Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Personality Characteristics of Competitive and Recreational Cyclists

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Personality Characteristics of Competitive and Recreational Cyclists

Article excerpt

The psychological characteristics of athletes have been of tremendous interest in the field of sports psychology for the past 20 years (Cratty, 1989). A number of studies have investigated the contribution of psychological variables to athletic performance and, particularly, athletic success. This area of study is important for understanding why some less physically talented athletes achieve greater success than their peers, while physiologically superior athletes sometimes do not succeed (Davis & Mogk, 1994). Indeed, motivation, diligence, anxiety, and various other psychological qualities have accounted for as much as 20% to 45% of the variance in successful athletic performance (Morgan, 1980).

Certain personality characteristics have been consistently found in athletes, such as introversion (Hagberg, Mullin, Bahrke, & Limburg, 1979), lower levels of cooperation (Harder, 1992) and narcissistic personality characteristics (Carroll, 1989). Among elite cyclists in particular, high self-confidence has been associated with strong performance (McCann, Murphy, & Raedeke, 1992). Athletes have also been found to posses the "iceberg" personality profile, as measured by the Profile of Mood States (POMS; Morgan, O'Connor, Ellickson, & Bradley, 1988). Athletes with the "iceberg" profile on the POMS scored lower than the population average on tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion, and above the population average on vigor. This profile has been found among successful wrestlers (Silva, Shultz, Haslam, Martin, & Murray, 1985), crew team members (Morgan & Johnson, 1978) and distance runners (Morgan, O'Connor, Ellickson, & Bradley, 1988; Morgan & Pollock, 1977).

Exploring the psychological characteristics of athletes in sports psychology may help identify attitudes and personality traits which are helpful to performance. Information from psychological profiles may have implications for coaches and trainers in working with athletes on sport-specific psychological techniques designed to enhance performance.

Although research on the psychological characteristics or profiles of successful athletes may have practical relevance, its application has been limited due to methodological weaknesses in prior research (Davis & Mogk, 1994). Some studies fail to differentiate within their samples among athletes of different sports (e.g., Mahoney, Gabriel, & Perkins, 1987). Others use a plethora of diverse and often times poorly standardized measures (e.g., Mahoney, et al., 1987; Aamodt, Alexander, & Kimbrough, 1982). Still others employ statistical tests inappropriately (Hagberg, Mullin, Bahrke, & Limburg, 1979; Mahoney, et al., 1987). For instance, many studies failed to use appropriate statistical methods in determining the presence of the iceberg profile on the POMS, reducing it to only a descriptive measure. This calls into question the subjectivity associated with deciding what constitutes "above and below average" on each of the six mood states measured on this instrument. Even the few studies that have analyzed the POMS with statistical methods are suspect. For example, Fuchs and Zaichkowsky (1983) used multiple t tests to assess the differences in POMS profiles between bodybuilders and nonathletes, greatly enhancing the chance of Type I errors.

The present study rectifies some of the methodological weaknesses found in earlier studies by (a) studying athletes engaged in one sport, (b) using standardized and well-normed measures, and (c) using appropriate statistical tests. In this study, personality characteristics of competitive caliber (elite) cyclists, recreational cyclists, and nonathletes were investigated using the Personality Adjective Checklist (PACL; Strack, 1987), the Coolidge Axis Two Inventory (CATI; Coolidge & Merwin, 1992), and the Profile of Mood States (POMS; McNair, Loft, & Droppleman, 1971). In this study we investigated personality characteristics that have been identified in previous research as important among athletes, but that have not been examined among the specific population of elite and recreational cyclists. …

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