Sports and Personality

Your personality can have a big effect on your athletic career. Your personality can determine which sports, positions, and playing styles are best fit for you. Psychologists agree that human personalities have some variation of  5 characteristics. Here are the “Big 5” personality characteristics:

Conscientiousness: being thorough, careful, hard-working, and organized. Conscientious people desire to do tasks well. You can range from high to low conscientiousness.
Agreeableness: being cooperative, compassionate, sympathetic, and kind. You can range from high to low agreeableness.
Neuroticism: Being nervous, fearful, worrisome, stressed, risk-averse, and pessimistic. On one end you can be neurotic, and on the other end you can be calm and optimistic.
Openness: being open to new experiences and ideas, being curious and open-minded. You can range from high to low openness.
Extroversion/Introversion: Extroverts seek stimuli from the external world. They enjoy being with people and settings such as parties. When they have too much solitude, they feel like they need to “recharge” by being with people. Introverts seek less stimuli from the external world. They enjoy solitude and calm settings. When they are with too many people for a long time, they feel like they need to “recharge” by being alone. People can range anywhere on the extroversion/introversion spectrum. You can be right in the middle.


So what does this all mean for sports? Why should you know your personality? First, certain sports are better fit for certain personalities. For example, individual sports such as tennis are better suited for introverts. Extroverts sometimes feel lonely on the court by themselves. On the other hand, playing quarterback may be more suited for extroverts. Introverts may have trouble commanding a huddle. If you have low agreeableness, it may be better for you to play individual sports so you don’t have to deal with teammates. High Neuroticism is not a very useful characteristic for sports where confidence is needed to perform well under pressure.


Playing styles can also be influenced by personality. Since extraverts tend to seek rewards more than introverts, they may play more aggressively. Introverts tend to be more risk-averse and therefore choose to play more cautiously and consistent. But this is not always the case.


Complementary personalities can make great duos. Together, they can compensate for each other's weaknesses. Westbrook/Durant and Stephen Curry/Draymond Green are good examples.


If you know your personality traits, then you can make smarter decisions about which sports, positions, and styles to play. You will also know which teammates and coaches you work best with. If you align your athletic career with your personality, then your natural traits and strengths will be highlighted and your natural weaknesses will be better protected. However, aligning your athletic career with your personality is not required. You are not doomed if you are in introverted quarterback or a extroverted tennis player. Any type of personality is capable of succeeding at any sport or playing style. If you really want to play a specific sport, position, or playing style, don’t let others tell say you can’t because of your personality. Also, parts of your personality can be changed up to a certain extent. With practice, neurotic people can become calmer and people can become more agreeable or open to experience.

If you are curious about your personality traits, there are plenty of personality tests that you can find online. I recommend using the Big Five personality test over other personality tests.

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