High Performance and Obsession
Obsession defines and unites the best in any field - actors, musicians, artists, and athletes. Those who reach the absolute height of performance cannot get there without extreme levels of dedication - of this I am sure. Even to maximize our own potential (whether or not it results in elite performance) a certain amount of obsession is required.
The importance of this extreme dedication is twofold - it prioritizes repetition of necessary skills and encourages avoidance of detrimental activities. In an athletic example, take a 100m sprinter. If they are dedicated to their performance, they will spend the necessary time sprinting, prepping the body, recovering, and performing food prep. They will avoid spending extra energy, partying, or participating in any other activities that draw away from their athletic goal.
Years and years of prioritizing one's chosen activity will invariably result in that athlete reaching their best potential.
That being said, being obsessed with performance is not necessarily a healthy option. It can be extremely stressful on an athlete's psychology, can prevent them from enjoying daily life activities, and can also cause them to ignore injuries if not given proper guidance. In reality, the only way that an individual athlete can decide whether or not their obsession was "worth it" is retrospectively - i.e. looking back. Obsession with performance therefore is neither "negative" or "positive" - but it is simply a quality that all high performers possess.
People on the outside looking in may not understand an athlete's obsession with performance. They may have their own perspectives on what a person should or should not do to fulfill their desires in their life. Sometimes these are based on their own experiences and sometimes not. The key is to understand what the athlete is trying to accomplish and support them in that pursuit. Contrary opinions are definitely fine but care must be taken not to dissuade or demotivate an athlete who has chosen the path towards high performance.
Support personnel, most importantly the athlete's coach, have a vital role in keeping the athlete on track and preventing their obsession from becoming a negative trait. A talented coach with a robust relationship with the athlete and an understanding of their long term growth and potential can channel the dedication of that athlete into their optimal performance. The coach controls the volume and intensity of training with skill and knowledge, whereas an athlete may be apt to pursue both of those over-aggressively. A long term relationship with a coach has repeatedly shown to be beneficial at all levels, especially when looking at ultimate high performance.
One issue that is important to identify in this whole discussion is that of young athletes reflecting the obsession of their parents. In this scenario, the potential for psychological distress to the athlete is very high and likely their association with sport and training will be negative. While there are multitudes of examples where parents have pressed their ideals upon their kids (Tiger Woods, Venus and Serena Williams instantly spring to mind), there is a real risk of devastating the parent-child relationship when kids are pressed to hard too soon.
The athlete will not be in high performance sport forever. As they transition out of full training, they will take the lessons learned in their sport practice into their careers. Most will find a greater amount of success because of this. Discipline is often looked at as a negative word or quality. In my opinion, it is something that is needed in all areas of life and is well developed through dedicated practice.