The Expectations Trap for Perfectionists

Young Athletes who are Perfectionist

“I have a son, age 15. He is skilled in many sports at school. Rugby, Hockey, XC running and Athletics (sprint and long jump where he holds the school record in both these).”

“When he makes a mistake he can ‘lose’ it and can be seen to ‘give in’. In team sport it could be that he thinks he didn’t make that tackle and should have, his head can go down and the opposing team can then score the try!”

“In a school Cross Country race, all eyes were on him to win. He didn’t, and on the finishing straight he was in second place. He stopped, let the guy behind him (quite a big gap so it seemed an eternity of a stop) overtake and came 3rd. He acted as if it was no big deal and he couldn’t be bothered.”

“What is happening and how can I help him overcome these moments….?”

It looks as if this young athlete who is a perfectionist….

Perfectionists can have an incredible work ethic, but are far too hard on themselves and feel such a strong need to win, which can backfire at times.

They often adopt a “all or nothing” mentality, which robs them of confidence and focus when they become frustrated with their performance.

It sounds as if this young athlete wants a perfect performance (win) instead of having fun or performing his best in the race.

It’s important to work with sports kids like this one on overcoming expectations.

Perfectionists have extremely high expectations for their performance, which can cause them to lose confidence when not achieved.

The ability to come back after getting passed in a race is important for any athlete to develop, and all or none thinkers can have a particularly hard time with it.

It’s common for perfectionists to give up when they get passed.

Parents, ask yourselves if you have perfectionist tendencies that you may be imparting on your young athletes.

Do you expect them to win every game or come in first in everything? Do you expect they have a mistake-free performance?

Do you communicate these expectations directly or indirectly?

You want your kids to focus on goals, but not have dire expectations for their performance…

Expectations lead to pressure. Goals help athletes strive to improve their games.

Encourage your athletes to focus on simple objectives, such as good footwork or fighting for a loose ball.

This will help them focus on the process and keep their heads in the game.

You want young athletes to take a growth perspective by focusing on improving skills and striving for goals, such as being a good teammate, instead of focusing on statistics or outcomes!

Learn more by checking out our program for perfectionists and those who fear mistakes and failure:

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We’re certain that, as a parent, you want to help your child develop confidence and discipline in sports and life. And as a sports parent, you’d love for your children to reach their potential in sports. But encouraging your child to strive for greatness without pressuring them can be a challenge.

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