Perfectionism is a curse for today’s player’s and parents. Research shows that a high percentage of female athletes demonstrate a much higher level of perfectionist behaviors and thoughts than their male counterparts (Kay and Shipman, 2014). While we can strive for perfection, that doesn’t mean the chase after it is a healthy thing.
Our game is loaded with challenges that make the idea of a perfect performance pretty hard to imagine. But just because it is an impossible goal doesn’t mean that many players are not impacted by their pursuit of it. If a softball player or her parents expect a perfect performance, they are likely to spend their entire career in a state of unhappiness.
Many players who fall into the perfectionist trap are pretty talented kids who basically “out talent” the competition at younger ages and have a great deal of success, sometimes, even without a great deal of dedication to developing their skills. They are striking everyone out and think that it’s always going to be that way. They seem to hit the ball hard every at bat and start to believe that it will happen every time. This leads them to believe that this success will continue as they move up the ladder.
Expecting success is in and of itself not a problem but how the player reacts when that success disappears or requires a much higher level of dedication to continue is where the problem lies. Over thinking and the inability to let go of mistakes is a real problem that will certainly hinder a player’s future growth.
Now, when we factor parents into the equation things get a whole lot more complicated. Parents believe that the same success our player had will continue, in perpetuity, are also just as likely to struggle when the success falls off. High-stress parents are going to make the situation even more tense for the player and themselves.
How do we solve the problem? We need to accept that fact that perfect softball isn’t going to happen. We need to evaluate the performance from a different perspective that measures enjoyments, effort and learning more than just the raw results.
If we go to the ballpark expecting perfection, we are in for a very long day!