I cringe when I hear Sports Coaches, Players, family members and fans talk in terms of effort and performance “I gave, or my team gave, or my favorite player gave 101% 110% ….120% etc. blah blah”! These statements just do not correlate with my experience as a young player, as a high performing professional player or as a pro coach and as a coach of all levels and ages of Male and Female soccer players. Cutting to the quick I would tell you no one can give more than 100% and the percentage an athlete actually gives in most performances is never maxed out at 100%. This is an unrealistic level to achieve and causes the athlete to place unnecessary stresses and strains on their desires to be competitive. The new concern being sent out by the American Psychological Association is that their reports, ‘show that recent generations of college students have reported higher levels of perfectionism than earlier generations’. The emphasis that is being discussed across medical institutions is that soccer players are putting themselves under so much pressure to get perfection in every sporting event that they play in.
This is a road to destruction and inevitable failure for many players. The pressure results in ‘real anxiety’ and loss of perfection produces a downhill spiral. The warnings are now being broadcast by therapists and the psychologists that this quest for perfection and 100% plus performance is producing anxiety, deepening depression and leading some athletes to suddenly quit on the spot. It has been reported that millennials are continually getting messages that they must achieve perfection. The millennials and Gen Z generations are the athletes that are the most critical of themselves that we have ever experienced.
Social media Facebook and Twitter add to the pressure of belonging and having ever increasing stats and performance records. Studies have already documented that athletes who show signs of not making decisions and continually setting goals that seem farfetched and unattainable are athletes that are hindered and need some help.
Players need to be continually brought down to earth with doses of reality talk, and reality checks, the grounding renews the base level of understanding and allows for new growth in the game. It is ok to accept a little failure to gain inner strength and use that experience as a healing method to cope with natural pressures within the game.
Doing your best, giving your best effort, playing smart, using your experience, being fit and athletic, showing your skill set, setting realistic goals, making good decisions, working for your team mates need to be the messages that are continually given to our soccer players. We want them to know that if you only have 75% in the performance tank we are all cool with that, especially if it means they make Soccer a Lifetime Sport for them to enjoy as an Adult.