Too often, young athletes try to be ‘perfect’ when they compete. Often setting high expectations, then becoming upset and disappointed when these high standards are not met.
Perfectionist athletes often criticise themselves for making mistakes, often hold high and unrealistic expectations for themselves and tend to get frustrated easily after making mistakes. These traits can also be seen in other areas of life, like at school.
Perfectionists are hard workers, strive to reach goals and are willing to learn and improve which can be seen as positive behaviours.
These positive characteristics can hide the problems that come with perfectionism in sports. Being highly motivated can mask underlying issues that can lead to mental health struggles.
Trying to be perfect can cause performance to drop in many ways. Focusing too much on the result or outcome. This can lead to a hurtful cycle of working hard, setting higher expectations and then having the constant feeling that you are failing to reach those unrealistic expectations. This leads to feeling of constant failure, which can cause young perfectionist athletes to become disheartened with sport and potentially quitting if it gets too much.
Perfectionists think that having very high and often unlikely expectations is a good thing. Believing that this is the only way to be successful and be the best.
Fear of failure can kick in when perfectionists struggle to meet expectations or the expectations of others. This leads to them becoming frustrated, losing composure and thinking that they are underperforming. This can lead to highly talented athletes not reaching their full potential in sports.
You have to change how you think about mistakes and understand where a mistake sits in the bigger picture of an overall performance. When frustration or anger creeps into your mindset, your mind is glued to the past mistakes, which you are unable to change. You want to focus on the present and the next opportunity not dwell on the past. You must learn to move on to the next play, shot, routine, or point to be able to keep focused in the right areas the ‘controllable’.
A good place to start is to write down negative thoughts that linger and lead to issues soon after practice or the completion of competition to allow for reflection.
How you think about and view mistakes is what can cause issues and negative feelings, not the mistake itself which needs to be put into perspective. Your will want to replace the negative statements with statements that help you let go of anger or frustrations by building self-acceptance that mistakes happen and are a normal part of sport. This is a difficult step for most because the natural tendency in perfectionist is to be critical. The new thoughts or statements will soon begin to interrupt the old pattern of negative thoughts and instill a new way of thinking about mistakes. This will create a better positive reaction.
Nobody is perfect.
Errors are just a part of the game or sport. It’s important to understand that dwelling on mistakes doesn’t help you get the error back, but it does take your head out of the game. Dwelling on errors or missed chances during a game is the top distraction for athletes today. You cannot play in the present moment, or enjoy the game when your mind is stuck on a missed opportunity or error you made on the last play.
Remember ‘ Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift, that is why it called the present.’
So shifting your mindset to overcome these hurdles is crucial to improvement and success.
Get in touch through social media and let us know how this change in mindset is changing your performance!
If things ever get too much and you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.
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