‘Malicious’ traits may boost athletes


Although malicious traits can offend many people, they can also be a boost for athletes who possess these traits, a recent study found.

According to this research, being self-centred, reckless and manipulative can therefore help athletes achieve great fame and success. However, coaches with these characteristics can run a little blue as their relationships with their athletes will probably suffer as a result.

The study was undertaken by sports scientists at Britain’s Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and launched a few weeks before the Olympic Games in Paris.

“Certain character traits that are considered malevolent in social settings are highly relevant in elite sports,” said lead author Joseph Stanford, a researcher at NTU’s School of Science and Technology.

“High-performance environments often attract people who feel superior, are reckless in their pursuit of victory, and have an exaggerated belief that they can influence other people for their own gain.”

Stanford emphasizes that it is extremely important to form positive coach-athlete relationships, as collaboration is also a big part of success.

“To win, athletes and coaches must perform together under high pressure, often in extremely difficult and stressful situations.

“Our findings are an indication that attention must be paid to how different personalities are likely to work together in a sports arena. Additional support to coaches will also help them establish effective high performance relationships.”

As part of the study, researchers studied the personalities and athlete-coach relationships of more than 300 elite athletes (swimmers, triathletes and cyclists) and their coaches using various measures.

They looked specifically at a group of personality types known as the “dark triad”: narcissism, psychopathy and malevolence.

These are all traits that Jan Alleman would find objectionable, but which can be beneficial in high-performance environments such as elite sports, according to Laura Healy, senior author of the study.

“Our research shows why some coaches and athletes struggle to work together. Their personality traits make it difficult to build a positive coach-athlete relationship.

“Helping coaches and athletes to understand and work together can lead to better relationships in elite sport and be beneficial to performance as well as the overall sporting experience.”