Athletic Personality Traits: Best Athletic Traits

The physical attributes of athletes are something to admire whether they play for pleasure or professionally. It’s no secret that athletes have characteristics like being strong, fast, and having excellent stamina. While these traits are crucial to athletes, something that separates good athletes from great athletes is their personality traits. 

An athlete can have all the talent in the world, but without personality traits like discipline, drive, and other similar qualities, they can only go so far in their sport of choice. Mastering sports psychology is equally as important as one’s skillset. The top ten personality traits of athletes are as follows.

  1. Self-motivation 
  2. Discipline 
  3. Natural goal setting 
  4. Leadership
  5. Tolerance to criticism 
  6. Humble nature 
  7. Stress management 
  8. Low anxiety 
  9. Focus power
  10. Goal visualization

Not every athlete will possess all ten of these personality traits, but any combination of the ten will make someone a better athlete than one who has little to none of these traits. Many people naturally have these traits, but for those that don’t, they can learn. For example, they can learn to set achievable goals, manage their stress and anxiety, and how to take criticism well. 

1. Self Motivation 

Almost all athletes have the motivation to reach higher goals. Whether this motivation is extrinsic or intrinsic is the question. What motivates an athlete may vary from individual to individual, but they all have some motivation for playing their sport. 

Some athletes are motivated by achieving medals and trophies, others with sponsorships, scholarships to colleges, or internal goals they’ve had since they were children. Without self-motivation, an athlete may not feel as inspired to play their best and won’t hit the goals they’ve set for themselves. 

One study of Bulgarian athletes showed that male athletes are more motivated by extrinsic factors while females are more intrinsic. Regardless of what specific thing motivates an athlete, they won’t make it as far as other self-motivated athletes without self-motivation. 

2. Discipline

When it comes to examining the characteristics of an athlete, discipline is vital. It ensures individuals follow a specific routine without deviation, including exercise or following a meal plan. 


Discipline is an element that can be a constant struggle for some athletes, though. For example, taking the time each day to follow a workout routine may mean missing out on recreational activities that an individual enjoys. This can be challenging for some, but missing a workout, not following a meal plan, and avoiding responsibility for the sport will make them fall behind.

Often, athletes who use exceptional discipline in their lives are confident in their abilities and have healthy self-esteem. Conversely, individuals with low self-esteem are more likely to be less disciplined in their habits overall. 

3. Natural Goal Setting

Goal setting is a common practice in any field or recreational activity. With athletes, being able to set goals naturally is beneficial. It comes naturally to many, and it can help with self-motivation and discipline. The combination of these three traits can lead to achieving the predetermined goal.

Setting goals can help an athlete remain on track. Whether the goal is to make it to the Olympics, the professional circuit, or get a college scholarship, making a goal is vital. An ideal way to follow realistic goal setting is to follow the SMART method: 

  1. Specific: Be clear in our goals and leave no room for ambiguity 
  2. Measurable: Make the goal something you can measure progress towards
  3. Achievable: The plan needs to be attainable 
  4. Realistic: If the goal is something near impossible to achieve, there’s no point in setting the goal
  5. Timely: Implementing a timeframe of when you’ll reach the goal by helps with motivation and attainment 

4. Leadership

Being a leader is one of the top adjectives for athletes. Some individuals are born leaders, and others have to work at it, but it is possible to learn successful leadership. So naturally, leading others with motivation and influence is one characteristic of successful team sports athletes. 


When athletes need to work together for a common goal, having someone who can guide everyone and keep them working together will provide more effective results. Some believe the leader should be controlling and a take-charge type, individuals who lead by example, are more apt to have others follow in their footsteps. 

5. Tolerance to Criticism 

In the athletic world, criticism is everywhere. Being able to handle both positive and negative feedback is crucial to an athlete’s development and success. An athlete that’s tolerant of criticism is favorable because it shows they have the self-esteem to take advice to better their skills and performance. 

A good sportsperson can accept criticism gracefully, evaluate any constructive feedback elements, and use the information to improve and advance their skills. Additionally, athletes who can sustain criticism are more likely to have higher self-esteem and the motivation to strive for their goals.

6. Humble Nature

Humility is downplaying an athlete’s accomplishments or talents in respect for others. When an athlete is humble, they tend to be more well-liked and respected and reach their goals faster and easier. 

As individuals develop in sports, they will feed either their ego or humility. Naturally, humble athletes are more apt to praise others and be grateful for their opportunities. As one of the words to describe athletes, humble nature should be at the top of the list. 

7. Stress Management 

While sports are generally fun for athletes, they can be stressful sometimes. Proper stress management allows individuals to help reduce this stress’s effects on their body and mind by using comprehensive tools and effective methods. 

Stress Management
Stress Management

For example, someone who loses a game or competition may stress the athlete out. Consequently, an individual who uses effective stress-reducing techniques can ensure they won’t let the situation alter their behavior or mood in the future. 

There is evidence that effective stress management in athletes can help speed up healing after an injury, making it a more critical element of what makes a good athlete. 

8. Low Anxiety 

Anxiety makes individuals worry, obsess over possible outcomes, and creates physical aches and pains. Athletes with low anxiety will have an advantage over those prone to overthinking. 

Similar to stress management, decreasing anxiety is highly beneficial, especially for athletes in competitive sports. This way, they will be confident when facing stressful situations or tense competitions. However, some athletes may suffer from performance anxiety without the proper tools and methods, inhibiting their performance. 

Finding ways to combat anxiety will help athletes stay focused and perform at their best.

9. Focus Power

Being able to remain focused is essential for athletes. One of the critical parts of sportspersonship is seeing the goal and focusing on attaining it. Exceptional attention can help them perform better in training and on the field. 

Focus power can go hand in hand with motivation and discipline in many cases. For example, an athlete’s ability to maintain their focus before and during a sport is highly beneficial, especially for those individuals who use not-so-desirable results to refocus and realign their goals for next time.

10. Goal Visualization 

Goal visualization is when an athlete takes the time to visualize what it would take to achieve their goal. The result can guide them in the steps to get there. Many athletes have nothing to measure progress against without a concrete goal in mind and may lose motivation. 

As many individuals keep their eye on the prize, they will remain more focused, motivated, and disciplined to do what it takes to achieve their goals. This mental imagery is a commonality shared between almost every success athlete.

What to Know About Athlete Personalities?

Whether you’re a coach, parent, manager, or another important person in an athlete’s life, understanding athlete personalities can be crucial to their success. Athletes are high functioning individuals in their athletic life and outside. Understanding athletes’ traits can help you build a solid sports team or encourage them to perform better in solo sports. 

Is Athletic a Character Trait? 

Yes, being athletic is a character trait. Whether someone is athletic or not is based on genetics and environmental factors. Someone may have an athletic build but doesn’t play sports. Others may have an athletic build and choose to focus and perform well in their sport of choice. 

People with athletic character traits tend to perform higher in various areas of life due to their competitive nature.

What is the Sportspersonship Definition?

The topic of sportspersonship has been heavily discussed amongst the athletic communities of the world. 

The definition of sportspersonship incorporates five factors: 

  • The full commitment to their sport
  • Respect for social conventions within sports, like shaking hands before or after a game
  • Respect and understanding of the rules of the game 
  • Respect for the opposing team 
  • A positive approach towards the sport, like being a good loser

In short, we can define sportspersonship as having concern and respect for an athlete’s total commitment to the sport. Having sportspersonship is what makes a great athlete.

Athletic Insight

Athletic Insight Research


The Athletic Insight Research team consists of a dedicated team of researchers, Doctors, Registered Dieticians, nationally certified nutritionists and personal trainers. Our team members hold prestigious accolades within their discipline(s) of expertise, as well as nationally recognized certifications. These include; National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT), National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), International Sports Sciences Association Nutritionist Certification.