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CPDJul 7, 2023

Nick Worth describes The Psychology of Perfectionism in Sport, Dance and Exercise as 'definitive'

Before reviewing this text, I knew little about perfectionism. Having said that, I have certainly come across individuals throughout my career as a physiotherapist – both in the sporting field and working with the general public – that I would label as ‘perfectionists’. However, until now, I would have left the management of this personality trait to psychologists.

Nick is impressed by an 'awe-inspiring range of references and critical analysis of research'


The Psychology of Perfectionism in Sport, Dance and Exercise (second edition)

Editor: Andrew P Hill 

Publisher: Routledge

ISBN: 9781032263786; 9781032255903; 9781003288015

Price: £104 (hardback); £37.59 (paperback); £37.59 (eBook)

This very detailed book contains a number of measures of perfectionism and explores the validity and reliability of each of them in turn. The authors review various scales of perfectionism, offer critiques and identify areas for further research or modifications using a wealth of current evidence. While the notion of ‘healthy perfectionism’ receives a mention, the evidence discussed in the text generally focuses on the negative impact on athletes who strive for perfection and ways of managing their emotional responses and determination when this is found to be unachievable.

There appears to be a lot of controversy as to which elements of perfectionism should, or should not, be included in any analysis of an athlete – and this is where I, as a reader who is new to the topic, felt that the number of variables and aspects within the athlete as a whole made it tricky to decide which measure I would consider when managing a perfectionist athlete. As with any wide-reaching analysis approach in this field, as the practitioner, the individual in front of you requires a unique approach.

The strength of this textbook is in the awe-inspiring range of references and critical analysis of research on this topic. There are many sections which include a breakdown of key points or findings from a large number of sources. All the contributors shared a similar level of detail and chapter structure which made the more intellectually challenging sections logical to follow.

The areas of controversy within the subject area are never shied away from but are instead openly discussed and challenged. Apparently, some personal disagreements between the editor and some contributors emerged. Knowing this, I felt, enhanced my experience in that I believed I was reading a balanced opinion of the evidence currently available. Some textbooks offer an echo chamber of similar views while excluding dissenting opinions. Learning the reasoning behind the interpretation of different analysis tools enables readers to make up their own minds as to which method may feel better in their management of a perfectionist athlete.

The text includes some case studies in which contributors demonstrate their expertise in managing athletes who display perfectionism. For example, one chapter describes working with a UK-based field hockey player that includes a synopsis of each step in the session plan and the discussions that ensued. It analyses aspects of the athlete’s past that had driven these tendencies and – through acceptance and mindfulness – improving the future by setting realistic and healthy goals as a collaboration between athlete and psychologist.

This book often references the first edition (published seven years ago), that clearly made a significant impression in the field of perfectionism. The contributors frequently refer to the impact of that edition and how it enabled them to make progress in this area of expertise and build on it for this second edition.

If I worked in the sports psychology field, this would be a must-read text. The sheer depth of knowledge and experience contained in the pages reassure the reader that they have a good understanding of the topic.

The book is a detailed synopsis of the topic of perfectionism and therefore is not the type of text that you can easily dip in and out of, but for the analysis and expert contributors to the subject, this must surely be the definitive textbook on perfectionism in the fields of sport, dance and exercise.

Nick Worth is a physiotherapist who runs a private practice. He is the chair of the Society of Musculoskeletal Medicine (SOMM). For more information about SOMM, click

Twitter: @Nickworthphysio 

To read Nick's review of Pain: The ultimate mentor, click 

Author: Andrew P Hill
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