousness: Willingness to do what is right, especially to do one’s work or duty well and thoroughly. Diligent, hardworking, industrious, dedicated, thorough.

In 3D Language:

The 3D Coaching framework is designed to help coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers thoroughly examine their practices in the all 3 dimensions (physical, mental/emotional/social, spiritual) for student development and create strategies that will allow them to “do the right thing with enthusiasm and accountability” in all 3 dimensions.

Emotional/Social Intelligence: The capacity to effectively navigate and negotiate complex social relationships and environments. The capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to achieve one’s goals. Commonly referred to as teamwork and building relationships.

In 3D Language:

Emotions: 3D Coaching will help coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers employ strategies to successfully help students understand and gain mastery over their emotions, so they can improve performance.

Team Cohesion: 3D Coaching will help coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers build healthy relationships on their team and bring unity within the team. Coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers will help all students learn how to positively relate to themselves, others, and to society so they can make an impact.

Growth Mindset: The belief that a person’s intelligence, competence, and talents can be developed through dedicated efforts and hard work. Mindsets drive how much time and energy and intensity individuals devote to their goals – and the outcomes of those efforts perpetuate a positive or negative cycle that affirms existing beliefs. Students with a growth mindset are much more likely to persist in their efforts and overcome challenges.

In 3D Language:

Confidence: 3D Coaching will help coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers use verbal encouragement, past successes, and peer mentoring to help all their students believe in themselves in every aspect of their lives.

Self-Belief/Self Efficacy: 3D Coaching will help coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers increase students’ self-efficacy and self-belief: belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish of a specific task.

Grit: The passion and perseverance for very long-term goals (sticking with your future) and working really hard to make that future a reality.

In 3D Language:

Goal Setting/Motivation: Proper understanding of goal setting is paramount if students are going to use GRIT to reach their long-team goals. 3D Coaching will help coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers focus on the process of excellence and motivational strategies to help students obtain their desired outcomes and performance goals.

Self-Control: The voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations or diversions.

In 3D Language:

Emotions: 3D Coaching will help coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers employ strategies to successfully help students understand and gain mastery over their emotions, so they can improve performance.

Locus of Control: The extent to which people believe they have power over the events in their lives. A person with internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything.

In 3D Language:

The 2nd Dimension of the 3D Coaching framework (Motivation, Confidence, Emotions, Team Cohesion, and Goal Setting) will help coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers grow locus of control in their students. Students will understand personal agency: the power to influence their own actions to produce certain results. They will have the capacity to exercise control over one’s own thought processes, motivation, affect, and action to get desired results.

Hope: Is the belief that the future will be better than it presently is (optimism), and you have the ability to make it so. Without hope there is no reason to sacrifice, have self-control, or plan or persevere for the future.

In 3D Language:

The 3rd Dimension of the 3D Coaching framework (Identity, Self-Worth, Character, Values, Purpose, and Significance) will aid coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers help all students understand their inherent value and worth. 3D Coaching will help coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers develop the ability to elevate the human spirit of their students, helping them become the best versions of themselves.

The non-cognitive skills listed above have been proven to be as effective to student academic achievement, workplace success, and positive life outcomes as cognitive skills in these same categories. 3D Coaching will help coaches, activity sponsors, and teachers create the ecosystems needed for the effective growth and development of these non-cognitive skills. 3D Institute’s (3DI) vision is to transform sport through the transformed coach. 3DI wants to use 3D Coaching to build a community of coaches who will put their player’s needs above the their own and use their position of authority to impart life changing lessons that will transform a student’s life for the good.

If you have never taken the 3D journey, you can sample the 3D Coaching training for free at

3 thoughts on “Using the 3D Framework to Teach Non-Cognitive Skills”

  1. Wow..3D is giving me loads of knowledge and cant wait to put this to practice with my athletes and co-workers. Coaching has become fun now for us.


Leave a Reply to Shamlie Nawaz Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.