The relationship between personality and performance in endurance sport.

The IntroductionTriathlon start

Athletes young and old come in all shapes and sizes. Moreover, champion athletes of all ages appear to also have different personalities. From my observations this can even extend to differences in personality between the sprinters and endurance athletes within a sport. But are their any common characteristics that winners have that differentiate them from those that don’t medal? This New Zealand research certainly suggest so in finding that medal winners at World Championships or Olympic Games are less anxious, more self-determined, more optimistic and far more achievement-oriented than those that didn’t win medals.

The Research

A survey of 49 Rowing New Zealand and Bike New Zealand athletes who had been members of national teams since the 2004 Athens Olympics was completed online to assess personality facets of anxiety, self-determination, optimism, achievement and striving, and impulsivity. Medal winners (n=21) were then compared with non-medal winners (n=28) on each scale.

The Results

The successful medal winning endurance athletes scored higher on self-determination, optimism, and achievement and striving than the non-medal winners. In contrast, the medal winners scored lower on anxiety and impulsivity.

The So What?

Not surprisingly, the winners appeared less anxious (more relaxed) and less impulsive (better planners) than non-medal winning endurance athletes. The winners also are focused on success, positive in their thinking and determined to achieve than the non winners. There are lessons in this for any athlete young or old who wants to achieve in life and sport.

 Corbam R. (2010). The relationship between personality and performance in endurance sport. New Zealand Journal of Sports Medicine, 37(1): 23 – 25.

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