St Mary’s University, Twickenham
The Psychology of Perfectionism in Sport, Dance, and Exercise is an edited volume by Andrew P. Hill; contributions are made by leading researchers and practitioners. This is the second edition of this book, coming seven years after the first edition was published. This newer edition has nine new chapters and six updated chapters. The research around the psychology of perfectionism in sports, dance and exercise has changed considerably in the last seven years and therefore this revised and updated edition was needed.
The book has a clear layout that is very easy to navigate. It can be used as a reference book, each chapter standing alone, or read cover to cover. Each chapter had its overview and conclusion, and I found this to be very helpful in giving insight and a summary of the content of each aspect of the study.
The book is divided into five parts, each comprising three chapters. The first chapter is an introduction by Hill looking into the concept of perfectionism, dealing with what it is, explaining that its roots lie in counselling and clinical literature and then how it has developed within the context of sport, dance and exercise. This context is very useful and informative, and non-specialists in the field will be able to access this text comfortably. The section discusses and critiques the models for measuring perfectionism that are most widely used; these include the two-factor model and the sub-domain specific model. It then moves into the more sport-related models (F-MPS, HF-MPS, S-MPS, S-MPS-2 and MIPS). Each of the models is described, their reliability and validity are discussed, and then they are each critiqued with recommendations made. The reader is left with a good understanding of the advances made in the measures of perfectionism.
Despite the title of the book naming dance and exercise as other domains, very rarely do the authors, or the research that they discuss, mention a domain, or performance climate other than sport.
The two main dimensions of perfectionism are introduced: perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns. These are referred to throughout the book, so a strong definition here was helpful. I found the discussion around the parental and coach influence in creating perfectionist climates very interesting and current. Hill referenced the Whyte Review 2022 as an example of perfectionist climates, and I agree with Hill when he suggests that greater scrutiny around these environments is needed.
Part two builds upon part one, going into further detail about the three main approaches to perfectionism in sport, dance, and exercise. The models for measuring perfectionism in sport, dance and exercise are looked at more closely, with updated research as there has been a notable rise in this area of research since the first edition of the book. This section contains a large and detailed systematic review of research (pages 84-143); however, this does interrupt the flow of the text as it was inserted mid-sentence, and the sentence continues after 59 pages of the review. For me, this would have been better inserted at the end of the chapter.
Part three is one of the new sections of the book, dealing with new approaches. It looks to analyse the interactions between the dimensions of perfectionism; in doing so ‘tipping points’ are discovered. This chapter piqued my interest, thinking about how the tipping points for each athlete will differ, and looking to pinpoint when tipping points are helpful versus when they are harmful. Perfectionism is a problematic and complex area of study. There are areas of disagreement amongst scholars and researchers, particularly around whether perfectionism can be seen to be a ‘healthy’ trait. The book acknowledges this throughout and makes efforts to resolve conflicts where they have arisen historically. It is in this chapter that my main critique occurs. Despite the title of the book naming dance and exercise as other domains, very rarely do the authors, or the research that they discuss, mention a domain, or performance climate other than sport. Some authors, such as Grugan, do acknowledge this gap, suggesting that the dance research around perfectionism has not been conducted. However, the list of contributors for the book does not contain any scholars from dance, which could also explain why this area of discussion is lacking.
Part four deals with practitioner perspectives, looking at how ACT (Acceptance-commitment Therapy), self-criticism and self-compassion, and REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy) can be used as interventions for working with perfectionism. Each intervention is dealt with separately and detailed case studies and examples are given for each. This chapter should be very useful for researchers and practitioners as a resource to learn more about applied experiences in supporting athletes. It is rich in illustrative examples and practical guides.
Part five concludes the book, with Hill having asked prominent experts in the field of the psychology of perfectionism (John Dunn, Patrick Gaudreau, Antoine Benoît, Laurence Boileau, Gordon Flett and Paul Hewitt) to reflect on the current knowledge and research in this area. These final three chapters illustrate the differences of opinions and positions of some scholars. Dunn and Hill’s perspectives do not always align, and yet the acknowledgement and explanation of this is a strength. The final chapters conclude the book successfully, summarising the author’s personal thoughts as well as looking forward to avenues for potential future research and innovative and new ways to look at perfectionism in sport, dance and exercise.
Due to the accessibility of the book, it is suitable for sport and exercise enthusiasts who may be unfamiliar with the psychology and psychological concepts behind perfectionism within sport, dance, and exercise. I would recommend it to students, teachers, and practitioners working with athletes. My area of speciality is dance, and therefore I would have liked to have seen perfectionism issues in this field discussed more throughout the book or have contributors from this field included.
As it stands, the title is somewhat misleading due to the over-emphasis of information concerning athletics and the lack of information on other areas such as dance (mentioned in the title) and gymnastics (illustrated on the front cover).
Copyright © Sara Daniels 2023
Table of Content
PART 1: CONCEPTUAL, MEASUREMENT, AND DEVELOPMENT ISSUES
PART 2: ESTABLISHED APPROACHES AND MODELS
PART 3: NEW APPROACHES AND CONCEPTS
PART 4: APPLIED ISSUES AND PRACTIONER PERSPECTIVES
PART 5: REFLECTIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS