Sport plays an integral role in our lives. In our childhood years, it can teach us about how to use our bodies while learning about teamwork, strategy and analyzing the competition. Some of us stick with those sports, spending long hours practicing in order to compete on the world stage like the Olympics. The rest of us continue to engage in physical activity and sports for health, friendship and a reason to leave the house.
But not all sports appeal to all people. Think back to the sports and physical activities you played as a child. Did you prefer team sports or individual ones? And if you played a team sport, what was the level of cooperation required between teammates to be successful?
As a teen I played softball and tennis. I wasn’t very good at softball, catching and throwing weren’t my natural talents, so I was often assigned to left field and last at bat. It’s not a highly cooperative team sport, but I enjoyed yelling supportive comments at my team or heckling the opposition. I was better at tennis — less people to worry about and I always had something to do. I even briefly played competitively, but at that level tennis definitely requires a mental focus I found challenging.
Later in high school, I discovered the wonders of ice skating and rock climbing. In a way both were more mental activities with lots of options, much better suited to my ENTP, Enneagram Seven self. It was my mind and body figuring how to solve the problem in front of me, both of which I relished.
And what about competing? Like it? Hate it? I competed in both ultimate frisbee and ceroc dancing, and it was not for me. I felt strained by the additional pressure rather than invigorated. The only competition I enjoyed was more strategy based games, such as card or board games. Far more mental than physical!
Reviewing the sports you have played, what did you like about them? What did you struggle with? Do you wish you had stuck with any of them?
As you can imagine, different sports appeal to different types based on the underlying motivations and needs of each. Let’s take a look at which Olympic sports might appeal to different types.
The Perfectionist seeks sports that require precision — where they can focus on a specific goal and execute it perfectly. Comfortable with the routine and repetition required for years of training, this type may be highly represented at the Olympics. They don’t mind sports without a lot of variety, where the aim is to do the exact same movement perfectly, repeatedly for the entire length of training and competition events.
At the Olympics this would include synchronised swimming, diving, and rowing. Synchronised swimming requires you to be upside down underwater, performing to music, while delivering choreography with your teammates. Points are awarded for being completely in unison — definitely a task for the Perfectionist!
Diving requires you to enter the water at the exact angle of your body to ensure the least amount of splashback — after having performed acrobatics in the air! And rowing requires the person to row, repeating the exact same movement for the entire length of the race in perfect unison with team mates.
The Giver is more interested in cooperative sports where they can play a more supportive role. They want to join a team where they will feel liked and appreciated for their contribution. They are less interested in a sport that requires them to show off or be the center of attention.
At the Olympics, you will see them playing soccer, volleyball and relay events, but not in the scoring positions. They will be the left or right back assists in soccer, the setter in volleyball (the person who gets the ball ready for the striker) or an earlier swimmer or runner in the relay, passing the baton smoothly to their teammate.
The Achiever is interested in the spotlight, they want to be seen as a winner and will seek out sports or events that attract the spotlight. They can also be quite competitive, and more interested in individual sports where they have greater control over the outcome.
At the Olympics you may well see them on the starting blocks for the prized 50m or 100m sprints. They can also be found taking on the grueling swim, cycle and run triathlon, or swimming events such as the 50m freestyle. Find the events that generate the biggest press and the most excitement from the crowd, and Three’s will be there.
The Individualist prefers sports that are a bit different from the norm. They will also bring a natural elegance and artistic edge, and will seek out sports that encourage that.
At the Olympics, you will be more likely to spot a Four with a horse or doing rhythmic gymnastics. The main equestrian events are dressage and show jumping. Dressage is considered the most artistic of the equestrian sports, and is often compared to ballet. The intense connection between human and horse is considered a thing of beauty.
In rhythmic gymnastics athletes are evaluated on the artistry of their performance, which are set to music, and include using a particular handheld apparatus — the ball, ribbon, hoop or clubs. It is a combination of artistry, athleticism, and control.
The Investigator is looking for something a little different in their sports. Neither wishing to stand out too much or over exhaust themselves, they are seeking disciples that fall somewhere in the middle.
You might see them in track and field participating in the 800m or 1500m sprint. Not too short, not too long. Or in the high jump, where they have to move their body in a way that avoids contact with the bar. Something Fives are well practiced at.
You may also find them in cycling, archery or diving. Events that require focus, problem solving and a moderate amount of energy.
The Skeptic prefers sports where they are constantly solving problems, where their ability to anticipate issues and troubleshoot in the moment comes in handy. While Sixes are naturally anxious, once they are in action that anxiety falls away and they get to execute everything they have prepared for, and that feels great.
At the Olympics, you are likely to see Sixes on the track, running the hurdles, where each hurdle is its own problem to solve. They are also likely to be found playing table tennis, where players are constantly strategizing about degrees of spin and range of returns over the relatively small table. With ball speeds in excess of 100km/h and players constantly switching between attack and defence, this game is as much mental as it is physical.
The Enthusiast is looking for a sport that gives them adventure, freedom and variety. They want sports that are fun to practice, with an element of problem solving and a sense of not being too constrained by the environment or the rules.
At the Olympics, Sevens are most likely to be found sailing or surfing. These individual sports allow them to be out in nature, competing against the elements as much as the other competitors, where the practice is as fun as the competition.
On the track they can be found in the decathlon or heptathlon — why specialize in one sport, when you can have them all! These multi-sport events have competitors doing long jump, spot put, high jump, javelin, hurdles, sprints and more. All to be crowned the greatest all round athlete.
The Challenger is looking for sports that focus on strength and power. Eights have a lot of energy and they want to channel it into sports that allow them to display that. Hence they can be found wrestling, weight lifting and boxing.
On the track they will be throwing javelins or shot puts, hurling heavy objects as far as they can. All to be crowned the world’s strongest woman or man!
The Peacemaker takes a more quiet, understated approach to sports. They may prefer more team sports where they are less likely to stand out, or individual sports that aren’t in the spotlight. Nines can be incredibly good at sports, being able to more readily connect to their inner experience and sensations during physical activity than other types.
At the Olympics, you might find them playing doubles in table tennis, swimming in the 400m relay or 1500m race, running a marathon or competing in the grueling 50km race walking event. These long distance events allow the Nine to sink into a comfortable rhythm where their energy use matches the task at hand.
Enjoy the Olympics!
Whatever sport you enjoy, no matter how competitive or anticompetitive you are, the Olympics are a grand showcase of sport where every type has an opportunity to be represented at the top of their field, and use their natural strengths to succeed.
Next time, I’m going to be looking at the types of sports you might enjoy watching at the Olympics based on your Enneagram type, because believe it or not, the sports you choose to watch can really help you stretch yourself and learn more about your type. Watch out for that story next week!