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Need for Attention, Love, and Support

Many Olympic and professional athletes are searching for indiscriminate love and acceptance, Brooks Johnson adds. Of American runner Mary Decker-Slaney, Johnson said, Mary Slaney has a desperate need for love and support. These people are performing for the fans and from acceptance from them. All the great ones are like that. All of them. When Johnson first started coaching Slaney when she was 15, she finished a race in Germany and immediately leaped into her coach’s arms. She wasn’t concerned about beating the Russians; she wanted to know if I approved of her, he said. Nowadays to excel on a national or international level, you require an overcompensation mechanism that clinically makes you abnormal,

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Johnson said. It usually comes from a sense of feeling inadequate and produces an overcompensation drive.

Another former coach of Decker-Slaney, Tracy Sundlum, added that, Mary judges her worth as a person solely by what she accomplishes on the track. It’s scary to contemplate, but the competitive nature we so admire in the woman is actually a huge personality flaw.

Many superathletes are driven to great heights by issues of ego, says Toni Farrenkopf, PhD, a clinical and sport psychologist, who works with athletes in Portland, Oregon. Often they suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder in which they overcompensate for their insecurities and emotional needs through incredible achievement. The people who make it to the top in this competitive society, including the sports world, succeed with this attitude, Farrenkopf added. If the athlete can channel this into peak performance, there is a good side to the outcome. Achievement is a good outcome, whether you’re in athletics or a business. There’s a built-in reward, but the price to get there is psychologically high.

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