Perception is Reality but It’s Not Usually 20/20: The Positives and Negatives of Performance Perception Drift

Posted on Aug 10, 2016 in active parent, blog, featured

Perception is Reality but It’s Not Usually 20/20: The Positives and Negatives of Performance Perception Drift

Part #1 – The Over-estimator
ME: Hello Everyone. My name is Tom Alcivar and I am over-estimator when it comes to my abilities.
GROUP LEADER: Welcome to the group Tom. Please sit down and tell us your story.
ME: Ummm
GROUP LEADER: Go ahead, you are in a safe place here.
ME: Well…..
Yeah that’s right, Coach Tom is an over-estimator. Surprise! Just the other week I threw myself into a mountain bike race down in Redwing. The rigor of the course, the division I signed up for and the heat/humidity combined to create a potent and potentially very dangerous cocktail. Why, as an experienced coach, would I do this? Because I too am susceptible to Performance Perception Drift (PPD).

What is it? In simple terms, it is when your perception of what you think you can do does not match up with what you actually can do.

Every athlete experiences this to a degree. The higher level performer you are and the more consistent your training, the smaller your PPD.

How does it happen? Easy. And it happens to athletes of all abilities.

When training and activity are interrupted, perception and reality wander in different directions. This could be due to a busy schedule, lack of interest, injury recovery, etc. In my case it was kids. Four years ago our first son Callan came into our lives followed two years later by our second son Xander. Prior to that, I benefited from a consistent and frequent training plan that helped me maintain a more accurate gauge of my abilities.

It is helpful to have a coach, spouse, and or friend who can draw upon their experience with you in order to provide an objective outside opinion of whether you are at the peak of training or just getting back into things. Being an “Over-estimator” is not all bad, but there are a few pros and cons to consider.


  • The greater the difference between perception and reality, the higher likelihood of personal injury upon a return to activity. “I can jump that.” (read as: I could at one time jump that, but now I shouldn’t bet on it)
    Get ready for a rude awakening that can be very discouraging
  • Depending upon the sport or team setting, it could lead to others being injured or frustrated by an over promised and under delivered approach. In a sport like adventure racing, a person who takes on a disproportionate amount of responsibility relative to their true ability becomes a liability to the whole team


  • If you are lucky, you’ll avoid an injury that could ultimately start the whole process over of distancing yourself from a true view of your abilities.
  • You can gain a better understanding of where you stand and can direct your efforts towards the low hanging fruit for efficient use of your training time
  • You keep reaching for your potential and exploring your limits. When done right, this has a profound effect as you get older. More on that in next week’s issue

What’s the solution? Smart and consistent training and exercise.

I know, easier said than done. Our next installment will take a look at being an “Under-Estimator”, the related pros and cons, and some tips on how to recognize and deal with PPD.

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