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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Tracy DonachieORCiD


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Great Britain’s Tom Daley won the gold medal in the men’s 10 metre platform dive at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships in Budapest. In winning the medal, Daley was awarded 12 perfect scores across six dives. Chen Aisen, the double gold winner at the 2016 Summer Olympics, was awarded three perfect scores of his own and won the silver medal. In this case, three instances of perfection simply weren’t enough to win the competition. It is scenarios like this that underscore why the study of perfectionism is so important in sport. In most other areas of life, perfection is ambiguous, elusive, and irrational. In sport, though, perfection can be more tangible, objective and, for athletes at the very highest levels, attainable. These factors may explain why so many athletes identify themselves as perfectionists and why some researchers and practitioners have come to view perfectionism as a hallmark characteristic of elite performers (e.g., Gould, Dieffenbach, & Moffett, 2002). It is important to bear in mind, however, that from a personality perspective perfectionism is more than the standards people have for themselves. Rather, perfectionism is an engrained way of thinking, feeling and behaving that, paradoxically, can quite easily undermine athlete motivation, performance and wellbeing (Flett & Hewitt, 2014). As it is common to find perfectionistic people in sport, and because perfectionism is so easily misunderstood, we consider perfectionism to be a valuable addition to an Encyclopaedia of Sport Psychology. We have structured our entry around four topics. The topics covered are (1) the multidimensional structure of perfectionism, (2) its transcontextual nature, (3) whether “healthy” perfectionists exist and (4) what the likely consequences of perfectionism are in sport. These are key topics in this area of research and will provide a valuable reference for students, researchers and practitioners interested in perfectionism in sport.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hill AP, Madigan DJ, Smith MM, Mallinson-Howard SH, Donachie TC

Editor(s): Hackfort, D; Schinke, RJ

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: The Routledge International Encyclopedia of Sport and Exercise Psychology: Volume 1: Theoretical and Methodological Concepts

Year: 2020

Volume: 1

Print publication date: 24/04/2020

Acceptance date: 01/09/2019

Publisher: Routledge

Place Published: London


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781138734418