Athlete's psychological profile: intellectual sports or intelligence-free competitions?


Dr. Sc. Hist, Professor N.Y. Olesich1
PhD I.A. Samuylova1
PhD, Associate Professor Т.V. Anisimova2
1St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg
2Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, St. Petersburg

Keywords: sports, personality building, education, cognitive progress, youth, athlete’s psychological profile.

Background. Presently an increasing priority is being given to modern physical culture and sporting lifestyles the world over. Healthy and sporting lifestyles are getting more and more popular being commonly perceived among the modern life standards and indispensable health improvement factors. More often than not the issues of modern physical education and sports go beyond the scope of the personality development agenda. On the international arenas these issues are closely related to educational, cultural and medical issues, plus individual credentials and national images of the leading countries. Champions and runner-ups in the Olympic Games and other top-ranking competitions often become role models for a few generations that honor them as national heroes; albeit in many cases they are not immune to criticism; and this is the reason why a special priority shall be given to the moral responsibility of the sport celebrities as representatives of their nations.

Many international organizations acknowledge and document the growing role of sports among the personality development and educational tools [4], although the national research literature on the issues of physical education and sport sector progress still leaves these issues largely underexplored [1]. It may be due to the fact that presently a special emphasis is made by the Russian government on the physical training and sport infrastructure development projects and other provisions for popular health protection, improvement and competitive success.

It may also be important to give a special priority in the athletic training process geared to give a broader background and versatility to the athletes – to the success stories of the national sport celebrities so as to underline their contributions to the sport history of the nation and accomplishments on the global sport arenas. Every sport record and competitive accomplishment may be honored by the success histories of sport heroes with a special emphasis on their backgrounds, credentials and provisions for leadership.

Objective of the study was to make a theoretical analysis of the national educational system contribution to the harmonized personality development process.

Methods and structure of the study. Any analysis of the national physical education and sports progress demonstrates the key role played in the progress of the national sports and Olympic movement by the university students, faculties and graduates [2]. Excellent education and culture developed at national universities heavily contribute, among other things, to the personality progress of a gifted athlete as verified by the success stories of many leading athletes who acknowledge their university education as a kind of catalyst for their competitive accomplishments and never a hindrance.

In Russia on the whole and its metropolitan communities in particular the growing appreciation of modern sports as an indispensable part of the national culture has long been hampered by a resistance of the intellectual strata of society with their prejudice to physical education and sports. This may be one of the reasons why the national physical education in Russia had long been ranked low on the list of the top-priority government policies – all the more that prior to 1917 the sport practices were widely perceived by the Russian population as aristocratic amusements and entertainments. With time, however, the sporting culture has been recognized in virtually every social group. The sporting culture with its sport groups, clubs and journal was very often promoted and leaded by the new-brand unordinary and passionate enthusiasts [3]. Young intelligent people have tended to inspire the national physical education and sporting culture with their best patriotic and ethical agendas and values. The university graduates that dominated among the sport enthusiasts facilitated the historical breakthrough in the national sports to help them make a fast transition from the aristocratic hobbies and pastimes to the socially important and appreciated elements of mass physical culture. These enthusiasts made a lot for the Russian sports being integrated in the global sport movements.

Upon breakdown of the Soviet Union and emergence of the new Russia, sports and academic classes with their personality development services were long viewed as the conflicting activities that can unlikely be successfully combined. Athletes were often perceived as the people underdeveloped in many cognitive and cultural aspects. What is the current situation in this aspect?

We have analyzed the generalized public perception of a modern universal athlete by a questionnaire survey. Subject to the survey were St. Petersburg University faculty members and graduates (n=42) successful in their sport careers, former and present leaders of the University and national teams, winners of top-ranking international and national competitions (including Olympic champions and runner-ups).

Study results and discussion. The questionnaire survey showed dominance of the opinion that a university athlete is above all a highly intelligent, harmonically developed and rational personality with his/her competitive accomplishments largely due to intellectual rather than only physical credentials. A university athlete is perceived as always driven by his/her crystal-clear life agenda and goals and perfectly knowing every milestone on the way to success in sports, learning process and professional career.

Furthermore, a university athlete is viewed by the respondents as a highly responsible, determined, punctual and disciplined individual prepared to work hard day and night; clever, well-developed intellectually and physically; holding to active life positions in many aspects; deeply interested in many things; and having a profound knowledge and competency in the vocational academic field. On the whole, a universal university athlete is described as young, joyful, active, easy going and enthusiastic individual who “sleeps little, occasionally dodges academic classes, but never (!) dodges trainings”.

Many of the former and active university athletes sampled for the survey were found to highly appreciate the contribution of the university studies to their personality progress and view them as the key life period that largely predetermined their individualities, life paths and careers. The sporting characters and agendas of the respondents are visible in their life mottos like “never say die”, “none is impossible”, “come on and win”, “firm tin soldier”. Some of the mottos reported by the sample refer to the university spirit being quite intelligent, responsible and optimistic, for example: “who if not me?”, “do your best in everything”, “full respect to every business”, “nobody but me makes success”, “there is always some way out of the woods”, and “life is always joyful”. On the whole, the survey data and content analysis give the means to highlight a variety of most important cognitive and activity-related personality traits in the generalized perceptions of a universal university athlete, with most of them being highly positive and constructive; and with the high self-rates found quite typical for the sample.

It may be concluded, therefore, that the university athletes tend to believe that the competitive and intellectual progress lines come in no conflict in actual life careers; and moreover, the cognitive and physical development processes tend to be interconnected and synergized.

Conclusion. A high priority given today to the children’s and university sports development projects shall be associated with a special recognition of the valuable contribution of the national universities in the personality progress of future sport champions, sport ideologists and leaders of practical sport movements and initiatives.

The study was sponsored by the Russian Fundamental Research Fund assignment #17-29-02438/17 for the “Psychological, social and environmental health resources for educational system stages in modern Russia” Research Project.


  1. Grishanina A.N., Melnik G.S., Sveshnikova N.O. Sport dlya vsekh: mediynyie resursy v prodvizhenii sportivno-massovykh meropriyatiy [Sport for all: media resources in sports events promotion]. Teoriya i praktika fiz. kultury, 2016, no. 3, pp. 59–61.
  2. Olesich N.Ya. Peterburgskiy universitet na puti k olimpiyskomu dvizheniyu [St. Petersburg University on the way to Olympic Movement]. KLIO. Zhurnal dlya uchenykh, 2013, no. 10 (82), pp. 54-55.
  3. Olesich N.Ya. Universitet Olimpiyskiy. Sportivny mir Peterburgskogo universiteta [Olympic University. Sports world of St. Petersburg University]. St. Petersburg: Znamenitye Universanty SPbGU, 2014, 184 p.
  4. Концепция Education Health Development Peace. Press-release Office for the International Year of Sport and Physical Education. 2003, 20 p.

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The study considers contributions of the educational system to the harmonized personality development agenda in modern sports; gives an analysis of the national physical education and sports sector progress in Russia; and demonstrates the leading role of academic faculties, students and graduates in the national sports and Olympic movement. The study shows that individual success stories of sport celebrities with an emphasis on their contributions to the pride and history of the national sports and global sport movements shall be in top priority in the efforts to educate a versatile and intellectual athlete. Furthermore, the study offers a model image of a modern university athlete designed with support from the SPSU faculty members and graduates who have successfully defended the colours of the University and nation in many top-ranking national and international sport events. The study data and analyses demonstrate the indispensable contribution of the academic studies to the personality progress of every athlete and substantiate the need for the relevant theoretical and practical studies of the socially sensitive personality development in the academic sport system.