Perfectionism and Grit in Competitive Sport


  • John Dunn University of Alberta
  • Danielle Cormier University of Saskatchewan
  • Shintaro Kono University of Alberta
  • Janice Causgrove Dunn University of Alberta
  • James Rumbold Sheffield hallam University


Athletes; Consistency of interest; Perfectionistic concerns; Perfectionistic strivings; Perseverance of effort


Perfectionism and grit have both been linked to the achievement-striving process in sport, yet very little is known about the relationships between the two constructs. The present study explored the degree to which perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns predicted two dimensions of grit—consistency of interest and perseverance of effort—in a sample of 251 intercollegiate varsity athletes (Mage = 20.34 years; SD = 2.0). Both perfectionism and grit were conceptualized and measured as multidimensional domain-specific constructs. Results of structural equation modeling analyses indicated that perfectionistic strivings was positively associated with consistency of interest (β = .49, p < .001) and perseverance of effort (β = .92, p < .001). In contrast, perfectionistic concerns was negatively associated with both consistency of interest (β = -.47, p < .001) and perseverance of effort (β = -.66, p < .001). Results indicate that higher-order dimensions of perfectionism (i.e., perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns) are associated with domain-specific aspects of grit in sport. Results highlight the importance of (a) differentiating between athletes’ perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns in sport, and (b) treating consistency of interest and perseverance of effort as separate components of grit. Future research that examines the combined effects of perfectionism and grit on the achievement-striving process in competitive sport is recommended.


Albert, E., Petrie, T.A., & Moore, W. G. (2019). The relationship of motivational climates, mindsets, and goal orientations to grit in male adolescent soccer players. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/1612197X.2019.1655775
Anestis, M. D., & Selby, E. A. (2015). Grit and perseverance in suicidal behavior and non-suicidal self-injury. Death Studies, 39, 211–218. doi:10.1080/07481187.2014.946629
Atkinson, F., & Martin, J. (2020). Gritty, hardy, resilient, and socially supported: A replication study. Disability and Health Journal, 13, 100839. doi:10/1016/j.dhjo.2019.100839
Bors, D. (2018). Data analysis for the social sciences: Integrating theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Clark, K. N., & Malecki, C. K. (2019). Academic Grit Scale: Psychometric properties and associations with achievement and life satisfaction. Journal of School Psychology, 72, 49-66. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2018.12.001
Cormier, D. L., Dunn, J. G. H., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (2019). Examining the domain specificity of grit. Personality and Individual Differences, 139, 349-354. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2018.11.026
Credé, M., Tynan, M. C., & Harms, P. D. (2017). Much ado about grit: A meta-analytic synthesis of the grit literature. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113, 492-511. doi:10.1037/pspp0000102
Duckworth, A. L. (2017). Grit: Why passion and resilience are secrets to success. London, UK: Penguin Random House.
Duckworth, A. L., Kirby, T. A., Tsukayama, E., Berstein, H., & Ericsson, K. A. (2011). Deliberate practice spells success: Why grittier competitors triumph at the National Spelling Bee. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 174-181. doi:10.1177/1948550610385872
Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 1087–1101. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.92.6.1087
Duckworth, A. L., & Quinn, P. D. (2009). Development and validation of the Short Grit Scale (Grit–S). Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 166-174. doi:10.1080/00223890802634290
Duckworth, A. L., Quinn, P. D., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2009). Positive predictors of teacher effectiveness. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 540–547. doi:10.1080/17439760903157232
Dunn, J. G. H., Causgrove Dunn, J., Gamache, V., & Holt, N. L. (2014). A person-oriented examination of perfectionism and slump-related coping in female intercollegiate volleyball players. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 45, 298-324. doi:10.7352/IJSP2014.45.298
Dunn, J. G. H., Gotwals, J. K., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (2005). An examination of the domain specificity of perfectionism among intercollegiate student-athletes. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 1439–1448. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2004.09.009
Dunn, J. G. H., Gotwals, J. K., Causgrove Dunn, J., & Lizmore, M. R. (2019). Perfectionism, pre-competitive worry, and optimism in high performance athletes. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/1612197X.2019.1577900
Dunn, J. G. H., Gotwals, J. K., Causgrove Dunn, J., Selzler, A.-M., Lizmore, M. R., Vaartstra, M., Sapieja, K. M., & Gamache, V. E. (2016). A multi-sample investigation of the higher-order latent dimensionality of the Sport-Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale-2. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 27, 150-156. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2016.08.006
Eum, K. U., & Rice, K. G. (2011). Test anxiety, perfectionism, goal orientations, and academic performance. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 24, 167-178. doi:10.1080/10615806.2010.488723
Fawver, B., Cowan, R. L., DeCouto, B., Lohse, K. R., Podlog, L., & Williams, A. M. (2020). Psychological characteristics, sport engagement, and performance in alpine skiers. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 47, 101616. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2019.101616
Flett, G. L., & Hewitt, P. L. (2016). Reflections on perfectionism and the pressure to be perfect in athletes, dancers and exercisers. In A.P. Hill (Ed.), The psychology of perfectionism in sport, dance and exercise (pp. 296-319). New York: Routledge.
Glass, G. V., & Hopkins, K. D. (1984). Statistical methods in education and psychology (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Gilchrist, J. D., Fong, A. J., Herbison, J. D., & Sabiston, C. M. (2018). Feelings of pride are associated with grit in student-athletes and recreational runners. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 36, 1–7. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2017.12.009
Gotwals, J. K., & Dunn, J. G. H. (2009). A multi-method multi-analytic approach to establishing internal construct validity evidence: The Sport Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale 2. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 13, 71–92. doi:10.1080/10913670902812663
Gotwals, J. K., Stoeber, J., Dunn, J. G. H., & Stoll, O. (2012). Are perfectionistic strivings in sport adaptive? A systematic review of confirmatory, contradictory, and mixed evidence. Canadian Psychology, 53, 263–279. doi:10.1037/a0030288
Graham, J. W., Cumsille, P. E., & Elek-Fisk, E. (2003). Methods for handling missing data. In J. A. Schinka, & W. F. Velicer (Eds.), Handbook of psychology: Research methods in psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 87-114). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Hodges, N. J., Ford, P. R., Hendry, D. T., & Williams, A. M. (2017). Getting gritty about practice and success: Motivational characteristics of great performers. Progress in Brain Research, 232, 167-173. doi:10.1016/bs.pbr.2017.02.003
Hu, L.-T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1–55. doi:10.1080/10705519909540118
Jordet, G. (2015). Psychological characteristics of expert performers. In J. Baker & D. Farrow (Eds.), Routledge handbook of sport expertise (pp. 106-120). London: Routledge.
Kelly, D. R., Matthews, M. D., & Bartone, P. T. (2014). Grit and hardiness as predictors of performance among West Point cadets. Military Psychology, 26, 327-342. doi:10.1037/mil0000050
Kline, R. B. (2016). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (4th ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Kobori, O., Yamagata, S., & Kijima, N. (2005). The relationship of temperament to multidimensional perfectionism trait. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 203-2111. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2004.04.003
Kobori, O., Yoshie, M., Kudo, K., & Ohtsuki, T. (2011). Traits and cognitions of perfectionism and their relationship with coping style, effort, achievement, and performance anxiety in Japanese musicians. Personality and Individual Differences, 25, 674-679. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2011.03.001
Larkin, P., O’Connor, D., & Williams, A. M. (2016a). Does grit influence sport-specific engagement and perceptual-cognitive expertise in elite youth soccer? Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 28, 129–138. doi:10.1080/10413200.2015.1085922
Larkin, P., O’Connor, D., & Williams, A. M. (2016b). Perfectionism and sport-specific engagement in elite youth soccer players. Journal of Sports Sciences, 34, 1305-1310. doi:10.1080/02640414.2015.1126673
Lizmore, M. R., Dunn, J. G. H., Causgrove Dunn, J., & Hill, A. P. (2019). Perfectionism and performance following failure in a competitive golf-putting task. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 45, 101582. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2019.101582
Lucas, G. M., Gratch, J., Cheng, L., & Marsella, S. (2015). When the going gets tough: Grit predicts costly perseverance. Journal of Research in Personality, 59, 15–22. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2015.08.004
MacNamara, A., & Collins, D. (2015). Profiling, exploiting, and countering psychological characteristics in talent identification and development. The Sport Psychologist, 29, 73-81. doi:10.1123/tsp.2014-0021
Maddi, S. R., Erwin, L. M., Carmody, C. L., Villarreal, B. J., White, M., & Gundersen, K. K. (2013). Relationships of hardiness, grit, and emotional intelligence to internet addiction, excessive consumer spending, and gambling. Journal of Positive Psychology, 8, 128-134. doi:10.1080/17439760.2012.758306
Marsh, H. W., Hau, K.-T., & Wen, Z. (2004). In search of golden rules: Comment on hypothesis-testing approaches to setting cutoff values for fit indexes and dangers in overgeneralizing Hu and Bentler’s (1999) findings. Structural Equation Modeling, 11, 320-341. doi:10.1207/s15328007sem1103_2
Martin, J. J. (2018). Handbook of disability sport and exercise psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Martin, J. J., Byrd, B., Watts, M. L., & Dent, M. (2015). Gritty, hardy, and resilient: Predictors of sport engagement and life satisfaction in wheelchair basketball players. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 9, 345–359. doi:10.1123/jcsp.2015-0015
Muenks, K., Yang, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (2017). Associations between grit, motivation, and achievement in high school students. Motivation Science, 4, 158-176. doi:10.1037/mot0000076
Olefir, V. (2018). Personality resources as a mediator of the relationship between antecedents of stress and pre-competitive anxiety. Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 18, 2230-2234. doi:10.7752/jpes.2018.04335
Pituch, K. A., & Stevens, J. P. (2016). Applied multivariate statistics for the social sciences: Analyses with SAS and IBM’s SPSS (6th ed.). New York: Routledge.
Poczwardowski, A., Diehl, B., O’Neil, A., Cote, T., & Haberl, P. (2014). Successful transitions to the Olympic training center, Colorado Springs: A mixed-method exploration with six resident-athletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 26, 33-51. doi:10.1080/10413200.2013.773950
Rasquinha, A., Dunn, J. G. H., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (2014). Relationships between perfectionistic strivings, perfectionistic concerns, and competitive sport level. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 15, 659–667. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2014.07.008
Rhodes, J., May, J., Andrade, J., & Kavanagh, D. 92018). Enhancing grit through functional imagery training in professional soccer. The Sport Psychologist, 32, 220-225. doi:10.1123/tsp.2017-0093
Salles, A., Cohen, G. L., & Mueller, C. M. (2014). The relationship between grit and resident well-being. The American Journal of Surgery, 207, 251–254. doi:10.1016/j.amjsurg.2013.09.006
Schmidt, F. T. C., Fleckenstein, J., Retelsdorf, J., Eskreis-Winkler, L., & Möller, J. (2019). Measuring grit: A German validation and a domain-specific approach to grit. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 35, 436-447. doi:10.1027/1015-5759/a000407
Shields, D. L., Funk, C. D., & Bredemeier, B. L. (2018). Can contesting orientations predict grittier, more self-controlled athletes? The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13, 440–448. doi:10.1080/17439760.2017.1350738
Stoeber, J., & Madigan, D. J. (2016). Measuring perfectionism in sport, dance, and exercise: Review, critique, recommendations. In A. P. Hill (Ed.), The psychology of perfectionism in sport, dance and exercise (pp. 31-56). New York: Routledge.
Stoeber, J., Otto, K., & Stoll, O. (2006). MIPS: Multidimensional Inventory of Perfectionism in Sport (English Version). Unpublished manuscript, School of Psychology, University of Kent, UK. doi:10.4324/9781315661100
Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (1996). Using multivariate statistics (3rd ed.). New York: HarperCollins.
Tedesqui, R. A. B., & Young, B. W. (2018). Comparing the contribution of conscientiousness, self-control, and grit to key criteria of sport expertise development. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 34, 110-118. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2017.10.002
Tedesqui, R. A. B., & Young, B. W. (2019). Relationships between athletes’ self-reported grit levels and coach-reported practice engagement over one sport season. Journal of Sport Behavior, 42, 509-523.
Toering, T., & Jordet, G. (2015). Self-control in professional soccer players. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 27, 335–350. doi:10.1080/10413200.2015.1010047
Vaartstra, M., Dunn, J. G. H., & Causgrove Dunn, J. (2018). Perfectionism and perceptions of social loafing in competitive youth soccer. Journal of Sport Behavior, 41, 475-500.
Vazsonyi, A.T., Ksinan, A.J., Jiskrova, G.K., Mikuška, J., Javakhishvili, M., & Cui, G. (2019). To grit or not to grit, that is the question! Journal of Research in Personality, 78, 215-226. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2018.12.006
Wolters, C. A., & Hussain, M. (2015). Investigating grit and relations with college students’ self-regulated learning and academic achievement. Metacognition Learning, 10, 293-311. doi:10.1007/s11409-014-9128-9