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The effects of personality on sports performance Essay


Personality is all of our characteristics added together to make each person unique. The effect personality has on sports performance has interested sports psychologists since the 1800’s, however conclusive evidence on whether personality directly affects personality has not been found. Athletes show their own unique patterns of behaviour whilst participating in sports performance. Many psychologists believe that the quality of performance and sport participation are determined by personality. A psychologist called Allport said personality is, ‘What a man really is!’;Whiting later added, ‘Not what he appears to be.’ Among recent definitions, two are important to us:

‘Personality is the sum total of an individual’s characteristics which make a human unique.’ (Hollander) ‘Personality represents those characteristics of the person that account for consistent patterns of behaviour.’ (Pervin, 1993)

Marten’s Schematic View

Marten’s schematic view is seen as having three different levels, which are all related to one another. These are:

Psychological core
Typical responses
Role-related behaviour

The psychological core is ‘the real you’, its what contains your beliefs, attitudes, interests and values. These are seen to be relatively stable. A typical response would be the usual ways you respond to your environment, the world around you and the way you handle certain situations. E.g. you might get angry and shout after being fouled in football, as you feel it was unfair and unsportsman-like, on the other hand, you may be really quiet and shy when you find yourself meeting new people.

These are typical of the situation and give a good insight into your psychological core. Role related behaviour is determined entirely by the circumstance you find yourself in. It is the most changeable part of your personality. Your personality will change as your perception of the environment changes. E.g. In the morning you are captaining a team and have to show leadership skills, in the evening, you work a part time job and need to follow instructions.

Interactional View

Most psychologists accept the interactionist view when explaining behaviour, it says that you need to consider how situation and personality traits link together. It suggests when situational factors are strong, like in a penalty shoot-out in football, they are more likely to predict behaviour rather than personality. An athlete may be very quiet in everyday life, but will scream and behave erratically if they scored a winning goal.

Psychodynamic Theory

This approach to personality suggests that personality is made up of the conscious and the unconscious. The first part is called the ‘id’ which stands for the instinctive drive. This is the part of your personality that is unconscious, and makes you do things without thinking. E.g. a sprinter at the starting line in an Olympic final may unconsciously start to feel threatened by all of the expectations riding on them, causing their muscles to freeze through high anxiety. The second part of your personality is the ego, the conscious part. Then the final part is your super ego, which is the moral conscience you have.

The effects of the ego and super ego can be seen when a football player wont take a penalty in a shoot-out because they are worried about letting their team down. The psychodynamic view tries to understand the individual as a whole rather thana looking at different parts of their personality. This approach isn’t used very often in sport as it focuses on the reasons why we behave a certain way, it focuses on behaviour that comes from an individual and ignores the athlete’s environment. This theory, however, is useful when psychologists are trying to explain behaviour because it does help you to understand that not all behaviour is consciously under the athlete’s control.

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