The perfect game is a rarity in major league baseball and only 23 have been pitched in the modern era. A basketball player that makes 50% of his or her field goals is considered excellent, not perfect. If a quarterback completes over half of his passes, that is considered excellent, not perfect. A perfect score is unheard of in olympic gymnastics, but that doesn’t mean the gold medalist performed poorly.
Perfection, therefore, is an impossible task in sports.
If your goal is to be perfect then most likely, you will never reach that goal.
Harold Abrahams, the British sprinter in the 1924 Paris Olympics is portrayed in the movie , Chariots Of Fire (Goldcrest Films), as a perfectionist, driven to redeem past losses. In the movie, Harold tells his girlfriend, “If I can’t win, I won’t race.” She replies, “ If you don’t run, you can’t win.” Harold’s statement reveals a perfectionistic self-esteem based on his performance and others’ opinion of his performance. His girlfriend’s response gives insight into how to achieve excellence.
- Trying something you have not done before.
- Analyzing the information from the mistakes you make.
- Trying again with that new information.
Each one of these steps requires that you separate the action from who you are as a person, meaning you don’t attach the outcome to your value as a person or athlete. Focusing on the mistake and not you, the athlete, correcting the mistake, and and trying again with the new information helps you to develop excellence.
Excellence, therefore, is more of a journey or process, than a destination.
Beating yourself up for a mistake, internalizing the mistake, or verbally attacking yourself with negative self talk can ultimately produce poor performance, anger, and lack of enjoyment for a sport you once loved. Excellence is a process that is developed over time, not overnight. It is often said that a profession baseball players needs 1,500 at bats in the minor leagues to be ready for the majors. That’s a lot mistakes and successes.
The mistakes you have and will make as an athlete do not define the your worth. What mistakes do you offer you is a chance to have courage and face weaknesses. Mistakes also give you an opportunity to develop excellence in your life, a skill that will serve you long after you are done playing sports.