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Kinesiology & Physical Education


Sport provides a context in which mate choice can be facilitated by the display of athletic prowess. Previous work has shown that, for females, team sport athletes are more desirable as mates than individual sport athletes and non-participants. In the present study, the perceptions of males and females were examined regarding potential mates base on sport participation. It was predicted that team sport athletes would be more positively perceived than individual sport athletes and non-participants by both males and females. A questionnaire, a photograph, and manipulated descriptions were used to gauge perceptual differences with respect to team sport athletes, individual sport athletes, and extracurricular club participants for 125 females and 119 males from a Canadian university. Both team and individual sport athletes were perceived as being less lazy, more competitive, and healthier than non-participants by both males and females. Interestingly, females perceived male athletes as more promiscuous than non-athletes, which upholds predictions based on previous research indicating (a) athletes have more sexual partners than non-athletes, and (b) females find athletes more desirable as partners than nonparticipants. Surprisingly, only males perceived female team sport athletes as more dependable than non-participants, and both team and individual sport athletes as more ambitious. This raises questions regarding the initial hypothesis that male team athletes would be perceived positively by females because of qualities such as the ability to cooperate, likeability, and the acceptance of responsibilities necessary for group functioning. Future studies should examine similar questions with a larger sample size that encompasses multiple contexts, taking into account the role of the social profile of sport in relation to mate choice and perception.


This article was originally published in Evolutionary Psychology, 10(1): 78-94.