5 ways to deal with perfectionism of young athletes
Although athletes can differ in many ways, there are many perfectionist athletes. Perfectionist athletes are typed by their focus on results and not particularly on the process they are going through. As soon as the result does not come out as they’ve had in mind, they see themselves as a failure. Recognizing signs of perfectionism would help coaches and parents to be more encouraging towards the athlete to keep going. The following symptoms can be present: anxiety for mistakes, procrastination, giving up quickly, being afraid of embarrassment and not open to trying new things. If some of the signs described above are being recognized in a child, the following actions could assist parents and coaches in helping their children to become less of a perfectionist.
Be honest and open to the athlete during emotional times. Help the athlete to determine the problem and let him or her know that this is due to perfectionism. Make clear that you are there to help him or her to handle with it. You could use a saying like “it is the voice in your head that says you have to be perfect” when the child is very young.
Focus on the process and not the results. Emphasize the positive elements of the process and tell him or her that there is nothing which could be ‘perfect’.
Reward the effort of the athlete. Winning is not the only thing that matters, the way how you play and behave is crucial. Instead of saying: “Nice goals today” say “Practicing your shooting has been an excellent investment, right?”.
Put things in perspective
Name examples of successful players to show the athlete a different perspective. Even the biggest athletes have failed in the past and this is part of their development. Let the athlete know they need to work really hard in order to achieve something great.
Be the example
Admit your own mistakes. Talk about your own mistakes and laugh about it, so the athlete sees how he/she can handle the situation if they make an error (in their opinion).
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