Know the type who is so happy to take the leader’s responsibility? Or the one who will just chat and chat, half of the practice, every day? Loves happenings and events and being right at the center of them? Just radiating more light when getting attention? Someone who can inspire others by opening their mouth? Are you one of these? Extroversion is the common denominator here. Extroverted athletes are the ones who need stimuli in their environment and are blasting forward faster than camels in the sand getting excited about any number of things.
So this wild adventure will be a dive into the lives of extroverts and the minds of extroverts as well as the challenges, differences and strengths of extroverted athletes and how they might come up in the savanna of sports. Extroverted athletes also happen to often be the leaders and captains of the teams so there are a few words about that at the end. Ok let’s ride into the extroverts’ life!
EXTROVERTS IN SPORTS
Heard from the mouths of extroverts…
“Oh wowzaa I am so excited! I get to meet new people today and have new discussions with them!”
“Ok. Let’s start! You can start from there, I will be here and…”
An extrovert is the type who feels themselves most home and comfortable when there is enough stimulation for them. Therefore, things need to be happening and hopefully fast-paced in their lives and in the practices or they will get bored. Things need to move, they need to develop, move forward or their focus will be gone if there are no new results coming in.
The social, extroverted athlete is the one who might be blabbering while the coach is giving instructions, because she/he is so excited about something. Or just for fun and anyways. If this sounds like you, you are often also contacting people during timeouts and breaks trying to talk with someone. When something unwished happens, you unpack and process it usually by talking about it, that is your way of processing and you often need other people involved in the process.
Or… You might think that we did not come to the practice just to blabber and you might take charge in the middle of the training and tell some people what they should be doing now. You might not care that much if someone would get a little offended by your straightforward feedback. If something unwished happens, you process it fairly quickly and with less emotions than many while moving towards to the next task. The most important thing is that the journey continues, and results are coming. You don’t want to be making mistakes, but you know they sometimes happen when the speed is high.
TASK- AND PEOPLE-ORIENTED EXTROVERT
Extroverted athletes can be inspected from the same angles as introverts like we did in the previous post (you can find it HERE), so let’s continue with the same dance moves since they seem to work. (Who would not want to be the queen of the dance floor..?) So we can also recognize two different sides in extroverts, task-oriented extrovert and people-oriented extrovert, and sure you can also have traits of both.
People-oriented extroverted athlete is often the cheerleader of the team. If you are this fellow, you often come to the practice with fire under your butt. There was so much stuff to do at home too and phew, you were almost late! You had to run to make it.. You say hi to everyone loud and happily when arriving the locker room and start telling things right away that have happened to you today, you wouldn’t believe..! You chatter all the way from the locker room to the gym and probably won’t listen or hear more than the first two sentences of what coach said about the first drill and practice because your focus is already in something else like “mmm Margaret has done something different with her hair today, looks good”.
The drill kicks off and you spin around not knowing what to do and where because you only heard and got the very first part of the drill and the rest went missing. You are out like a snowman in the yard (saying in Finnish meaning not to know anything about the given thing), but you don’t mind that much. It’s pretty ok for you to be the clown of the group.
If you are a task-oriented extroverted athlete, you are getting annoyed easily by these snowmen who don’t know where they should be and what they should do. So you tell them the instructions and give feedback, fairly straightforward. You are not interested in people that much so that you can talk with them, you have a natural urge to lead them, talk to them.
You want things to move fast and you are also ready to catch the leader’s position and responsibility when the first chance for that emerges. You come to practice early, you are often one of the first ones to be standing in the hall or gym. You often judge the last ones a bit because they are just loitering their way to the hall. If you are feeling particularly impatient today, you might rush them so you can finally start today’s work.
The practice starts and if the level starts to come down or something does not please you, you will bring that up. We are hunting for results here which is totally different scheme than a BFF-contest eh? Results allow us to move forward and we need to get forward. What else would be the purpose of this kind of athletic gatherings?
THE STRENGTHS AND CHALLENGES OF EXTROVERTS
Extroverts are happily going to places, trying new things, starting the actions and going towards things that excite them especially that if it gives them more stuff to do and stimulation. However, extroverts can be shy too. I am familiar with this combination in my own life so time for an example.
So I thought for a long time that I am a little weird, and/or that it is little weird that I am nervous in some social situations, I am an extrovert after all, I should not be nervous … Well. Knowledge increases understanding.
Extroversion does not stop that feeling when you should be courageous and say something in front of a crowd that you know the reception of your message might not be awesomely received by everyone. That triggers my shyness. In the end, I want to please most of the people and that is why shyness comes up when I sense that not everyone are gonna love me or my message after this.
That is why it is excellent that we have also the task-oriented extroverts who can lead people with less focus on people and demanding comes little easier for them. We need all.
So extroverts’ strengths are to take steps forward, initiate, come up with things to do, and perform naturally in the spotlight among others. It is worth remembering that shyness does not derive from the spotlight itself but the fear of other people’s judgment and critique.
Task-oriented extrovert is often also very competitive compared to many other people. You can get the most out of them by being firm, straightforward and motivate them by competition. People-oriented extrovert on the other hand is very good at inspiring others. You can get the most out of them if you let them get excited about new things and experiment them as well as let them bring themselves forward.
Note. Even if extroverts sometimes are more open to talk, it does not mean that they would not keep some things inside them. Let’s take a look from a coach’s perspective for a moment: if an athlete is chatting easily about this and that, it does not mean that you have won their trust. For them, talking is easier and for sure with some athletes you can get to know them easier and more effortlessly. But. The question is can you get deeper? Can you get them to talk about something else than just the new yellow cool sneakers they bought yesterday?
There is that danger as an extroverted athlete that everyone expects you to be cheery and social all the time. So the mask is pretty easy to put on the face when something is actually not that great or something is bugging you. Creating a great atmosphere around you and constantly keeping it alive can also be hard and consuming. It should not be the responsibility of the extrovert athlete only.
I can recognize myself in situations when I wasn’t all smiles but I had a more normal day and I was a bit more quiet or serious looking and someone comes up to me and asks (meaning well) that hey, is everything ok today? It made me feel a bit like yeah everything is ok but this “more normal” and little more serious face of mine means that I should be merrier, this is not enough. I should act happier. So I learned that you won’t be able to put the cheerleader pompoms into the corner just like that.
Some days there was a little internal rebel who said “I can’t cheer everyone up all the time, could you maybe help… I am getting pissed to always be the one who supports and cheers for others when in reality, I am so tired”. But I never found any words or anything that would justify me to express this matter and say that “Hey, I am just so tired of cheering other people up when I should be just focusing on cheering myself up the most right now”. (Sure also introverts have also faced the same issue when they support others a lot, extroverts are often just more vocal in their supporting efforts).
That is why I raise this possible issue on the table that even if extroverts are talking and cheering the most, they often are given the cheerleader pom poms that they can’t put down no matter the situation. In the case of task-oriented extroverts, the pom-poms take shape as the leader’s hat that knowingly can get very heavy as well. Especially if carried alone at all times, they simply might not know how to ask for help. Knowing the athletes and knowing more how they are doing, we can prevent these hats getting too heavy to carry.
Something important to realize is that the responsibility of communication belongs to both parties. I don’t mean that coach should be stalking behind every corner with “how are you” signs, also the athlete has the responsibility to bring up matters that are now concerning them and deepen the relationship with coach and teammates, if one has them.
Therefore, if you are being asked “how are you”, be honest. In addition, if you ask “how are you?”, be ready to respond/take care/feel the responsibility to listen and help if the answer is not “pretty good thanks”. If someone says that this hat is getting too tight and heavy, I am not feeling very well and you respond just with a shrug, you might make things worse and make the athlete think that “Well now I tried to tell but no one is interested or truly cares”.
And sometimes it is the matter of learned behavior that makes things more complicated. At least in my personal example. I learned through experiences that I should be happy, cheery, social, supporting and that became my trademark. I also learned to hide behind that trademark.
Now I write, explore, research and share so that other people would not need to start the hiding game but we would find other ways that would lead to better wellbeing of athletes, coaches, and the overall sports environment.
EXTROVERTED LEADERS AND CAPTAINS
It is also good to keep in mind that even if extroverts often very good at speaking to and with people and they might be the obvious choice for the leader or captain, they might not be the best ones for that role. Why?
1) They should want to lead, not just be chatty
2) They need to want make others around them successful, not just themselves
It is quite common to see those athletes as captains and leaders who are in that role only to get more attention and turn the spotlight to them. Sometimes this might be ok and it does no harm to anyone but sometimes this equation is problematic.
Say, there is a very talented young athlete of the same position as the captain. Can we trust the captain is going to help, support and empower this athlete who is a threat to their ego? Can we trust that this kind of “attention drawn” captain is always going to make decisions that are most important for the team, not only for themselves? Definitely could be, just something to consider.
Another interesting note about captain selection I got when I attended a webinar hosted by USA Volleyball so the “interviewer” was Reid Priddy (Volleyball player, represented USA in four Olympics, now transferred to beach volley) and Simon Sinek (the writer of Why and Infinite Game) was the guest.
They were talking about how captains are often chosen based on their performance level meaning that their “ranking” is being used as the selection criteria for a captain. They were saying that the stats or ranking of a player should not be the deciding factor. A good captain is someone who wants to make others better. That is more important characteristic than the MVP-rewards.
Sure the skills of the athlete give the captain credibility and trustworthiness but not many want to follow a leader who needs fans and cheerleaders around them instead of focusing on making others much better even if that means that those people could become better than the captain/leader themselves.
This talk would lead nicely to Egoism, which is one of the competencies in the Sports Capacity Assessment but no worries, I cannot start talking about that or this blog post is turning into a book haha..
So let’s get back to business next week and let’s wrap up this dance.
Extrovert might not be a leader nor a clown. Extrovert might be an excellent leader if they also want to lead others in addition to themselves. Extroverts are often charismatic which helps. An extrovert can also be a clown if they use their extroversion to entertain others only. So, an extrovert can basically be what they want, it just matters where they are gonna put their focus.
PERSONALITY IN SPORTS – Summary of the case of extro- and introverted athletes
Extroverts and introverts both have the exact same chances to utilize their own characteristics and strengths within sports and the sport they are doing. It is important to understand that “one size fits all” does not need to fit all the best and it does not exist in success. Don’t try to fit yourself into a mold, if that is offered to you, and you feel like you can’t fit in. Expand, mold the edges to fit you if you feel suffocated.
Extroversion and introversion can naturally lead people to choose certain types of sports where they can use their natural strengths better. Neither of those personality features will predict success. Both of them have their own challenges and strengths. However, by knowing more about yourself or about the athlete is therefore crucial.
Very lastly, let’s end by touching success and personality. Thus, success is not based on a certain personality trait only and it is different for everyone so think what success means to you?
MVP-awards, winning yourself, pushing limits, collecting experiences, making money, making friends, courage to jump into sports, – these can all mean success to you or maybe one of those is more important than the other or maybe your success is something else.
Explore a bit, what success is to you? What lights your personality alive? How could you utilize your personal characteristics in reaching it?
Thank you for reading<3
Sports and personality: Extraversion and Introversion. http://psychology.iresearchnet.com/sports-psychology/sports-and-personality/extraversion-and-introversion/.
The role of personality characteristics of athletics in coach-athlete relationships. Sport Psychologist. Jun2019, Vol. 33 Issue 2, p119-128.
Aşçi, F. H., Kelecek, S., & Altintaş, A. (2015). The Role of Personality Characteristics of Athletes in Coach–Athlete Relationships. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 121(2), 399–411. https://doi.org/10.2466/30.PMS.121c17x9
Ruchi Singh. Personality, spiritual exercise and cognitive-behavioural interventions in enhancing sports performance, Indian Journal of Positive Psychology 2014, 5(3), 301-309 http://www.iahrw.com/index.php/home/journal_detail/19#list
Extended DISC training material and DISC theory.
Good text Saana! I appreciate the stories you share.