Perfectionism and Athlete Burnout in Elite Sports: The Mediating Role of Self-Determined Motivation

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Over the past few decades, American society has become more and more obsessed on performance outcomes and winning; being declared the best has become most important (Crain, 2004). Winning is often viewed as an all or nothing virtue, whereby greatness is a descriptive term reserved only for those whose names appear at the top of the list (Hanchon, 2011). This evolving mindset communicates to our youth that despite his or her efforts, only the final results matter. For many individuals the ideas of achievement, excellence, and self-worth have become highly dependent upon the perceived outcomes of the competitions or events in which they engage (Hanchon, 2011). Outperforming one’s competitors serves as the defining characteristic of success or excellence, which in turn, appears to serve as a key determinant in the individual’s self-assessment of life satisfaction (Harackiewicz, Barron, & Elliot, 1998).
Sport performance is mediated by positive and negative variables; the pressure to perform for a result leads to the negative variable of higher expectations on the athlete. Stress and the pressure to perform are both contributing factors to higher anxiety levels, overtraining, and burnout in athletes (Weinberg & Gould, 2007). In some cases, “higher expectations also appear to increase the amount of stress an athlete may experience, and higher levels of stress are generally related to higher levels of state anxiety and burnout” (Jones & Hanton, 1996; Raedeke & Smith, 2001).

Fear of failures, frustration, high expectations, anxiety, and other pressures to perform are all stresses identified as being related to burnout (Dale & Weinberg, 1990). Burnout has been addressed in the Old Testament (Exodus 18:17-18), in which ...

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...ation and affect on elite athlete burnout susceptibility. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 28, 32-48.
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Raedeke, T. D. (1997). Is athlete burnout more than stress? A commitment perspective. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 19, 396-417.
Raedeke, T. D., & Smith, A. L. (2001). Development and preliminary validation of an athlete burnout measure. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 23, 281-306.
Vallerand, R. J. (2008). On the psychology of passion: in search of what makes people’s lives most worth living. Canadian Psychology, 49, 1-13.
Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D, (2007). Foundation of sport and exercise psychology (4th ed.). Chapter21: Burnout and Overtraining (pp. 489-509). Champaign, IL: Human

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