The Role of Athletes’ Personality on Talent Identification and Development: A pilot project in university sport


Talent identification and development (TID) programs are often characterized by high expenses, low success rates, and unclear effects that regrettably result in poor return on investment (Vaeyens et al. 2009). Conscientiousness, self-control, and grit are personality traits conceptually and empirically linked to perseverance and high achievement in several domains including academic, professional, and military environments. In sport, anonymous surveys have shown that these traits predict athletes’ practice quantity/quality, better athletic engagement, and higher skill levels (e.g., Tedesqui & Young, 2018). However, such research had never been carried in a TID setting where athletes are under constant evaluation and, as a result, social desirability bias is likely to occur. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to test whether athletes’ self-reported personality traits predicted (a) talent retention, coaches’ decision to retain athletes for a future season; and (b) talent development, coach-rated athletes’ level of practice engagement over one season. Participants were university athletes (N = 194, 84 female, Mage = 20.67, SD = 1.94) from individual (e.g., golf) and team sports (e.g., rugby), along with their coaches. Hierarchical multiple regressions controlling for age, sex, and social desirability, showed only self-discipline (a facet of self-control) predicted athletes’ likelihood of retention for a future season (B = .27, p < .05). No personality facets associated with indicators of talent development (rs < |.19|, ps > .12). We problematized the scarcity of significant associations between personality facets and talent-related outcomes and considered potential implications for improving the effectiveness of TID programs.