I’ve always been the athletic type.
As a kid, I spent most of my time kicking balls, hitting the track, or swinging a bat.
It’s hard to know to what extent the sports I’ve played have shaped my personality, or if my personality is what led me to get into sports in the first place.
But one thing is for sure:
The older I’ve gotten, I’ve seen how key lessons I learned during all those games and matches have turned me into the man I am today.
I do believe that certain personality traits are more prevalent in people who grew up playing sports.
So let’s dive in and take a look at them.
1) You’re more confident
Confidence certainly can be something a few lucky folks are just born with.
But most of us have to build it.
Of course, sports is far from being the only way to do that, but it can be a really effective way.
Studies have shown this to be true.
For example, one report that surveyed more than 10,000 girls found a link between playing sports and increased confidence, body image, academic performance, and personal relationships.
It found that girls who play sports are 11 percent more likely to say they’re “happy the way they are.”
Sports seem to improve our self-image and self-belief.
2) You’re a better collaborator
Particularly if it’s a team sport that you play, getting along isn’t an option, it’s a requirement.
Soccer players pass the ball to their teammates strategically, understanding that collaboration is key to scoring goals.
That means putting ego aside.
As the cliche goes:
‘There’s no I in team’.
I’m sure this gives you an automatic advantage in the workplace and can lead to greater success in later life — something I’ll delve into more soon.
It’s not just collaboration either, it’s a breeding ground for a lot of useful social skills that can help your relationships in general.
3) You have stronger social skills
Sometimes I wonder if I’d even do the job I do now if I had sat in my room all day playing video games.
I’m actually a natural introvert, yet sports helped to pull me out of myself.
It forced me to be around people when I was tempted to hide and keep myself to myself.
Writing is essentially about trying to connect with people. I like to think that’s something I’ve gotten better at, in part, thanks to some early conditioning playing sports.
There are countless social skills that come from playing sports. But here are a few of the most valuable lessons I learned:
- To win, we need to communicate effectively
- I can’t only think about myself
- Support is really important to achieving
4) You have a competitive streak
I have a friend who loathes all forms of competition.
Seriously, even a game of Monopoly brings him out in hives.
I once asked him why, and he said he hated the pressure of it all.
I get it, for sure, competition can feel uncomfortable. Not everyone gets a kick out of it.
But at the same time, he openly admitted that can have an unfortunate side effect:
Rather than push himself, he lets himself off the hook.
Because competition isn’t just about coming up against other people in life — it’s also about bettering ourselves too.
Growing up playing sports gets you into the habit of competition.
That can mean you’re more inclined to set and work for goals as an adult.
When competition feels natural to us I think it nurtures an environment where you strive for excellence, constantly seeking improvement and growth.
Of course, that demands diligence.
5) You know the importance of discipline
Sacrifice becomes part and parcel of playing sports growing up.
Sure, you may enjoy it, but not always.
Dragging your ass out of bed a 6 am to get practice in before school starts isn’t the greatest of fun.
Neither is missing out on weekend plans so you can put in some all-important extra training sessions.
Athletes learn to wake up early and give up certain things. It’s part of their dedication.
It’s why people who grew up playing sports often exhibit a higher level of discipline as adults.
Those rigorous training schedules, commitment to practice sessions, and following the rules all work towards better self-control in later life.
6) You’re better with time management
I think this comes down to organization in general.
In many ways, it’s linked to the above point about discipline.
Getting sh*t done demands efficiency and coordination.
Whilst other friends at school were always running late, I learned the importance of time management from a really young age.
Because I had to really.
There was often a lot of stuff to juggle.
I was balancing training sessions, competitions, and school work.
I had to learn to prioritize certain tasks and make sure I left enough time for everything else.
This is something I feel helped to instill a sense of responsibility and time management in me today.
7) You take self-responsibility
When I first started to play sports, I’d often come home and complain:
“It’s not fair”.
Usually, what I meant was:
“We didn’t win”.
But what I soon learned was that victim mentality gets you nowhere.
Whilst you’re busy whining you’re wasting time that could be spent getting to work and improving.
After every crucial match, we would always regroup so we could get to work and figure out ways to improve.
My coaches showed me a really important roadmap to follow in life:
- Analyze your mistakes
- Work harder to improve for the future
- Don’t expect anyone to do the work for you
This means adopting a thick skin when it comes to setbacks, as we’ll see next.
8) You’re more resilient to what life throws at you
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to lose. In fact, I hate it.
But I’ve had a lot of practice at it.
Sports teaches you how to get over it and move forward.
Athletes learn to persevere through challenges and develop a positive mental attitude, even in the face of adversity.
Research from Ohio State University has shown that playing sports leads to higher levels of so-called ‘grit’ (a combination of passion and perseverance) as an adult.
Lead author of the study Emily Nothnagle says:
“Kids who participate in sports learn what it is like to struggle as they learn new skills, overcome challenges, and bounce back from failure to try again.”
9) You’re a better leader
Leadership and management aren’t really my thing.
But I still believe that playing sports provides lots of opportunities for people to develop leadership skills — opportunities they may not have had otherwise.
There’s no denying that being part of a team lets players learn how to motivate and guide their teammates toward achieving common goals.
Even though I was pretty shy, there were moments when I had to be a team captain.
In this role, there was nowhere to hide, you’ve got to step up to the plate. It was my job to take charge, make important decisions when it counts, and try to keep spirits high.
I may have not gone on to carve a career out of this, but it still comes in useful in my day-to-day relationships.
10) You’re more altruistic
Here’s a potentially surprising one.
Although I do obviously like to think of myself as a caring person, there is evidence that suggests that being involved in sports can strengthen this quality in you.
One research study took a look at the philanthropic behaviors of former student-athletes 60 years after high school.
Here’s what they found:
The men who participated in volunteer work or donated money to charitable causes were more likely to have participated in high school sports.
Whilst they couldn’t say why, I do have some theories.
I think a lot of it goes back to that teamwork attitude of support that you cultivate through sport. We know how much we have to lean on one another.
I also think that playing sports instills a sense of good sportsmanship and respect for opponents.
That can lead to greater integrity and a sense of fair play. We want others to succeed and want to help them to do that.
These days there’s (quite rightly) a lot of focus on staying healthy and the ways that we can do that. But the psychological side effects of sports sometimes get overlooked.
Because growing up playing sports shapes you way beyond physical fitness. It can mold your personality to equip you with valuable life skills.
Some of the many blessings you get from sports participation include discipline, resilience, teamwork, and people skills.
As you grow these can translate into greater success and contribute to turning you into a more well-rounded person.
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