How Are the Big Five Personality Traits Linked to Athletic Success?

Maybe you have heard of the Big Five Personality test, which assesses individuals based on five personality traits – extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Many research studies have been conducted over the years to determine if there is a link between these personality traits and athletic success. In this article, we will look into these findings and discuss what they could mean for you as you grow personally and in your sport.


The Basics of the Big Five

While many personality assessments classify individuals into one category or another, The Big Five recognizes that personality traits exist on a spectrum and many individuals find themselves somewhere in the middle. Let’s take a look at what the Big Five personality traits are and what they mean.

  • Openness– one’s willingness to try new things and think ‘outside of the box.’ Someone with a high level of openness is likely to be creative and enjoy new experiences, while someone low in openness might prefer to keep a consistent routine and stick with what is familiar.
  • Conscientiousness– refers to having strong impulse control, which leads to successfully completing tasks and meeting goals. A person who is highly conscientious may be described as organized, disciplined or thoughtful in their actions. An individual with lower levels of conscientiousness may have a difficult time with structure and be more impulsive in their behavior.
  • Extraversion– is the extent in which an individual seeks out social interaction in their environment. Someone who is more extraverted gains their energy from being around others, and generally feels comfortable being in groups and voicing their opinions. On the other hand, someone who is more introverted is energized by solitude, and tends to be more reserved, reflective and listen more than they speak.
  • Agreeableness– focuses on how people act in relationship with others. Those who are agreeable are commonly described as helpful, sensitive to other’s needs, cooperative, and trustworthy. People with lower levels of agreeableness may be demanding or antagonistic in interactions with others, or appear unsympathetic. 
  • Neuroticism– measures one’s emotional stability and how likely one is to experience negative emotions. An individual with high levels of neuroticism is more prone to experiencing stress, anxiety, or sadness, while someone with lower levels of neuroticism may feel more secure, calm, and resilient, even in the face of challenging circumstances.
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How Do the Big Five Traits Influence Athletic Performance?

Research studies have been conducted to determine if there is a connection between the Big Five personality traits and athletic success. One research study discovered that while personality traits varied by the particular sport, champions in team sports were characterized by higher levels of extraversion and openness, and lower levels of neuroticism. The most distinct difference they found between champions and other athletes was in the area of neuroticism. It has also been confirmed by other studies that athletes generally display lower levels of neuroticism than non-athletes. This raises the question: are people who are more emotionally stable drawn to athletics, or does participate in a sport increase one’s emotional stability?

Research has revealed that people low in neuroticism seem to be more prone to becoming athletes. However, one study conducted over four years revealed that athletes’ neuroticism decreased over time, the longer they participated in their sport. While there is more to understand in this realm, the facts are clear: lower levels of neuroticism are associated with success in sports.

Thankfully, one’s personality is not fixed. It is common for a person’s personality to shift as they grow and mature. It is also possible to take active steps in order to enhance certain desired characteristics, such as emotional stability. While neurotic tendencies may never vanish completely, there are daily practices that can help to alleviate the intensity of distressing thought patterns, such as engaging in meditation or mindfulness and practicing gratitude and self-compassion.

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If you are experiencing ongoing stress, anxiety, or depression that is affecting your quality of life, you might consider seeking the support of mental health professional. They can provide a safe space for you to challenge unhelpful thought patterns, which can contribute to increased emotional stability and confidence about your ability to cope with difficult emotions. Developing these crucial skills will serve you in your sport, as well as your relationships and other areas of life.

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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