Do individuals choose a sport to participate in based on their personality?
Most psychology research studies and sports psychology textbooks talk about the fact that the majority of athletes or exercisers will choose the type of sport of their preference based on their personality. That is, if someone is introverted, patient, or calm, they will most likely choose tennis, golf, or another type of sport where they can practice and play on their own.
In contrast, those individuals who are outspoken, competitive, driven, and even aggressive, will prefer to contact sports or team sports. In other words, individuals will most likely choose a type of sport that will make them feel comfortable with all of the demands, requirements, and nature of the sport of their choosing.
Since a very early age, it is very common to see young children experimenting with different types of sports—soccer, basketball, baseball, swimming, tennis, etc. until they decide to keep practicing the sport in which they are more skillful and they feel more comfortable with. They have the disposition, character, and motivation to train, practice, and even compete in this sport without any problems. In this particular situation, there is a direct relationship between the individual’s personality and the nature of the sport of their choosing. Most likely, these individuals will practice the sport with enjoyment; they will feel very confident with their skills; they might become successful, if competing at a professional or amateur level, and they might have a feeling of fulfillment or satisfaction every time they practice the sport.
In contrast, there are some other occurrences or factors that could influence an individual’s decision to practice a specific sport, and in some instances, this individual’s personality might not necessarily be “congruent” with the expected type of personality that best suits the sport. For example, when parents demand their children to practice a specific type of sport because of their own success or because, on the other hand, they were a complete failure. In this case, they want their children to become what they could never be; regardless of their children’s personality, skills, likes, or dislikes.
A good example of this situation is Andre Agassi, who has even published a book with his autobiography, and in which he explains that he literally hated tennis and everything related to the sport for years. His father was the one who wanted him to become a professional tennis player; therefore, Andre had to abide by his father’s demands and adopt a personality that could help him survive and become successful in tennis. It was not until it was almost time for his retirement where he developed a sincere love for the sport. He not only returned to being No. 1 in the rankings in 1999, but he also played amazingly well during the next and last four years of his career.
Another interesting aspect of how an individual’s personality is shaped by the sport they practice is when they seem to have a completely different personality from that expected from sports psychologists, textbooks, or even coaches and fans. In other words, they may have a Type B personality and yet practice a team or contact sport. An example of this could be Joe DiMaggio, who was a very successful baseball player; he was a celebrity in his time, and yet, he is well known for his shy and quiet personality. Di Maggio was somewhat able to adapt his own personality in order to adopt the necessary personality traits to deal with the sport, fame, and everything else that brought him to the spotlight.
In contrast, participating in a specific type of sport might also have some influence on an individual’s personality. For example, we have recently seen a dramatic increase in obesity among children, teenagers, and adults in the United States. This type of situation might be initiated by a vast array of personal, professional, cultural, or even health problems or conditions. However, it is up to the individual to choose a much healthier regime and embark on a series of new personality traits, which will help him or she lose weight and become a healthier individual.
This will obviously include adopting new eating habits of course; however, it will also require that this individual embrace a complete and new lifestyle, including more discipline and intrinsic motivation to keep focused and achieve his or her goals. Exercise might become a key factor in assisting this person with these goals. Enrolling in a fitness club or hiring a personal trainer, or deciding to practice a team sport, running, swimming, or taking a bicycle ride will most likely become part of this new lifestyle. Therefore, sports and exercise will most definitely help this person shape a new and much healthier type of personality.
Another interesting case in which sports can shape someone’s personality is when individuals with aggressive or hard-to-control personalities find “their way” in sports, and they channel this aggression towards something much more positive and productive. In addition, sports can provide a completely different lifestyle with more opportunities to skillful kids or individuals who live in underprivileged households. Sports can most definitely provide them with another chance to obtain a good education, receive scholarships or grants, and adopt specific personality traits. These personality traits will not only help them become successful in sports; they will help them in their careers and all throughout their lives.
Sports and the Senior Population.
Lastly, it is time to talk about the senior population. A few decades ago, a sixty-year-old individual might have been considered a very old, fragile, and maybe even a sick person with just a few more years to live a somewhat good, conservative life. Nowadays, we have seen such a dramatic change in this perception, and more than ever, we are looking at healthier, stronger, and very motivated sixty, seventy, and even eighty-year-old individuals who perform all kinds of sports and maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. There is no doubt that sports have helped shape this new personality and approach adopted by the senior population. Exercise and sports most certainly bring a new meaning to their lives, particularly, because they live and experience the benefits of exercising on a daily basis. Therefore, their personalities and psychological state might be completely different from that sixty-year-old senior stereotype from a few decades ago.
Evidently, there is an intrinsic relationship between personality and sports. In addition, sports are also a major influence on an individual’s personality and overall lifestyle. Anyone working in the sports and exercise arena must feel honored, grateful, and motivated to be able to care for and help individuals with their health and fitness goals in order to live longer better lives.
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