This morning I was going over a brief article written by Dr. Patrick Cohn of Peak Sports in Orlando. Dr. Cohn is an expert in perfectionism in youth sport especially, but these factors I've seen in all ages and levels. Theses characteristics occur in different levels depending on the athlete in question, however the pattern appears farily common.
According to Cohn, perfectionistic athletes often do the following:
* Generally perform better in practice than game situations.
* Want to excel badly, which makes them anxious and afraid of
* Are afraid of making mistakes.
* Worry too much about what other people think about them.
* Try too hard to ensure their performance is "perfect."
* View performance as either good or bad, with no middle ground.
* Harbor unrealistic or very strict expectations about their
performance. Everyone messes up sometimes. Period.
* Are fearful of letting others down if they make mistakes; including coaches/teammates, family, significant others, etc.
It's not the perfectionism itself that is negative, but the product of over-focus on getting things absolutely right and the resulting fear of failure.
Fear of failure can cause them to fold under pressure; this is likely related to focusing on "what not to do" instead of what 'to do'-the skills they've been practically perfecting in practice !
For those perfectionistic athletes out there, here's a challenge: try to perfectly accept a mistake in your next practice or competition! You'll be surprised how good it feels to let go of a mistake.
For more, visit www.youthsportspsychology.com.