The Big 5 Impact on Coaches: How Positive Personality Traits Influence Coping Mechanisms in Sports

A coach, surrounded by symbols representing hope, optimism, perseverance, and resilience.

In the world of sports, we often hear about the pivotal role that athletes play. We dissect their mental strength, discuss their training regimens, and celebrate their victories. But standing alongside these champions is another critical figure – the coach. They too face their share of competitive stress, and just like their athlete counterparts, they too require coping strategies. A recent study by Laborde et al. (2017) sheds light on the significant role the “Big 5” – a term we often associate with personality traits – plays in shaping a coach’s approach to dealing with challenges. Let’s delve deeper.

Read more: The Big 5 Impact on Coaches: How Positive Personality Traits Influence Coping Mechanisms in Sports

Understanding the Big 5: The Light Quartet

While the term “Big 5” traditionally refers to the five major dimensions of personality, Laborde’s study zeroes in on four specific positive traits, terming them the ‘light quartet’: hope, optimism, perseverance, and resilience. These attributes don’t merely define a person; they significantly influence how one reacts and copes with stressors, especially in a high-pressure environment like sports coaching.

The Research Landscape

The extensive study encapsulated the feedback from 2,135 Spanish coaches, both from individual and team sports. Through a comprehensive set of questionnaires, the research aimed to understand the interplay between the light quartet and the coping strategies employed by these professionals.

Intriguing Findings

The results were fascinating:

  1. Perseverance & Resilience: These traits stood out when it came to emotional calming and active planning. Coaches equipped with high levels of perseverance and resilience were better poised to stay calm during high-stress situations and actively map out strategies to overcome challenges.
  2. Optimism: This trait was paramount for those who leaned on mental withdrawal and turning to religious beliefs as coping mechanisms. An optimistic outlook allowed coaches to detach and refocus, seeking solace in higher powers when needed.
  3. Hope & Perseverance: These were pivotal for those seeking social support. Hopeful and persistent coaches tend to lean on their social networks, be it friends, family, or peers, during trying times.
  4. Optimism & Perseverance: Surprisingly, these two traits influenced coaches to take behavioral risks as a coping strategy.

Furthermore, the research found that some connections between personality and coping were influenced by the coach’s gender and the nature of the sport (team vs. individual).

The Road Ahead: Implications & Applications

The insights from Laborde’s study underscore a crucial aspect – while athletes often bask in the limelight, coaches, in their unique way, face challenges that require mental strength. Recognizing and fostering these ‘Big 5’ traits in coaches can significantly enhance their capability to handle pressure, make strategic decisions, and provide unwavering support to their teams or athletes.

For sports organizations and training institutions, the focus should be two-pronged:

  1. Training Modules: Incorporate specialized training sessions to nurture and enhance these traits in budding coaches. This will not only equip them with the necessary coping mechanisms but also bolster their overall effectiveness.
  2. Recruitment Criteria: When hiring coaches, look beyond their tactical knowledge. Consider their personality traits, specifically their scores on the light quartet, to ensure you’re bringing onboard someone with a strong mental foundation.


The realm of sports is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. While athletes remain central, coaches are the pillars supporting them. The ‘Big 5’ traits, as revealed by Laborde et al., provide a blueprint for understanding and nurturing the mental strengths of these pivotal figures, ensuring they remain unyielding even in the face of immense pressure.


Laborde, S., Guillén, F., Watson, M., & Allen, M. S. (2017). The light quartet: Positive personality traits and approaches to coping in sport coaches. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 32, 67–73.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

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