Soccer ball on soccer field


Perfectionism, overthinking, and emotions

Soccer Team


Donachie, T.C., Hill, A.P. & Hall, H. K. (2018). The relationship between multidimensional perfectionism and pre-competition emotions of youth footballers. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 37, 33-42.

Objectives Research has found that trait and dispositional perfectionism are related to pre-competition emotions. However, less is known about whether other aspects of perfectionism, such as perfectionistic cognitions, are related to pre-competition emotions. To address this limitation, the current study examined (i) the relationship between self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism and pre-competition emotions, and (ii) whether perfectionistic cognitions predict pre-competition emotions after controlling for these two dimensions of perfectionism.

Design A cross-sectional survey. Method Two hundred and six youth footballers (M age = 15.54 years, SD = 1.93) completed self-report measures prior to their next competition.

Results Regression analyses revealed socially prescribed perfectionism was a positive predictor of anger, while self-oriented perfectionism was a positive predictor of excitement. After controlling for self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism, perfectionistic cognitions were a positive predictor of anxiety, anger, and dejection.

Conclusion The findings suggest that perfectionistic cognitions are important in regard to pre-competition emotions.

Diving Board


Hill, A. P., Madigan, D, J., Smith, M. M., Mallinson-Howard, S. H., & Donachie, T. C.
Perfectionism in Sport. in R. J. Schinke & D. Hackfort (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Sport Psychology.

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.

Sports Socks


Donachie, T.C., Hill, A.P, & Madigan, D.J. (2019). Perfectionism and pre-competition emotions in youth footballers: A three-wave longitudinal test of the mediating role of perfectionistic cognitions. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Perfectionism is related to pre-competition emotions in athletes. However, it is unclear why this is the case. In the present study, we sought to determine whether perfectionistic cognitions explain this relationship and mediate the relationships between self-oriented perfectionism (SOP), socially prescribed perfectionism (SPP), and general pre-competition emotions and multidimensional anxiety and anger. We adopted a three-wave longitudinal design and examined between-and within-person effects in a sample of 352 youth footballers (Mage = 14.03 years, SD = 2.30). At the between-person level, perfectionistic cognitions mediated the relationships between SOP, SPP and all general pre-competition emotions plus multidimensional anxiety and anger. At the within-person level, perfectionistic cognitions mediated the relationships between SOP, SPP, and general anxiety and anger plus multidimensional anxiety and anger. Our findings imply that athletes higher in SOP and SPP experience more anxiety and anger when the frequency of perfectionistic cognitions increases in the lead up to competition.

Thinking Man on Couch


Hill, A. P. & Donachie, T.C. (2019). Not all perfectionistic cognitions are multidimensional: Evidence for the Perfectionistic Inventory-10. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment.

The measurement of perfectionistic cognitions has recently caused disagreement among researchers. Flett, Hewitt, Blankstein and Gray (1998) proposed that perfectionistic cognitions are unidimensional. However, after re-examining the factor structure of the instrument used to measure perfectionistic automatic thoughts (Perfectionism Cognitions Inventory, PCI), Stoeber, Kobori, and Tanno (2014a) argued that perfectionistic cognitions are multidimensional. Researchers are now faced with a dilemma; should they adopt a multidimensional approach derived from analysis of the underpinning structure of the instrument or should theory take precedence and the instrument be revised? In considering these two alternatives, in this instance, we advocate the latter strategy. In accord, in the current study we assess the factor structure of the PCI with the intention of creating a unidimensional version of the instrument. In doing so, we provide evidence to support the use of a new shorter version of the PCI. Unlike the original PCI, the PCI-10 has a unidimensional structure that replicates across independent samples. The PCI-10 and the original PCI are also highly correlated. Based on this evidence, we propose that the PCI-10 provides a short, psychometrically sound, instrument to measure perfectionistic cognitions in the unidimensional manner it was intended.


Donachie, T. C., & Hill, A. P. (2020). Helping soccer players help themselves: Effectiveness of a psychoeducational book in reducing perfectionism. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 1-21.

Building on research that has shown psychoeducational or self-help books to be effective in reducing perfectionism outside of sport, the current study examined the effectiveness of a self-help book (“When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough”) in reducing perfectionism among athletes. One hundred and fifteen soccer players (male = 44, female = 71, M age = 21.62 years, SD = 5.03) were randomly allocated to a self-help intervention group (n = 55) or a control group (n = 60). Participants completed the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, Perfectionistic Cognitions Inventory-10, Attitudes Toward Seeking Professional Psychological Help-Short Form and Sport Emotion Questionnaire pre-intervention, post-intervention (8-weeks later) and at follow-up (5-weeks later). A 2 (group) × 3 (time) factorial ANOVA revealed a significant group × time interaction for socially prescribed perfectionism, perfectionistic cognitions, and negative pre-competition emotions (anxiety, anger, and dejection). Post-intervention, moderate-to-large between-group differences were evident for perfectionistic cognitions and anxiety (d = 0.75 and 0.59). At follow-up, moderate-to-large between-group differences were evident for socially prescribed perfectionism, perfectionistic cognitions, and anxiety (d = 0.51, 1.15, and 0.70). The findings suggest that self-help books may be useful for reducing perfectionism among athletes.

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