Something that can plague athletes is the search for perfection in their execution. There is nothing wrong with wanting to play your best and to make as few mistakes as possible. However, there is something wrong with having a self-expectation that you could ever play free of mistakes. Mistakes are apart of sport, think of it like this: a mistake for one team can lead to a positive opportunity for the other team. In a way, sport cannot function without mistakes and neither can an athlete.

An example of perfectionism overshadowing what is really important would be catching a pass, a perfectionist would look to catch 10 out of 10 passes and find disappointment and frustration with themselves if they fall short of 10. In sport, there are so many more variables than just catching a pass if you think about it. There is whether or not the pass was a good pass that is easy to receive, are you being pressured by your opponent, are you feeling tired and physically exerted, did your teammate read you wrong and pass to you when you weren’t expecting it. A much more reasonable self-expectation would be to succeed the majority of the time, so in this example catching 7 out of 10 passes. This leaves room for error on your part, on the part of the passer, and for any other outside influence.

A large part of perfectionism that makes it negative to a players success is that it is unreasonable. When setting your sights on a focus, setting a goal, or discussing opportunities the key is to make sure you are being reasonable. Perfection in sport is not holistically achievable therefore makes setting your sights on making little to no mistakes unreasonable and could actually lead to an immense amount of pressure on oneself causing even more mistakes.

The main takeaway from this: focus on executing your talents with a “majority of the time” success rate and you’ll find the pressure on yourself to be much less and you’ll find that your ability to let go and move on from your mistakes much easier. No athlete is perfect at any level, so don’t expect that of yourself.

Reece Diener (@reecediener)

College Athlete

➪ Franklin Pierce Women's Ice Hockey

➪ Member of the Swiss National Women's Ice Hockey Team

➪ Sport Psychology Major

➪ Psychology Research Assistant