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An Athlete's Characteristics

author image Morgan Rush
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.
An Athlete's Characteristics
An Olympian long distance runner in the lead. Photo Credit Jerod Harris/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Athletes often inspire wonder when dominating their competitions, combining physical prowess with determination to topple opponents, score goals, break records and win championships. Although individual characteristics of athletes vary depending on personality, sport and other factors, athletes do share some common characteristics. Examining what makes athletes great can motivate your own fitness commitments.

There’s No “Sports Gene”

Although genes for certain characteristics can help athletes excel at their sport -- for example, height and basketball -- there’s no specific “sports gene” that determines whether an individual becomes an athlete or not, according to an article in "Time Magazine" that profiled David Epstein, the author of "The Sports Gene." But athletes might have genes that allow their bodies to respond more readily to training, enabling swifter transitions to elite performance levels. For example, if you follow an Olympian’s training routine in your own workout, you might see great improvements. There’s no guarantee, however, that you would be an Olympics-level swimmer. Some countries, including Great Britain and China, have used physical pre-screening measurements to identify students with the potential to become Olympians based on their body types. For example, Olympian rowers might have long arms that enable swifter rowing.

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Driven By Competition

Committed athletes share the characteristic of being extremely focused. Olympians make all kinds of sacrifices to make it to Winter Games or Summer Games, which are held every four years. When faced with conflict, athletes respond creatively to remove the obstacle barring their potential win, according to an article in the “The Times and Democrat” newspaper titled "10 characteristics of Olympic athletes worth copying." Athletes might watch footage of their performance or the performance of competitors, looking for ways to improve their technique. Having clearly defined goals helps athletes ignore or downplay distractions, making decisions that contribute to their progress rather than detract from it.

Feeling Good About Performance

Another shared characteristic of elite athletes includes high confidence levels. Athletes stay realistic about their opponents’ skill levels, but don’t get intimidated by competition, according to Elite Track.com. Athletes also tend to value a sense of confidence, feeling that it contributes to better performance. It’s possible to rely on past performance to build inner confidence, but athletes can also visualize and anticipate wins and optimum future performance in order to boost confidence levels. When asked about their thoughts during athletic competitions, athletes often say that they weren’t thinking about anything, according to "Forbes." Being “in the zone” during important athletic events is another characteristic of athletes.

It’s Always a Team Sport

Athletes might be extremely competitive but will often express humility about how much they still have to learn about their sport. Although there might be exceptions to the rule, athletes are characteristically respectful toward opponents, understanding that their skills propel them to higher performance levels. Having reverence for the sport itself, including the individuals who play it well, is common among athletes.

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