Coachable vs. Uncoachable Athletes

Coachable vs. Un-coachable Athletes

Written by Taylor Greenwood  

     I’m sure you have heard of an athlete who has been deemed “un-coachable”. But what does this mean? To understand what makes an athlete either coachable or un-coachable, it is important to understand specific personality traits and specific personality states.


First and foremost, let’s explain the difference between a personality trait and a personality state. A personality trait is a behavior that is relatively stable overtime whereas a personality state is a behavior that is determined by circumstances. Now that we have differentiated between a personality trait and a personality state, let’s get into determining which personality characteristics create coachable and un-coachable athletes.

Beginning with characteristics that create coachable athletes, having a personality trait referred to as openness is key. Openness can be described as one’s interest in learning new things or experiencing new things. Theoretically, when an athlete is more open, they are more inclined to learn from their coaches as well as more likely to try new techniques pertaining to training. In addition to the trait of openness, coaches are high on athletes who demonstrate the personality trait conscientiousness. Conscientiousness refers to an athlete’s eagerness to perform a skill well. Ideally, athlete’s who are conscientious possess a high level of self-discipline, are thoughtful, responsible, reliable, and efficient. Having placed high values on their personal and team commitments, coaches seek out athlete’s who demonstrate these qualities. To add, the personality trait agreeableness is highly sought after as it can describe someone who is trusting, kind, and seeks cooperation. Athlete’s who are seen as more agreeable are often seen as more professional.  


The three above listed characteristics are considered to be trait based. A coachable characteristic that is considered state based would be extroversion. Extroversion pertains to an athlete’s level of comfort within certain settings. When an athlete is more comfortable in a certain setting, they are likely to be more energetic, display higher levels of warmth, be more active, and exhibit more assertiveness. This personality state is most beneficial when circumstances require higher levels of energy as other athlete’s can feed off of this. The opposite of extroversion is introversion, which can describe an athlete who chooses to work in smaller groups, are less outgoing, and are critical thinkers. Introversion can be beneficial in circumstances that require an athlete to think thoroughly about things.   

Characteristics that are seen in athletes who are deemed un-coachable may include neuroticism and/or narcissism. Neuroticism refers to an athlete’s inability to regulate their emotions. Typical descriptions of a person who displays neuroticism would be moodiness, impulsiveness, jealousy, and frustration. This personality could be categorized as a state because sports tend to bring about more neurotic tendencies due to the pressure filled environments. Narcissism is an egotistical approach to things where an athlete may have a limited awareness of others, and instead thinks primarily of themselves. 

There is no doubt that coachable athletes are more desired. This is not to say that every personality characteristic listed above is an end all of determinants for coachable and un-coachable athletes. My hope with this blog is to give you a brief understanding of typical characteristics that can easily explain what makes an athlete either coachable or un-coachable. I encourage you to reflect on your personality characteristics and try and incorporate some of the listed coachable characteristics that you may not currently display.


Perry, John. “Understanding people: psychology of sports.” Sports Psychology: A Complete Introduction. 22 March 2016. 3-24. Hodder & Stoughton