When parents, peers/fans, and coaches knowingly or unknowingly place an athlete on a pedestal, that athlete does everything they can to keep from falling off.
That athlete begins to fear that they will no longer be liked as much, valued as much, or accepted if they fall off the proverbial pedestal that, we as “sports fans”, place them on.
They begin to place their internal self-worth in their sport and their athletic ability.
Do you believe those 3 short paragraphs above to be true?
That is what happened to Maddy Holleran. A beautiful, popular, humble, talented, happy collegiate athlete on a scholarship who ended up taking her own life. Her story can be seen on Youtube here→ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYpC5m7y5N0&t=2s
The full story can be read on ESPN here→ http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/12833146/instagram-account-university-pennsylvania-runner-showed-only-part-story
Many people believe that what happened to Maddy was the result of HER putting too much pressure on herself to be perfect. They say she was not able to accept when things were not perfect.
While she may have had high expectations and standards, it does not change the fact that coaches, parents, and peers/fans can still do THEIR part to avoid putting an athlete up on a proverbial pedestal. I believe it is also the responsibility of a coach or mentor to help kids overcome the perfectionist mentality that can clearly be detrimental.
Perfect is unattainable, athlete. Don’t aim at it. Aim at progress. Give your best at all you do, and WHEN you fail, remember that you fell 10 times on your bike before you learned how to ride it.
And when things get tough, ask for help. You need a true friend, counselor, coach, or someone you can let your guard down with. Someone who you can turn to when things inevitably go south.
To avoid massive frustration, disappointment, and the depression that often comes from crushed expectations, do yourself a favor and do a little reflection. Ask yourself the following reflection questions:
Am I lacking joy playing my sport? Did I used to like it more? What are the possible reasons for this change?
Am I too focused on the things I am NOT doing well?
Am I giving myself enough credit for how far I have come?
Am I comparing myself and my life to a standard of perfection that can’t be reached?
What am I running towards, really?
What would the PERFECT sports, school, and social life look like? How long would the happiness last if I achieved that perfection?
What would be the benefit of opening up to a coach, counselor, or friend about how I am feeling?
Parent, please talk with your athlete about these questions. About this topic. If YOU find yourself a bit too wrapped up in the world of academic or athletic excellence, there is a good chance your athlete will develop some level of anxiety or perfectionism because of it.
Do not forget that sports are temporary. They are meant to teach life lessons. They are meant to be fun, competitive, and inspiring. The point is not to be perfect, it is to be better than you were yesterday. Perfect actually means, TO PER-FECT something. It is a process driven approach. If your athlete trains at PFP, we remind them of this regularly.
Keep in mind, this “Progress over Perfection” approach has helped to produce over 70 passionate, joy-filled collegiate athletes in 5 years. You CAN have your cake and eat it too. Your athlete CAN perform at peak performance, consistently, without sacrificing mental health, fun, relationships, or positive well-being along the way.
When athletes are reminded of these things, they almost always play better. Isn’t that the goal?
Mental Preparation Precedes Peak Physical Performance
If you want to see your athlete thrive, make sure to keep him/her receiving positive mindset coaching at least 1x/week during the season. Injury prevention IS important, but I believe keeping the mind right is of higher value, especially in-season.
Dedicated to your athlete's success,
Coach Andrew Simpson
P.S. If your athlete struggles with the mental game in sport and life...if they have mindset blocks, difficulty overcoming mistakes, roller coaster confidence, or self-doubt issues, you need to check out the NEW Confident Athlete Mindset Course we launched this summer. You can have a resilient, confident, peak performing athlete in weeks after they go through this course. Check it out here--> NEW: The Confident, Courageous Athlete MINDSET Course