Athletics and Personality Characteristics

It appears as though some people have a natural talent for sports. What is more, such talent often turns out to be heritable. However, it is suggested that besides a natural ability, such people also have similar personalities.

Our personality is composed of personality traits, which represent comparatively stable patterns of behaviors, feelings, attitudes, and habits. As such, they can be valuable predictors of certain behaviors. But, could personality traits also reflect an inclination toward athletics?

Personality Traits

The OCEAN model of personality is the one most commonly used to illustrate the core sets of personality traits. It includes five central traits: openness to new experiences, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Here, it is necessary to note that each of the five primary traits is expressed within a spectrum between two extremes. In other words, a person can rank higher or lower on a particular trait, depending on the extent to which they display behaviors, feelings, and attitudes that are congruent with that trait.

So, can a distinct combination of these primary traits result in more conspicuous interest in athleticism?

Connection with Primary Personality Traits

Numerous researches that examined the connection between physical activity and primary personality traits reveal that individuals, who ranked higher on conscientiousness and extraversion, but lower on neuroticism, were more inclined to participate in sports, therefore athletics. The two remaining traits, agreeableness and openness, were not relevant for sports inclinations.

Although the correlations found were comparatively small, they were confirmed and repeated over multiple subsequent studies. Thus, when it comes to the OCEAN model of personality, individuals who are less anxious, but more outgoing and responsive are more inclined to participate in athletics.

Connection with Sub-traits

Each of the five main personality traits entails several sub-traits that represent more detailed representations of a personality profile. 

In terms of the connection between people who participate in athletics and sub-traits, the most significant one was self-confidence. Athletes either have a natural sense of confidence, or they have built it through a lot of exercises, sacrifice, and putting in a lot of effort.

Moreover, most athletes are highly motivated and competitive as they continually have to prove themselves over and over again. What is also, their motivation is mainly intrinsic, meaning they are driven by internal rewards, not external – their desire to win comes from within.

Individuals who are inclined toward athletics also exhibit high levels of self-discipline. They often make a lot of sacrifices and know what needs to be done to achieve their goal. They are also willing to take constructive criticism and learn from it. 

When it comes to sports, stakes can be rather high, and stressful scenarios are a regular occurrence for athletes. Thus, research has revealed that athletes have an exceedingly developed capacity to manage stress and keep the focus on what matters.

Out of five main OCEAN traits, people who participate in athletics are more likely to be outgoing and conscientious, and less neurotic. When it comes to sub-traits, athletes are likely to be confident, motivated, self-disciplined, ready to take criticism and have excellent stress-coping skills.

[1] “The Athlete Personality.” BelievePerform [online] Available at: [Accessed on: 5 Apr. 2020]

[2] “20 Distinguishing Personality Traits of High-Performing Athletes.” Sports Management Degree Guide [online] Available at: [Accessed on: 5 Apr. 2020]