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Andreas Volp and Udo Keil Johann

Athletes* success and failure have often been linked to certain personality characteristics. Although previous results in this area were equivocal, many researchers concluded that athletes often drop out of competitive sport because of conflicts of interest, or because they fail to demonstrate high ability in sports. This investigation assessed the importance of intrapersonal conflicts to athletic performance and to dropping out. Swimmers competing at three different levels of performance filled out a conflict questionnaire. Some had indicated that they planned to discontinue their swimming career soon. High performers showed less conflict and a more intensive use of cognitive conflict reduction mechanisms than did medium performers and low level swimmers. Dropouts, on the other hand, had higher conflict scores in areas directly related to athletic performance than did continuers. Intrapersonal conflict was interpreted to be an important mediating variable in sport and personality research.