PERFECT Nonsense

It’s either shortsightedness or naive embracing of pop-psychology, motivational mumbo jumbo, but there are simply too many people promoting the value of “perfect.” Perfect putting, perfect practice, perfect ___________ (insert your own alliterative example here)… perfect nonsense. “Perfect practice makes perfect,” is a nice sound bite, but misrepresents reality. Perfect is elusive, tough to define, and very rarely necessary.

Yes, we all are enraptured by a pitched perfect game in baseball (yet, even recently we learned that perfect is not exactly perfect ). However, the glamorization of “perfect” is harmful to player development. This is clearly evident when one considers the theoretical foundations of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (see Albert Ellis’s work and writings). Perfectionistic Thinking is rightfully considered irrational and ineffective. It is seen as an obstacle to good living and high performance. Perfectionistic Thinking is something to be modified and minimized… not embraced.

Perhaps the best way to put it into perspective is to consider a quote from Paul Assaiante, Head Squash Coach at Trinity College at team that currently has won 12 consecutive National Championships, “We just ask our players to play about up their potential.”  The key word is “about.” Perfection is neither demanded nor required by perhaps the best collegiate coach in the country. Nonetheless, near perfection is achieved regularly and this lack of perfect mindset has left powerhouses like Harvard, Yale, Rochester, and Princeton on the losing end of many matches.

“Perfect” can lead to nice sound-bites, fun alliteration, and media worthy sporting events, but it rarely leads to high performance. Perfect is fleeting.  Great athletes are consistent in their mental approaches and competitive play. Quality practice, committed efforts, and performances with productive, competitive perspectives are the key to high performance.

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1 Response to “PERFECT Nonsense”


  1. 1 ekingston June 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Good points about the endless quest for perfection in sport. I sometimes wonder if we (the field of sport psychology) feed that notion more than we should (e.g., get in the zone, peak performance this, peak performance that…).

    Good stuff to think about!


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