One of the biggest challenges for sports kids today is our society’s view of achievement. We live in a world that rewards perfectionism in school, sports and work. Many parents and coaches become frustrated with their kids’ untapped physical talent. They constantly worry about their kids not living up to their full potential. Children are often too hard on themselves, demanding perfect performances and causing them to break-down when they make mistakes.
Perfectionists are very hard-working athletes and highly motivated, but too often for the wrong reasons. The top 8 signs of a perfectionist athlete are:
- Afraid of making mistakes
- Fearful of letting others down if they make mistakes
- Want to succeed so badly that it makes them anxious and afraid of failing
- Worry too much about what other people think about them
- Try too hard to ensure their performance is “perfect”
- Perform better in practice than game situations
- Have unrealistic or very strict expectations about their performance
- View performance as either good or bad, with no middle ground
There are two sides to the mentality of a perfectionist. The good thing about them is that they like to work hard and strive to make their performance perfect. Perfectionists often have a strong work ethic, are committed to reaching their goals, work hard in practice and strive to learn more and improve their game. Coaches can count on them to show up and give their all, but their expectations are often too high. This same work ethic often restricts perfectionist athletes and holds them back in competition because they want to succeed so badly. When they don’t meet their high expectations and make mistakes they get frustrated and fail to fully utilize their talents. Perfectionist athletes are often driven too much by the fear of failing and they worry too much about results (i.e. the score, the points they’ve scored, their statistics or the wins they have achieved. When they worry or try to avoid making mistakes they can’t play with the freedom and creativity it takes to learn, feel confident and excel in their performance.
As parents and coaches, you should identify the high expectations that are hurting your kid’s confidence and performance. Encourage them to replace their often unattainable goals with small and simple things to strive for. Remind your perfectionist athletes that sports are all about having fun and not producing the best numbers. Today, kids feel like they need to be the top scorers, they should make all their shots, and everything they do should be perfect.
When considering the previously mentioned, perhaps Michael Jordan said it best:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”