Hugh McCutcheon on Perfectionism

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Travelling by car is when I listen to podcasts.  And with all of the travel I have done lately, I have been able to get to the bottom of my podcast backlog which goes back several years now.  The following is from a roundtable talk at the AVCA Conference from 2013 (I think).  It was entitled ‘Training and Teaching With a Growth Mindset’.  Those sitting around the table included Hugh McCutcheon and Marv Dunphy.  A question was presented about dealing with perfectionists to which Marv quipped, “I can handle those, the ones I can’t handle are the moody, mopey ones.”  Hugh went into a little more detail with his thoughts.  I will transcribe without comment.

Hugh McCutcheon on perfectionism…

It’s a pretty self indulgent habit.  And I think ultimately it is very selfish. ‘My performance has to be perfect for me to be happy on this team right now.’  So what you’ve got to talk to them about is that nobody’s played the perfect game of volleyball yet and it’s sure as hell not going to happen today.  So let’s just take that off the table.  What we need to talk about is process.  How about you cover every ball.  How about you call every time.  How about you go and support your teammates every time.  How about you get your approach footwork right, your double arm lift, and get loaded and work on the things you are supposed to work on to get better at this game.  So you can have perfect process.  You can demand that.  You should demand that.  But perfectionism is a selfish and kind of pretentious thing that players use to kind of protect themselves, preventing themselves from actually engaging in the process.


  1. Interesting that Hugh makes a distinction between perfect performance and perfect process. Why would you strive for perfect process if there wasn’t a goal of perfect performance?


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