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Introvert Athlete Personality In Sport And Examples

Updated on October 18, 2013
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer, he ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

A Guide To Introverts In Sport

Many people wrongly assume that introverts are simply shy or quiet within social situations. The misconception is often made as an introvert is often more focused upon individual situations where they are less likely to be distracted by those around them.

Shyness comes from anxiety and apprehension yet in the right situation an introvert personality in sport is by no means a sign of being shy.

Cycling Time Trials- A Sport For Introverts?

Individual sports like cycling time trials are ideal for introvert personalities.
Individual sports like cycling time trials are ideal for introvert personalities. | Source

Being Introverted Is Not A Sign of Shyness

The main thing that makes an introvert personality how they are is the inner workings of their mind. Introverts are often seen as being thinkers who concentrate deeply on their self-talk. Their avoidance of social situations is not due to poor social skills or low confidence. An introvert tends to find that being around people is a drain on their energy and needs individual time to 'recharge' their energy levels.

Introverts Thrive In Precision Closed-Skill Sports Situations

Due to their concentration on the inner world within their mind: Introverts often thrive in sports with a cognitive focus where precision movements and motor-skills are required.

Sports for introverts often involve closed motor skills. These involve sports where the environment can be kept within an athlete's control. Examples of closed motor skill sports which are suited to introverts include putting in golf and the break shot in snooker. Introverts often seem to be drawn towards field events in athletics and gymnastics too.

Introverts thrive on intricate skills and actions within sports. A rotational technique shot-put is a great example of an intricate skill which is a very complex motor program for any athlete as shown by the 6 stage technique video (below).

The Rotational Shot Put Technique- A Complex Motor Skill Which May Suit Introverts

Introverts Perform Well At Low Arousal Levels

Individuals respond differently to contrasting levels of arousal and anxiety in sport. In terms of an extrovert individual's optimum zone of arousal- a low level of arousal is optimal for introverts to achieve sporting success.

Too much arousal leads to feelings of lacking control over a situation and subsequently leads to reduced performance levels. That lack of control leads to increased individual 'noise' in the introverts head which is destabilising towards performance.

Introverts Prefer Individual Over Team/ Group Performance

The unknown and open skilled nature of many team sports mean that introverts tend to shy away from many team sports. There are examples of individuals with introvert tendencies within team sports however the inability to impose control on the environment provides difficulty in some team sports as well as their fast paced nature.

Sports like rugby and soccer involve high arousal levels and large, simple motor skills which do not challenge the introvert internally. In soccer an introvert would have preference on such more closed skills such as taking penalties where there is a decreased level of influence from others within the game situation.

Introverts therefore prefer more individualized sporting events. A great example of which is the cycling time trial featured in the image at the top of the page. The introverted athlete has a high level of control on the situation when compared to group cycling events like road races.

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Introverts In Sport Need Their Own Space

Introverts in sport tend to concentrate towards individual pursuits like skiing.Photo taken at Glenshee Ski Resort, Scotland
Introverts in sport tend to concentrate towards individual pursuits like skiing.Photo taken at Glenshee Ski Resort, Scotland | Source

Characteristics Of Typical Sports For Introverts

From the above information we can ifer that Introverts typically tend to like sports which require:

  • Heightened concentration levels
  • Precision skills (Mainly closed motor skills)
  • Self-motivational Focus
  • Intricacy in skill performance
  • Low levels of arousal
  • Individually focused sports performances.

The Introverts In Sport Quiz

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    • Rose Anne Karesh profile image

      Rose Anne Karesh 5 years ago from Virginia

      I think your article sheds light on why I prefer walking, running, and yoga to team sports such as baseball and soccer... Thanks, I never looked at it like this before.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks byshea. I think it depends on the degree of introversion. You may find that some introverts can thrive in certain team sports. Goalkeepers in football could be an example of isolation within a team sport or the introverts may need their own space for contemplation outside of the sport.

      There's always going to be a continuum along the spectrum

    • byshea profile image

      Shea 5 years ago

      Great article. I've always thought that introverts were great thinkers in the sport. I'm not so sure that most introverts don't like team sports however. I know many who relish this time to socialize while playing their favorite sport.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 5 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks gmwilliams. Yes, as introverts we are deemed as shy when in fact it is more to do with our focus than social misgivings. And introverts certainly can be successful in sports. We operate in different ways which are able to obtain results. Thank you for your feedback. CF

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      I have immensely enjoyed and learned from this wondrous article. It is frightful how this majority extroverted society misunderstands and totally underestimates the ability of the introvert. Introverts are of a different mindset and modus operandi from extroverts. Thank you for writing this enlightening article regarding introverts. We are not the shy, unathletic, unpoised nummies that people perceive us to be. Voted this article WAY up!