With many athletes, the pressure to be the best far exceeds the pressure to do their best. The expectations from coaches, parents and peers all push athletes past their breaking point by making them feel as though they are not good enough. They do not live up to everyone’s standards—in other words, they should be better. And it does not matter if an athlete is putting everything they have into a competition, playing to the best of their abilities and with all their heart. These pressures can have serious consequences for athletes, and because of this we need to shift focus from individual perfection to teamwork, improving relationships between players and encouraging the acceptance of other’s limits.
Sometimes, the need to be the strongest, most valuable player on a team passes the point of friendly competition and ventures into unhealthy territory. Athletes either permanently injure themselves or lose their passion for a sport they once loved. The extreme expectations from an athlete’s parents and mentors, combined with their competitive drive can form a dangerous recipe of determination to win and the imperfectibility of the goal.
Some people may think that the expectations to be the best will give a player motivation to work harder. While this is true, there is a limit to how hard a player should reasonably be expected to work. By educating parents, coaches and other people of influence around athletes on the dangers of exceedingly high expectations, we can limit the number of injuries among players, have a more positive and a more productive environment for practices and games, ultimately developing better and more successful teams. •