Exploring the role of specific conscientiousness facets on sport-specific practice and skill development among athletes


Conscientiousness (C), the tendency to control one's behaviour in the service of goals (McCrae & Lockenhöff, 2010), is a dispositional variable consistently linked to performance achievement outside sport (e.g., Poropat, 2014). It also influences sport success (Malinauskas et al., 2014), however, research has yet to examine specific facets of C in relation to sport expertise development. Junior (ages 12-17) and senior (ages 18-43) athletes (120 male, 108 female; sport involvement = 14.05 hrs/wk, SD = 8.09) completed 60 survey items from the International Personality Item Pool assessing six C traits (i.e., self-efficacy, orderliness, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and cautiousness), questions to determine skill level (beginner/intermediate; advanced; expert groups), and items assessing sport-specific practice amounts, engagement in practice contexts, and threats to practice commitment. An original 6-factor measurement model showed very poor fit (CFI = .67) and inferior item loadings. EFA (direct oblimin) resulted in a refined 8-factor model with 32 items. We advanced all scale scores to concurrent validity tests. Controlling for age, only 'achievement striving' was correlated with practice amounts (r = .23, p = .005). Associations with engagement in practice and with threats to commitment were found for all other C traits suggesting that each uniquely contributes to athletes' involvement in practice contexts. Using multinomial logistic regression, we found that athletes who scored one unit higher on achievement striving were 5.34 times as likely to belong to the expert group compared to the beginner/intermediate group, suggesting that the tendency to set higher goals and work harder toward those goals is associated with more expert levels of skill development.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) through the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (767-2013-2136).