Beyond Athletics

Why Your Talent Is Nowhere Near As Important As Your Character

gabby-douglas

Would an artist make this same mural of Gabby after Rio? (Flickr – Vic Damoses)

If you watched any of the Rio coverage last night, you saw many close-ups of a tense Simone Biles after she made a mistake on the balance beam.

The camera loves drama.

And the Internet, like TV cameras, is notorious for singling someone out and picking apart their every move, as was made obvious by the recent Twitter harassment of Gabby Douglas, who had once been America’s darling in London, in 2012.

What character should athletes show?

Although some critiques began in 2012, only since Rio has Gabby started facing an onslaught of bullying.

Comments about her hair, her stance during the National Anthem, or for not looking enthusiastic enough for her teammates Aly Raisman and Simone Biles as they won the silver and gold for all-around have all gone Gabby’s way.

“When they talk about my hair or not putting my hand over my heart or being very salty in the stands, really criticizing me … for me it was really hurtful,” Gabby told the Tribune.

“I was supporting Aly. I will always will support them and respect them. I don’t want anyone to take it as jealous or I wanted attention. Never. I support them and I’m sorry I wasn’t showing it.”

Bullying can happen to anyone.

It happens to non-athletes, student-athletes and professional athletes alike. The hardest stance to take is the one that Gabby took – staring the bullies in the face and dismissing them with grace and strength of character.

Read more about the best ways student-athletes can stand up to bullying on social media.

Does your athletic character impact your recruiting?

Some college-bound student-athletes might think their extreme talent — or the potential they believe they’ll have to contribute to a college team — will catch coaches’ attention and help them secure a college commitment.

But it’s not only talent.

Recruiters will actually balk, even in the face of tremendous talent, if a recruit’s athletic character isn’t up to par, as Jame Leath, the head of leadership at IMG Academy, recently wrote.

In cases like these it’s not the most talented athlete, but the athlete with the strongest character, who triumphs.

“When you go through a lot and you have so many difficulties and people against you sometimes, it kind of just determines your character,” Gabby told NBC.

“Are you going to stand or are you going to crumble? I have no regrets coming back for a second Olympic team. It’s been an amazing experience. It’s been teaching me a lot.”

Read more about how to be sure your character shines through when you’re put in tough situations.


You can easily show off your character to college coaches in one central location. The easiest way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.