Exploring the role of personality in youth competitive swimmers' developmental experiences


Growing evidence suggests sport has the potential to facilitate positive youth development (PYD) (e.g., Fraser-Thomas et al., 2005). While personality has previously been shown to play an important role in sport performance (Allen et al., 2013), little research has investigated the influence of personality on PYD outcomes. The objective of this study was to explore the role of youths’ personality traits in contributing to their developmental experiences in sport. Competitive youth swimmers (n = 96) completed the NEO-Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI-3; McCrae & Costa, 2004) to assess five key personality traits (i.e., neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness), and the Youth Experience Survey – Sport (YES-S; MacDonald et al., 2012) to assess positive developmental experiences in four positive domains (personal and social skills, cognitive skills, goal setting skills, and initiative), and one negative domain (negative experiences). Multiple regression analyses were performed using each of the five domains of the YES-S as outcome variables. Results indicate athlete agreeableness was negatively associated with negative experiences in sport; less agreeable athletes perceived more negative events in their sport. In contrast, athlete conscientiousness was positively associated with positive developmental experiences in all four domains (i.e., personal and social skills, cognitive skills, goal setting skills, and initiative); more conscientious athletes appeared to develop more life skills through their sport experiences. Further research is necessary to better understand how personality traits may influence PYD outcomes, with a particular focus on potential causality in the relationship. From a practical perspective, findings emphasize the value of coaches recognizing athletes’ unique personality traits and modifying their interactions and programming approach to cater to unique personality types, when aiming to optimize youths’ positive development.