We love a personality in sports. As fans, it gives us an insight into an athlete’s mind, and more often than not provides a little extra drama in what’s already the most exciting and entertaining industry on the planet.
From Richard Sherman’s infamous rant last year, to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Balotelli, and Floyd Mayweather who all light up their sports with their personalities. Particularly in a world where social media is a first port of call for most.
But having personality in sports is far from simply entertaining us. It’s as important as talent itself and can be the difference from being a champion and, well, not.
No finer example can be found than in the world of soccer and the vast contrasts in attitude between Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Balotelli.
When Cristiano Ronaldo burst onto the soccer scene in 2003, he received a lot of criticism. He was a greedy, self-indulged, prima donna who took a dive according to fans everywhere but Old Trafford. The same could be said for Mario Balotelli. Both hugely talented but perhaps not quite using it effectively.
Fast forward to today and the effects of personality are there for all to see. Cristiano Ronaldo has two Ballon d’Or trophies, a FIFA World Player of the Year award, and Alex Ferguson’s recognition as the best player he’s ever managed. Manchester United’s fitness coach Michael Clegg added, “He lived and breathed football 24/7 and his dedication was phenomenal.”
Compared to Mario Balotelli, a man who was often touted as the next big thing but at just 24-years-old his attitude has taken him to six different clubs, given him countless front page headlines (who sets fireworks off in a bathroom?), and now can barely get a game at Liverpool. And having the right personality and attitude is behind that.
The same applies in other sports. Take Daniel Negreanu in poker, a completely different sport. Where you don’t necessarily have to be physically fit and spend hours in the gym like Ronaldo, he took similar preparations to get to the very top of the All-Time Money List.
Ronaldo once said, “Everybody has their opinion but in my head I want to be the best and I’ll get there.”
Both have taken the stance where you need to realize your ambitions to succeed, and no matter what the sport, it pays off. Negreanu said that on his way to getting to the top 15, he watched videos twice a week, he would speak to players he respected, grilling them on certain hands, and would spend his weekends playing sessions. He now has six World Series of Poker bracelets, and has surpassed all those he respects in the process.
Having the right personality – one which is dedicated, hard-working, and determined – gets you there, no matter what the sport.
While we enjoy watching the likes of Balotelli and his temperamental personality, players with bad attitudes can be the most frustrating thing too, not only for us watching but of course for coaches and teammates too.
From DeMarcus Cousins in the NBA (his confrontational personality has seen him miss countless games through suspension, with his former Kings coach stating he was “unwilling/unable to embrace travelling in the same direction as his team”), to former Jets Quarterback Michael Vick who continually blamed teammates for his mistakes; a bad attitude is the worst trait of any athlete’s personality.
For children, sport stars are people to look up to. To simply play soccer or basketball every day is a dream come true. They’re role models. But if you’re a parent, point them in the direction of Ronaldo, Negreanu, or the hundreds of other model pros who have worked tirelessly to get to the top. It’ll be worth it.