The pursuit to become proficient in every aspect drives athletes to eat, sleep and breath excellence. Since a young age, the idea that “practice makes perfect” is drilled into their mindset, but where does striving for perfection draw the line between healthy and unhealthy?
Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. Vince Lombardi
There is no doubt that sports carry many benefits including discipline, team work, decision making, goal setting, and dedication. Nevertheless, this competitive environment also has the ability to aid in the downfall of the individual. For the athlete that spends countless hours seeking improvement, they have become their own worst critic. Left dissatisfied when the outcome doesn’t meet their expectation, instead of recognizing their ability to progress. What athletes really mean to say is that they seek perfection, the unreachable notion of being flawless. But what is perfection? Is it the no hitter? Is it the ideal body image? Is it doing what we never thought we could?
Vince Lombardi said, “ Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”. To the athlete seeking perfection, communication and education is key. We are so fixated on the little things that we fail to see the bigger picture of having a healthy, balanced and positive lifestyle as individuals. That includes letting go of what we cannot control. Behavior such as this is more common than we realize, especially in athletics.
Sports culture is obsessed with perfection; from performance to appearance, athletes are statistically evaluated and under the constant pressure to meet expectations. The higher the level of competition, the more pressure there is, and while we understand that less than 2% is what separates the good from the great; when do we reach a point where we are satisfied with ourselves?
The combination of various factors can lead athletes to partake in unhealthy behavior that is self-destructive. High-risk drinking, drug use, and eating disorders are just some of the better-known behaviors that athletes fall vulnerable to when they internalize stress and don’t know how to properly approach these situations.
In an environment that prides itself on mental toughness, any sign of weakness that could impact performance is negatively looked upon. Athletes feel too proud, fear, or deny that they are struggling and in return it becomes internally damaging to the individual and the athlete. The inability to be perfect does not discredit them as a person, it only allows them opportunity to develop and progress.
Let us redefine how the sports culture views perfection. Perfection is the point where a person’s satisfaction starts and ends with them. As an athlete you cannot allow others to define your success or your self worth. Sports are about your passion and ability to reach your full potential, no one else’s. So should we stop trying to achieve perfection? No, chasing perfection gives us direction and motivates us to do better. For some, that athletic identity may extend for a longer period of time than others, but at the end of the day they all eventually come to an end. When that day comes we want athletes to continue to view perfection as their distinct ability to live a positive, balanced and healthy lifestyle.
As for our imperfections, they are what make us perfectly imperfect. They make you the athlete that you are, but more importantly they make you the person you are. Vince Lombardi was right, perfection is unattainable, but teaching athletes to reach their full potential, that is its own model of excellence.
Article written by Danielle Gleason,
Founder of DNG and Personal Player Development Specialist