Serious Leisure and Personality Dimensions in Club Sport Athletes

Submitted by Eric Hungenberg1*, and James Gould2, Ph.D*

1* Assistant Professor of Sport & Leisure Service Administration at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Chattanooga TN 37403

2* Associate Professor, School of Human Sciences, Recreation, Tourism, & Hospitality Program, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639

Eric Hungenberg is an Assistant Professor of Sport & Leisure Service Administration at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. His background working as a practitioner in sport involved overseeing and marketing destination club sport events. His research agenda is geared towards understanding sport commitment and sport tourism consumer behavior with a particular interest in the relationship between a consumer’s emotional connection to location and consumption.

James Gould is an Associate Professor of Recreation, Tourism, & Hospitality in the School of Human Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado. His academic interests include adventure special events, leisure philosophy, and community & outdoor recreation. Gould’s research agenda includes the psychometric analysis of committed leisure behavior, passive leisure, and adventure tourism.

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between personality types and sport seriousness and their influences on sport choice and skill level among club sport athletes. A convenience sample of athletes (N = 215) representing fifteen clubs was conducted at two mid-sized universities in the mountain region of the United States. Personality was measured using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) form G (Myers & McCaulley, 1985), and the Ten Item Personality Measure (TIPM) (Gosling, Rentfrow, & Swann, 2003) for assessing the Big 5 Personality dimensions. Sport commitment was measured using the Serious Leisure Inventory and Measure (SLIM) (Gould, Moore, McGuire, & Stebbins, 2008). Results indicated that personality explained a moderate amount of variance in sport seriousness and self-reported skill levels. A logistic regression model indicated that the big five types were able to distinguish between contact sport and non-contact sport types of participation. Team sport athletes revealed a stronger identity with their sport and greater personal and group outcomes than did individual sport athletes.

Key words: serious leisure, personality traits, sport choice, sport skill, club sports

Serious Leisure and Personality Dimensions in Club Sport Athletes

Research dating to the 1950s has attempted to evaluate the role of personality in sport. Subsequently, a long line of research has produced a wide array of personality variables explaining sport-related behavior. Initial research in this field relied on samples comprised of elite athletes (Wittig, Schurr, Ruble, & Ellen, 1994) and sought to explore personality differences between those who engaged in systematic sports from those who did not.  Cooper (1969) concluded that athletes consistently scored higher on traits of extraversion, dominance, self-confidence, competitiveness, tolerance for pain, and scored relatively low on anxiety and compulsiveness. Hardman (1973) performed a meta-analysis of 27 studies conducted from 1952 to 1968 and also found that athletes scored higher on intelligence and were more independent than non-athletes.

However, controversies arose during the 1970s as to the validity of findings derived from samples comprised of only intercollegiate and other high-talent athletes. Many questioned researchers’ propensity for classifying athletes as belonging to a single, homogeneous category, rather than making them distinct based upon athletic level and type of sport (Dowd & Innes, 1981; Valliant, Simpson-Housley, & McKelvie, 1981). Athletic activity can include open (environment is constantly changing) and closed (stable and predictable environments) sports, contact (direct) and non-contact (indirect) sports, and team and individual sports (Cox, 2007). By scoring athletes from different sports in an aggregate manner, academics have been left with findings characterized as unpredictable and ill-defined (Egloff & Gruhn, 1996).

Reviews pertaining to this field of research have often criticized such methodological flaws, but have also pointed out theoretical weaknesses too (Eysenck, Cox, & Nias, 1982; Furnham, 1990; Vealey, 1992). For instance, although a long line of research has illustrated relationships between personality traits and athletic behavior, most studies are absent of any theoretical framework. Eysenck and colleagues (1982) noted that listing predicting variables, in the absence of a theoretical framework, make it difficult to conceptually identify the role and value of personality in shaping sport-related behavior. To rectify academic’s need for theory, researchers began using a narrow range of personality dimensions to explain sport participation and performance. However, most empirical studies were conducted before the development of comprehensive personality dimensions. Thus, many authors restricted themselves to Eysenck’s (1970) three-factor model, specifically focusing on extraversion and neuroticism. Although the initial literature using extroversion and neuroticism laid the groundwork for better understanding how personality interacts with sport behavior, scholars attribute much of the inconsistencies identified in original research to their limited theoretical foundation (Allen, Greenless, & Jones, 2013).

In addition to the theoretical limitations rendering personality and sport-related research unpredictable, academics have begun to advise coaches and trainers to focus on the moderating effects of personality on outcomes instead of treating them as direct effects on sport performance (Aidman & Schofield, 2004; Vealey, 2002). This implies that athletic participation and performance may be manifestations of personality traits that evolved from a beginning in the sport into forms of consistently sustained behavior. Eysenck and colleagues (1982) were among the first to conclude that personality may be a better predictor of sport interest rather than performance. To address this theory, frameworks investigating how personality affects an athlete’s progressive maturation may be more intuitive than exploring its immediate outcomes. Thus, in addition to testing how personality traits influence sport behaviors, such as sport choice and skill, this study utilizes the serious leisure framework as means to explore the relationship between personality and commitment. By developing a clearer picture of how personality influences athletes’ level of involvement and intensity, academics and sport practitioners may gain greater insights into traits which cultivate future sport choices and behaviors.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Personality Trait Frameworks

The development of the five factor model of personality, as well as Myers-Briggs personality inventory have enabled researchers to expand on previous work by providing a broader description of how personality relates to sport (Costa & McCrae, 1992). The big five personality traits include extraversion, neuroticism openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Individuals who identify with extraversion tend to be out-going, sociable, and impulsive, whereas introverts exhibit behavior that is reserved, orderly, and serious (Eysenck, 1967). Individuals scoring high on neuroticism experience emotional instability, embarrassment, guilt, pessimism, and low self-esteem, which has perpetuated its association with attempts to minimize unpleasant arousal through disengagement strategies such as avoidance and withdrawal (Connor-Smith & Flachsbart, 2007). People scoring low exude calmness, stability, and are not easily disturbed (Zhang, 2006).

Agreeableness and Conscientiousness were derived empirically from trait ratings and have been shown to be stable over time, robust and able to represent constructs derived from a wide range of psychological theories (Digman, 1989; McCrae & John, 1992). People characterized as agreeable tend to be tolerant, trusting, accepting, and they value and respect other people’s beliefs and conventions (Zhang, 2006). Those scoring high on conscientiousness are described as trustworthy, while having a sense of purposefulness and responsibility. They are also depicted as strong-willed, task-focused, and achievement-oriented. Conscientious individuals have been found to cope with stressful events in a more positive manner (Hubbard, 1996), making them more likely to interpret stress encountered during competition as enjoyable (Lewis & Sutton, 2011).

The big five’s openness dimension distinguishes between those who are open to new experiences (curious, creative, and imaginative) and those who like the familiar (conventional, uncreative, and unimaginative). Being competitive requires individuals to seek out competitive endeavors, rather than shy away from them. Athletes who are less open to new experiences are more likely to manage stress and adversity by avoiding the problem (Allen et al., 2003). Avoidance coping, according to Nicholls and Pollman (2007), is generally considered to be the least desirable coping strategy used by athletes.

Several studies have also utilized the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to analyze sport participation (See Reiter, Liput, & Nirmal, 2007; Wittig, Schurr, Ruble, & Ellen, 1994). The MBTI is based on the theory that individuals can be typed relative to their preferences across four dichotomies: extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving (Jung, 1971). As extroversion and introversion were discussed prior, the following will address the remaining three dichotomies developed by Jung and Myers-Briggs.

According to Jung (1971), individuals exhibit one of two cognitive functions: perceiving function (sensing and intuition) and judging functions (thinking and feeling). Sensing and intuition describe how information is understood and interpreted (Myers & McCaulley, 1985). Sensors prefer details and facts and they trust information that is concrete. Contrary to sensing, individuals who prefer intuition seek information that is abstract, allowing them to draw their own causal conclusions. In a study comparing student-athletes to non-athletes, Reiter and colleagues (2007) revealed that student-athletes slightly favored sensing over intuition. They posited that athletes must rely on their knowledge of the game in terms of rules and regulations to be victorious. However, only a small margin separated the two dichotomies, soliciting further analysis involving sensing and intuition’s influence on sport-related behavior.

Thinking and feeling are the decision-making functions. Thinkers rely on logic, rationale, and rules to guide their behaviors and choices. Those preferring feeling establish decisions based upon an emotional response (i.e. empathy, harmonious objectives, other’s needs). The thinking and feeling scale has been widely used in sport participation research. For example, Myers and McCaulley (1985) described thinkers as being “tough-minded” and feelers as “tender-minded”. Contributing to this notion was Cattel’s (1970) finding that individuals with low scores on the Tough Poise Factor “show a tendency to feel rather than to think” (p. 119). This is relevant to sport participation as athletes are generally considered to be more tough-minded than non-athletes (Cox, 2007).

Lastly, the MBTI provides two final distinctions about how individuals approach life: structured or flexible (Myers & McCaulley, 1985). Judgers approach life in a structured way, preferring matters to be settled, while perceivers like to keep decisions “open.” Perceivers gain a sense of control by keeping their options open and making choices only when they are necessary. Aside from MBTI’s extroversion and thinking constructs, little is definitive about how the other personality indicators may influence sport behavior.

Sport Choice

Previous research has used dimensions of the big five personality model, as well as the MBTI, to identify personality differences among athletes and non-athletes (Reiter et al., 2007; Garland & Barry, 1990; Egloff & Gruhn, 1996), but a growing body of research indicates that this information may also be useful in predicting sport choice as well. It’s suggested that people with certain personalities are likely to choose sports that require behaviors matching their personalities. For example, LeUnes and Nation (1982) linked thinking and feeling preferences with sport participation choices based upon its relationship with the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (Bem, 1974). Athletes who were thinkers tended to embrace a masculine sex-role orientation, while feminine sex-role orientation was associated with a feeling preference (Fox, 1982; Padgett, Cook, Nunley, & Carskadon, 1982). Thus, it’s plausible to assume that individuals scoring high as thinkers would be more likely to engage in contact (direct) sports. It’s also been hypothesized that extroverts will seek “direct” sports where aggression is permitted instead of sports where it is not (Newcombe & Boyle, 1995; McKelvie, Lemieux, & Stout, 2003). This theory stems from an extroverted athlete’s desire to seek greater levels of arousal more so than their introverted counterparts (Eysenck, 1967). Findings by Iso Ahola and Hatfield (1986) supported this by determining that athletes involved in non-contact sports were more introverted than contact sport athletes.

However, inconsistencies have occurred when attempting to analyze comparisons of “team-sport” athletes to “individual-sport” athletes. Allen and colleagues (2013) revealed that athletes participating in team sports were more extraverted and open to new experiences, but less emotionally stable and conscientious than those competing in individual sports. From an anecdotal standpoint, it would be reasonable to posit that individual athletes would be more introverted than team participants due to the private nature of their sport. However, findings by Cratty (1986), Frazier (1987), Morgan and Costill (1972), and Schurr, Ashley, and Joy (1977) have contradicted those found by Hendry (1975) and Kirkaldy (1982), suggesting that athletes competing in different contexts may render heterogeneous findings.  For instance, past research has failed to reveal definitive differences between athletes competing in diverse sports such as rowing, wrestling, and running (Morgan & Pollock, 1977). Moreover, fewer differences in personality scores have been identified between athletes competing in various individual sports. Due to the conflicting findings of prior studies, this study sought to establish more reliable estimates of personality and sport choice.

Athletic Skill and Performance

In addition to predicting sport choice, academics and practitioners have attempted to determine whether personality influences athletic skill and performance. Morgan (1980) found that personality has been shown to consistently explain 19 to 34 percent of the variance in athletic performance. For instance, elite athletes are shown to exhibit less anxious mood states (Ogilvie, 1968; Smith, 1983; Williams, 1985), neuroticism (Warburton & Kane, 1966) and greater extraversion (Dowd & Innes, 1981; Hendry, 1975) than weaker performing athletes. The relationship between poor performance and neuroticism is based upon increased levels of anxiety inhibiting an athlete’s ability to remain focused and calm under competitive situations (Egloff & Gruhn, 1996). A study by Allen and colleagues (2013), focusing on the interaction of coping behavior and athletic performance, found that higher-level athletes were more conscientious, compassionate, and emotionally stable than lower-level athletes. Thus, it is suggested that individuals scoring high on extroversion and consciousness, and low on neuroticism are more likely to outperform their counterparts. However, insufficient sample sizes and homogeneous athlete selection has warranted cautious inferences when attempting to generalize across athletes.

Serious Leisure

Conceptually, sport commitment can be understood as a psychological state representing the desire and resolve to continue sport participation (Scanlan, Carpenter, Schmidt, Simons, & Keeler, 1993). The structure and quantification of a model explaining commitment can be found in the serious leisure framework, which has been used to explain the traits exemplified and the outcomes afforded participants that approach their pursuits seriously (Stebbins, 1982; 1992; 2001; 2007; Gould, Moore, McGuire, & Stebbins, 2008; Heo, Lee, Kim, & Stebbins, 2012). Specifically, serious leisure can be defined as “the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer activity sufficiently substantial and interesting for the participant to find a career there in the acquisition and expression of a combination of its special skills, knowledge, and experience” (Stebbins, 1992, p. 3). In contrast to serious leisure, Casual Leisure can be defined as an “immediately, intrinsically, rewarding, relatively short-lived pleasurable activity requiring little or no special training to enjoy it” (Stebbins, 1997, p. 18).

The serious leisure framework is composed of six distinguishing qualities evidenced from committed behavior to a pursuit: the need for perseverance, significant personal effort, a career course in the pursuit, strong identity with the pursuit, a unique ethos in the pursuit, and durable outcomes (Stebbins, 2007). The need to persevere through adversity implies goal directed behavior over time (Gould et al., 2008) through obstacles specific to the pursuits (Stebbins, 2001). Perseverance is considered a distinguishing trait of serious leisure that is hardly found in casual leisure pursuits. Similarly, significant effort implies striving for knowledge, skills, or abilities in the pursuit. Subsequently, a serious leisure career is shaped by the energies and resources devoted to persevering in the pursuit (Stebbins, 2007).

Having a serious leisure career is defined as a personal course in a pursuit “shaped by its own special contingencies, turning points, and stages of achievement or involvement” (Stebbins, 2007, p. 11). This career infers stages whereby athletes experience maturations in their attainments and dedication, evidenced by changing patterns in knowledge and skill (Gould et al., 2008) as derived from substantial personal effort. Stebbins (1992) noted that contingencies indicate chance happenings that influence progress or decline in the career. Turning points imply those moments which affect the “nature or direction” of the leisure career (p. 70). For example, winning an important game or tournament, having access to improved equipment or facilities, qualifying for a major event, or accessing top tier coaching could be important turning points in an athlete’s career.

Unique ethos implies the existence of distinguishing ideals, values, sentiments, or guiding beliefs that are shared by members of a serious leisure social world. These include the written and unwritten values, morals, norms, or performance standards specific to the sport (Stebbins, 2001; Gould et al., 2008). Identification with the pursuitis a distinguishing condition of sameness of an individual with a pursuit, which also implies that the individual’s perception of involvement is recognized by the self and by others (Gould et al., 2008).Stebbins (1982) noted that serious participants of various pursuits were “inclined to speak proudly, excitedly, and frequently about them to other people, and to present themselves in terms of them when conversing with new acquaintances” (p. 257). Shipway and Jones (2007) suggested that effort and serious leisure identity can be reciprocally related in that continued personal effort reinforces and perpetuates a stronger identification with the pursuit.

Durable outcomes, involving both personal and group related outcomes, were derived from investigations of the costs and benefits associated with serious participation. Each of the durable rewards reflect the attainment of an agreeable outcome, anticipated or not, that is more desirable than the previously existing state or condition (Stebbins, 2001). These include seven personal outcomes: self-enrichment (cherished experiences), self-actualization (developing skills and knowledge), self-expression (expressing skills and knowledge already developed), self-image (known to others as serious participant), self-gratification (both superficial enjoyment and deep fulfillment), re-creation (regeneration) and in some cases, financial return (Stebbins, 2007). These outcomes were developed from a weighted analysis of the serious participant’s self nominated rewards of which Stebbins (2001) noted that “financial return has by far been the weakest reward” (p. 14) among outcomes. Self-enrichment and self-gratification respectively were ranked as the most significant while self-actualization ranked third in importance among those interviewed (Stebbins, 2007).

The remaining three durable outcomes are considered group outcomes: group attraction, group accomplishment, and group maintenance (Gould et al., 2008). Derived from Unruh’s (1979) analysis of social worlds, Stebbins (1992) findings revealed that serious participants often demonstrated attraction to the social world of the pursuit and that associating with other like-minded enthusiasts was instrumental in perpetuating continued participation. Similarly, accomplishing with the group or team provides the participant with a sense of helping and being needed. It follows that the serious participant would be motivated to ensure that the team is maintained and remains a unified group, which then perpetuates the continuance of the desirable outcomes. According to Green and Jones (2005) and Gould et al., (2011), the variation in potential contexts for serious leisure makes for variation in the realization of the outcomes of serious participation. Consequently, much of the serious leisure literature has addressed one or more of the dimensions of the durable outcomes in both quantitative and qualitative analyses.

A significant portion of the serious leisure literature has been devoted to sports and athletes. Ridinger, Funk, Jordan, and Kaplanidou, (2012) demonstrated that forms of involvement and effective negotiation strategies among marathon runners explained a large portion of the variance in their commitment to running. Similarly, Hungenberg, Gould, and Daly (2013) partially explained participation and commitment among downhill skiers in Colorado using the Thrill and Adventure dimension of Zuckerman’s (1964) Sensation Seeking Scale and the serious leisure framework.  Further, Heo and colleagues (2012) analyzed a structural model of serious leisure among Senior Games participants and were able to positively predict levels of the personal outcomes of personal enrichment, self-actualization, enjoyment, and self-fulfillment.

Previous studies have also used the serious leisure framework to understand the processes for overcoming the barriers that may constrain participation (Goff, Fick, & Opplinger, 1997; Stalp, 2006) yet be negotiated (McQuarrie & Jackson, 1996). For example, Kennelly, Moyle, and Lamont (2013) investigated constraint negotiation and serious leisure among triathletes and discovered that various strategies were used to maintain self-discipline and strengthen relationships with others.  Kane and Zink (2004) investigated kayakers on adventure tours and revealed that the attributes of serious participation were manifested by the personal challenges participants encountered and overcame.

These studies represent just a fraction of work which has utilized serious leisure to explain sport participation.  For example, research in sport as serious leisure has also involved the pursuits of surfing in Taiwan (Cheng & Tsaur, 2012), rugby unions in the U.S. (Dong, Zhang, Choe, & Pugh, 2013), and mountain bike racing (Shafer & Scott, 2013) as an outdoor activity with objective performance standards. Others sports include an exploration of the serious leisure career hierarchies of Australian motorcycle road racers (Lewis, Patterson, & Pegg, 2013), roller derby competition among women in the U.S. (Breeze, 2013), and serious cyclists’ perceptions of sharing the road with motorists (O’Connor & Brown, 2010).  As evidenced in the aforementioned studies, serious leisure has been analyzed in a wide variety of sport contexts.

However, no research to our knowledge has investigated how personality traits may interact with serious leisure’s dimensions.  Moreover, a combination of small sample sizes, methodological weaknesses and invalid sample selection has warranted further research (Newcombe & Boyle, 1995) aimed at understanding how personality types impact an athlete’s sport choice, as well as skill level.  In an effort to fill these voids, the following four research questions guided this study:

R1) Do the Big Five Traits predict an athlete’s sport seriousness and skill level?

R2) Do the Big Five Traits predict sport choice in contact vs. non-contact sports, and team vs. individual sports?

R3) Do sport seriousness and skill level differ by MBTI types for each continuum?

R4) Do the measures of sport seriousness and the inventories of personal and group outcomes differ by sport choice in contact vs. non-contact sports, and team vs. individual sports?

METHODS

Participants

A convenience sample was conducted involving club sport athletes competing at two NCAA Division 1 universities in Colorado, USA. With the consent of the coaches, the researchers intercepted club team athletes at the conclusion of their respective practice times to complete the questionnaire. In all, fifteen club teams agreed to participate in the study from which 219 questionnaires were collected. Four respondents were eliminated from the data set for item nonresponses resulting in a response rate of 98% (N = 215) within the clubs sampled. Of the respondents, 62.3% were male (N = 134), and 37.7% were female (N = 81). Participants ranged from ages 18 to 31 with a mean age of 20. Club sports represented in the sample included hockey (N = 19), men’s lacrosse (N = 42), women’s lacrosse (N = 12), women’s soccer (N = 14), men’s soccer (N = 15), men’s volleyball (N = 7), women’s volleyball (N = 25), baseball (N = 20), ultimate frisbee (N = 7), tennis (N = 9), women’s rugby (N = 11), taekwondo (N = 5), men’s rugby (N =12), swimming (N = 4), and triathletes (N = 13). The academic statuses of the athletes were: Freshman (25%), Sophomores (22%), Juniors (26%), Seniors (23%), and Graduate Students (3%). University club athletes were specifically chosen for this study for the primary reason that they are not required, but have voluntarily chosen, to play club sports that may require fees or dues to be paid in order to participate.

Measures

This study utilized a 77-item survey questionnaire comprised of a modified short form of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) form G (Myers & McCaulley, 1985), the Ten Item Personality Measure (TIPM) (Gosling et al., 2003), assessing the Big 5 Personality dimensions, and the Serious Leisure Inventory and Measure (SLIM) (Gould et al., 2011).

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The MBTI is a widely used personality test designed to identify individual preferences by dichotomy across four continuums involving eight variables. The continuums include: extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling and judging/perceiving. Harvey (1996) evaluated results of research on the MBTI’s reliability and validity performed between 1985 and 1996 and determined that MBTI’s reliability scores were highly comparable with reliabilities of “even the most well-established and respected trait-based instruments” (p. 24) as indicated by overall Cronbach alphas of .84 and .86 for internal consistency measures, and .75 for temporal stability. Participants for this study completed a modified 16-item short form of the MBTI Form G (Myers & McCaulley, 1985) that consisted of a 6-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 6 = Strongly Agree).

However, a limitation of personality tests surrounds their dichotomous labeling. Pittenger (1993) indicated that “Because the MBTI uses an absolute classification scheme for people, it is possible for people with relatively similar scores to be typed as a very different personality. This means that although one person may score as an E (Extrovert), his or her test results may be very similar to those of another person’s, who scores as an I (Introvert)” (p. 4). In other words, the MBTI doesn’t differentiate between someone who is a 90% introvert and 10% extravert from someone who is 55% introvert and 45% extravert. In order to address the common criticism surrounding MBTI’s dichotomous scoring method, scaling variables were created to establish three categories for each MBTI continuum. Each of the eight types included two indicators, whereby answers were averaged, yielding a composite mean score for each of the two types composing each continuum. The two respective composite scores for each continuum were compared to establish categories for testing. Mean differences greater than 1 established the type for each continuum while mean differences less than or equal to 1 between composites were typed as “balanced” for that continuum. For example, on the extraversion/introversion continuum, a respondent would be considered balanced if the composite extraversion score was within 0-1 of the composite introversion score.

Big Five Personality Traits. The Ten Item Personality Measure (TIPM) is a 10-item measure of the Big Five (or Five-Factor Model) dimensions, which include extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness. Although secondary to more comprehensive standard multi-item instruments, the TIPM has demonstrated adequate levels in convergent and discriminant validity, test-retest reliability, and patterns of external correlates (Gosling et al., 2003). Robins, Tracy, Trzesniewski, Potter, & Gosling, (2001) noted that condensed measures “eliminate item redundancy and therefore reduce the fatigue, frustration, and boredom associated with answering highly similar questions repeatedly” (p. 152). Additionally, Burish (1997) showed that short and simple depression scales can be just as valid as long and sophisticated scales.

Each of the five dimensions of the TIPM included two questions answered on a 6-point Likert scale (1 = Disagree, 6 = Agree). The wording for one question for each dimension was reversed, representing an unfavorable rating, while the other question represented a favorable response. The reverse-scored items were then recoded into the same direction as the positively worded items and then averaged to generate a composite score for each dimension. Composites for each dimension were then coded as “high” (m= 4.5-6), “balanced” (m= 3-4), and “low” (m= 1-2.5) in order to establish three categories per dimension of the TIPM for analysis. Similar to the MBTI, three categories rather than two were created for each continuum to ensure a slight gain in precision for typing the personalities and to consider the “balanced” individuals as a potential type for analysis.

Serious Leisure Inventory & Measure (SLIM). The SLIM (Gould et al., 2008) is structured by eighteen dimensions used to assess the six defining qualities of serious leisure (Stebbins, 1992; 2001; 2007) using an inventory of durable outcomes and an additive measure of “seriousness.” The measure includes six factors (perseverance, personal effort, career progress, career contingencies, identity with pursuit, and unique ethos). The twelve factors composing the durable outcomes inventory include nine personal outcome variables (self-enrichment, self-actualization, self-expression abilities, self-expression individuality, self-image, self-gratification satisfaction, self-gratification enjoyment, re-creation, & financial return) and three group outcome variables (group attraction, group accomplishment, and group maintenance).

For this study, the best performing SLIM items (1 per factor) (Gould et al., 2011) were used with a 7-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 7 = Strongly Agree) and demonstrated acceptable reliability for the measure ( = .79) and for the inventory ( = .85). Studies utilizing the SLIM with various sports have demonstrated acceptable fit, reliability, validity (Gould et al. 2008; Gould et al., 2011; Hungenberg et al. 2013), and predictive ability. For example, using the SLIM in a study of surfing travel behavior, Barbieri and Sotomayor (2013) significantly predicted destination preferences involving surfing appeal, the variety of waves, and the quality of the environment at travel destinations. Hungenberg et al., (2013) also demonstrated that the SLIM was an adequate predictor of down hill skiing frequency and ski related spending behavior. See Table 1 for the 18 SLIM items (1 item per dimension).

Skill. No objective measures for skill were used for this study, rather club sport athletes were asked to self report their level of skill in the pursuit. Respondents ranked their level of skill in their club sport on a scale of 1-10 (1= Beginner, 10 = Expert).

Data Analysis A multiple regression analysis was first conducted to assess whether the continuous measures of the Big Five Traits predicted an athlete’s level of sport seriousness and self-reported skill level. Following the collective analysis of club sport athletes, athletes were separated by type of sport (contact/non-contact sport & team/individual sport) as binary outcome variables to conduct a logistic regression with the Big Five Traits, composed of three categories (high, balanced, or low) for each dimension. Similar to the logistic regression, MBTI variables were transformed into three categories (for example, introvert, balanced, or extravert for the introversion/extraversion continuum) for Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) testing with the continuous measures of sport seriousness and self-reported skill. For the final research question, a Multiple Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was conducted among types of sports (contact/non-contact sport & team/individual sport) to detect mean differences across measures of sport seriousness and the inventories of personal and group outcomes. All analyses were performed using SPSS 21.

RESULTS

In analyzing the sample as a collective group of athletes, a multiple regression model revealed that an athlete’s level of sport seriousness, R2 = .06, F(5,209) = 2.549, p = .029 and skill, R2 = .06, F(5,209) = 2.493, p = .032 can successfully be predicted by the big five personality traits. Extraversion, however, was the only unique personality trait that significantly contributed to both self reported skill, b = .21, p < .01 and sport seriousness b = .26, p < .01. After partitioning athletes by type of sport, team sport athlete’s skill level continued to have a significant relationship with the big five traits, R2 = .06, F(5,171) = 2.267, p = .05, with Neuroticism contributing most significantly to the model b = .19, p < .01. However, individual sport athletes indicated that Extraversion, b = .43, p =0.018 was the most successful trait in predicting their self reported skill level, R2 = .21, F(2, 35) = 4.598, p = .014.

For contact sport vs. non-contact sport athletes, contact participants’ level of sport seriousness was significantly influenced by the big five traits, R2 = .13 F(5,124) = 3.811, p = 0.003, whereas non-contact athletes’ were not. Similar to club athletes as a whole, extraversion was the most significant contributor, b = .38, p < .0001, but agreeableness, b = .16, p =0.092, was found to be marginally significant in explaining a contact sport athletes’ seriousness. Lastly, the big five traits were unable to significantly predict skill among contact/non-contact athletes.

For sport choice, a logistic regression model that included each of the big five traits by level (low, balanced, high) significantly distinguished between athletes participating in contact sports and non-contact sports, χ² (10, N = 215) = 30.247, p = .001. Classification was much more successful in predicting contact sport athletes (76.9%) than non-contact athletes (54.1%), but had an acceptable overall success rate of 68%. Among the personality traits included in the model, only openness (p = .009) and extraversion (p < .05) were unique contributors to sport choice classification. Generally, the odds of selecting a non-contact sport was 10 times greater for athletes exhibiting higher openness characteristics (curious, creative, and imaginative) than those with low openness. Even athletes reporting a balanced value for openness were seven times more likely to choose non-contact sports than athletes in the low openness group (odds ratio = 7.52). However, for participants exhibiting high extraversion, the odds of choosing a contact sport was 3.3 times greater than those in the low extraversion group (odds ratio = 3.27).

A MANOVA was also conducted to determine if sport seriousness and skill level differed by the three MBTI types for each continuum. Results indicated that an athlete’s sport seriousness, F(2, 159) = 4.33, p = .002 and skill, F(2, 159) = 3.62, p = .029 differed across levels of the Judging and Perceiving continuum. Post hoc tests revealed that Perceivers evaluated themselves as more serious athletes (M =6.14) than Judgers (M=5.74) and “Balanced JP” athletes (M=5.72). Perceivers also evaluated themselves as more skilled athletes (M =7.80) than Judgers (M =7.24) and “Balanced JP” trait athletes (M =7.31). See Table 2 for results.

Of the six factors indicating sport seriousness, a MANOVA revealed significant differences between team sport athletes and individual sport athletes in their “identity with the pursuit”, F(1,211) = 3.921, p = .049, their personal outcomes, F(1,213) = 7.450, p = .007, and their group outcomes, F(1,213) = 4.627, p = .033. Team sport athletes revealed a stronger identity with their sport (M = 5.83) than did individual sport athletes (M = 5.37). Team sport athletes reported experiencing greater personal outcomes (M = 5.53) and group outcomes (M = 5.97) than did individual sport athletes (M = 5.17, M = 5.62) respectively. Overall, team sport athletes indicated greater durable outcomes than did individual sport athletes, but there were no significant differences between contact and non-contact sport groups across sport seriousness scores. See Table 3 for results.

DISCUSSION

Sport Choice

The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between personality types and sport seriousness and their influences on sport choice and skill level among club sport athletes. Findings revealed that athletes characterized as extraverts are more likely to engage in contact sports than non-contact sports. This is consistent with Eysenck’s biological theory (1967) which posited that extraverts seek to heighten their arousal by engaging in aggressive activities, social endeavors, and other stimulation-seeking behaviors. Further, results support Kirkcaldy and Furnham’s (1990) findings which revealed that extraverts prefer athletic activities described as being dynamic and combat-oriented. It is evident from this study that sport choices that fail to facilitate direct interactions with teammates and opponents may not be as desirable for athletes demonstrating low extraversion.

Literature addressing personality traits commonly link extraversion characteristics with openness traits (Devon, 2000). However, non-contact sport athletes reported being more open than contact sport athletes. Individuals perceived as open are considered to be strong-willed and exhibit more positive reactions to new experiences and ideas. Participating in an individual sport requires athletes to rely on their own physical and cognitive abilities to perform. They often do not have the luxury of teammates and are largely forced to embrace and adapt to new athletic challenges on their own. In a study aimed at assessing personality’s influence on athlete coping behaviors, those exhibiting greater openness traits were found to exhibit greater planning methods and more positive wishful thinking (Bettencourt, Talley, Benjamin, & Valentine, 2006). These are characteristics that are likely more pertinent in individual sports, such as tennis, golf, and endurance sports, as athletes are required to continually develop strategies on their own and exhibit positive self-talk given their isolation from teammates and/or coaches. Thus, it seems plausible that non-contact sport athletes may demonstrate greater openness and adaptability to their sport context than contact sport athletes.

Self-Reporting Skill Respondents’ self-reported skill level was found to correspond with several personality traits. For instance, extraversion was significantly correlated with individual athletes’ and contact sport athletes’ skill level. Previous research has linked extraversion to performance through other psychological characteristics such as self-esteem (Garland & Barry, 1990). It is argued that a person with a high level of self-esteem will also exhibit high levels of extraversion (Robins et al., 2001). Athletes possessing positive self-esteem are also likely to demonstrate high levels of emotional stability, resilience, self-confidence and tough-mindedness when engaging in stressful activities (Carron, 1984). Among the above-mentioned, self-confidence, which is related to self-esteem, has been found to be positively related to performance in a number of sports (Gould, Weiss, & Weinberg, 1981; Dowd & Innes, 1981; Hendry, 1975). These findings support previous research by Kane (1964), Dowd and Innes (1981), and Hendry (1975), but contradict research by Coleman (1980) who argued that low extraversion was a characteristic of elite athletes. Coleman’s research suggested that Introversion traits would enable an athlete to better manage the stress of competition.

This study also identified neuroticism as a positive predictor of self reported skill among team athletes. This contradicts research indicating that neurotic behavior is a common trait possessed by poorer performing athletes (Garland & Barry, 1990; Piedmont, Hill, & Blanco, 1999) due to its association with negative emotions such as fear, worry, hastiness, anger, and guilt feeling (Robinson, Ode, Moeller, & Goetz, 2007). Flett, Hewitt, Blankstein, and Gray (1998) suggested that negative emotions and feelings of anxiety are likely to be experienced due to a discrepancy between one’s ideal and current self/situation. However, such neurotic responses may be caused by an athlete’s desire to attain perfection. Research studying perfection and related constructs has produced both negative dimensions (such as concern over mistakes, doubts about actions, and fear of failure), as well as positive dimensions (high personal standards, positive achievement ambitions) (See also Frost, Marten, Labart, & Rosenblate (1990). Setting high standards is not an uncommon ritual among elite athletes, for perfectionism is often considered to be a critical component to championship performance (Ellis, 1982). This might imply that a level of neurotic perfectionism may be somewhat beneficial to athletic performance.

Neuroticism has also been linked with other behavioral intentions that could possibly foster greater athletic performance. For instance, neuroticism has been associated with reactive aggressive behaviors (Bettencourt et. al., 2006), evidenced when an athletes’ aggression becomes heightened under provocation or antagonistic conditions. Team sports, such as football, hockey, lacrosse, basketball, and soccer, among others, often involve forceful or aggressive responses in order to successfully negotiate the physical demands germane to the game and winning. Further, aggression is often an underlying characteristic among passionate athletes. Donahue, Rip, and Vallerand (2009) found that athletes with an obsessive passion for their sport scored highest on a general aggression scale, indicating that team athletes who care profoundly about their sport and teammates will react aggressively to defend their team’s interests against a prospective threat (e.g., opponent actions or poor game results). It seems reasonable to surmise that participants with an obsessive passion for their pursuit, especially in physically active ones, might exhibit neurotic behaviors which are used to master the demands of the sport.

Sport Seriousness

For the MBTI, perceivers, or individuals exhibiting flexibility and openness in choosing options and making decisions, reported the greatest sport seriousness among athletes. Perhaps it is their preference for the unstructured approach to life that affords more varied opportunities to expand their serious leisure career. By being open in their approach, they might maximize the probability of more contingencies, turning points, or reaching stages of involvement (Stebbins, 2007) that might affect patterns in knowledge and skill acquisition (Gould et al., 2008). Or perhaps their ability to be flexible in decision making allows for adaptability to various contexts that might require perseverance and effort to overcome such challenges as fatigue, anxiety, injury, freezing cold, or even embarrassment (Stebbins, 1992).

Of the traits indicated by the TIPM, extraversion was the best predictor of sport seriousness across athletes, and was particularly relevant for those engaged in contact sports. Furthermore, team sport athletes revealed stronger identity with their pursuits as well as slightly greater personal and group outcomes than did the individual sport athletes. These associations with serious leisure and personality dimensions appear to confirm the relevance of human interactions as a strong motivator for continued sport participation. Team sports often manifest into social worlds that allow athletes to develop a sense of belonging within social groups that encompass comparable emotional and value systems. Such support systems can subsequently result in feelings of self-worth and self-esteem, resulting in greater commitment to an individual’s athletic pursuit.

For Weiss (1993), affiliations within the social world of the sport can be equally as influential as competence, enjoyment, and the excitement of competition as motivators for continued participation. Sport participation can also be motivated by a socially supportive atmosphere or one in which participants perceive social support while striving toward a common goal (Okun, Ruelman, Karoly, Lutz, Fairholme, & Shaub, 2003). According to Carron, Hausenblas, and Mack, (1996) a shared commitment in physically active groups can be more effective than interpersonal motivations. From the context of developing enhanced competencies, Horn and Weiss (1991) demonstrated that peer comparison and evaluation serve important roles in determining self-perceptions, affect, activity choice, effort, and persistence. Okun et al. (2003) also noted that when athletes sensed that others were evaluating their performances, it caused them to work harder. This may explain why athletes participating in team environments may develop greater commitment to the sport, a stronger sense of identity (Shipway & Jones, 2007) and acquire the associated costs and benefits of serious participation (Stebbins, 2001).

CONCLUSIONS

An individual’s interest to engage in an activity may be regulated by their level of satisfaction with the pursuit. Kandler, Bleidorn, Reimann, Angleitner, and Spinath (2011) indicated that this internal regulation is reinforced by personal interests initiated by genetic influences. In their study linking personality traits to individual interests, 35% of personality, particularly openness and extraversion, were attributed to genetic traits. This knowledge is further strengthened by the understanding that children are inclined to adopt attributes of their parents as part of their own repertoire (Kagan, 1984), despite no objective basis. As Kagan (1999) indicated, “a boy whose father is popular with friends and relatives…will find it easier to conclude that he, too, has qualities that make him acceptable to others” (p. 165). Given the many interactions of genetic and environmental variables, it seems probable that a portion of athletes would be predisposed to particular types of sports and be committed to the requisite skill development. But as Bergman (2012) indicated, “the internal motivators determined by your genetics still require development by practicing” (para. 8).

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