Relationship between psychological characteristics and performance in professional football

Sheryl Faith Packman, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to examine the psychological characteristics that were associated with performance in the National Football League (NFL). Additionally, the California Psychological Inventory (CPI) was analyzed for utility in predicting outcomes in the NFL. An archival data set included 2,000 male football players who were eligible for the NFL draft in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. Predictor variables included scores on the 20 scales of the CPI and behavioral risk, which was quantified by the number of disciplinary infractions assessed during college. Outcome data for each player included statistics recorded during the five consecutive years following their draft year. These data were comprised of seven variables, whether the player was drafted; whether the player ever played in an NFL game; whether the player was traded; number of games and seasons played; number of games missed due to injury; and a standardized measure of game performance that accounted for differences by position. Results indicated that Good Impression, Tolerance, and Femininity/Masculinity distinguished between players who did and did not get drafted and Good Impression, Tolerance, and Intellectual Efficiency distinguished between players who did and did not play in an NFL game. Additionally, Responsibility, Socialization, and Self-Control distinguished between players who did and did not get traded. While nine CPI scales were correlated with game performance, only Self-Control and Tolerance significantly predicted game performance. When game performance results were considered within four position groups, results from the offensive backfield group showed the greatest support for the predictive utility of the CPI whereby approximately 16% of the variability in game performance could be explained by differences in the Self-Control, Tolerance, and Intellectual Efficiency scales. Finally, results showed that players labeled as a behavioral risk, in comparison to no-risk players, had lower scores on all CPI scales, except for Flexibility and Femininity/Masculinity. While there was a modest improvement in prediction for players in the sample, overall, the results did not show significant statistical support for the use of the CPI to examine characteristics of NFL players and to predict outcomes in the NFL.

Subject Area

Physical education|Personality|Psychological tests

Recommended Citation

Packman, Sheryl Faith, "Relationship between psychological characteristics and performance in professional football" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3312048.