In Greenwich, CT where I live and in many towns across the USA, more children are playing sports year-round and specializing in one sport from an early age than ever before.
Private coaches, constant travel and hours of daily practice are often the norm. Expenses, time commitment and expectations often lead to pressures on both the parents and the young athlete.
While there are tremendous physical and social benefits of being active and playing competitive sports, parents need to keep a watchful eye to make sure their young athlete is not becoming physically and emotionally overwhelmed.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a psychological syndrome developed in response to overwhelming stressors that result in decreased sports performance and negative feelings about one’s sport.
Basically, burnout is a condition of fatigue and under-performance following difficult training loads and competitions that cause young athletes to under-perform, lose interest in their sport and, in some cases, quit competing altogether.
Athletes that experience burnout may have unrealistic goals, become concerned with meeting the expectations of others, feel a lack of control over their lives and exhibit signs of being physically and emotionally exhausted.
According to John P. DiFiori, MD et al, approximately 50% of all sports injuries are due to overuse and over training (Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 2014;24:3–20).
Causes of Burnout
The primary cause of burnout is stress triggered by:
- Increased, monotonous training load without adequate rest and recover
- Excessive number of competitions
- Inadequate sleep
- Presence of multiple stressors such as: coaching pressure, grades, social issues, parental pressure, illness, injuries, etc.
- Frustration from unrealized goals
- Negative performance evaluations and criticism
- Need to please others
- Low self-esteem
- Inability to manage stress
- Feelings in adolescence of a lack of control over their lives
Awareness of the causes of burnout is essential to the prevention of the condition.
Warning Signs & Symptoms of Burnout
Parents need to be able to recognize burnout warning signs in order to best help their young athletes and guard them from the hazards of burnout.
- Sleep disturbance
- Frequent sickness
- Decreased performance
- Poor concentration
- Weight loss/ loss of appetite
- Loss of confidence and self-esteem
- Decreased enjoyment in sport
- Lack of enthusiasm about practice or competition
- Loss of motivation
Use these warning signs as an early detection system, so you can interject some effective strategies to help your young athlete.
Tardio Tips: 3 Suggestions to Prevent Burnout
- Help your young athlete to become well-rounded and foster other interests outside of sport. Taking time off is an underrated prevention tool.
- Encourage your young athlete to focus on daily improvement, skill development and fun rather than winning and achieving certain performance standards.
- Consider consulting with a Mental Game Coach. This is the best strategy to help prevent burnout, help overcome performance plateaus and getting the most out of sport.