Athlete Burnout: Signs, Causes and How to Help Prevent It
Athlete burnout is becoming more and more common place. I have seen athletes as young as 11 years old showing signs of burnout. I myself suffered from burnout as a teenager, and lost complete love for a game that I used to not be able to get enough of. Burnout is a real issue and one that needs to be looked at to help make sure that more is done to make sports fun for athletes and they are able to perform at a high level while still truly enjoying the game.
A big part of athlete burnout occurs when the motivation for an athlete shifts from the internal to the external. From the simple joy and love of the game and competition, to the motivation now becoming about money, scholarships, celebrity, trophies or praise. This can lead to feeling trapped and controlled by the sport, increasing the amount of pressure an athlete feels. Excessive pressure and stress is one main reason for athlete burnout, another is entrapment. Which occurs when an athlete has invested a lot of time and money into the sport and not really enjoy it anymore, feeling like they need to continue due to the investment given. Another reason for athlete burnout, is when they feel they start to lose their autonomy, this can happen through feeling dis-empowered, with the power coming from organization or parents controlling the athlete, and the athlete feeling they don't have control over their lives and their sense of identity is lost.
Whether you're a parent, coach or athlete yourself, it is important to know the signs of potential burnout so things can be addressed.
Constantly tired and sleeps much more than usual
Exhibits an increasing aversion towards the sport by showing a negative attitude in training
Complains about not seeing any results of his/her hard work and is fighting “a losing battle”
Seems to have lost all enjoyment for the sport and only trains and competes to please others or abide to a professional contract
Is a “24 hour athlete” and does not seem to have any other interests or friends outside of the sport
Exaggerates physical symptoms, feigns an injury or drags out the recovery process of an existing injury
Exhibits mood swings and gets easily frustrated, aggressive or depressed
Shows signs of disordered eating
Cheats in training or withdraws altogether from certain training activities
Has unrealistically high self-imposed performance goals and is extremely self-critical
How to Help Prevent Burnout
It is important to find ways to help prevent burnout from happening. If some good strategies are put in place they can help an athlete continue to enjoy the sport they love.
Take some time off from the sport
Teach the young athlete relaxation and stress management techniques
Look at what pressures they might be experiencing. Are there pressures at home or by the coach to win, win, win?
Does the athlete have control over his/her own participation, or is there someone forcing them to continue with participation
Give your child increased involvement in making sports-related decisions and they will feel more in control
Look at their interactions with their teammates. Help them by providing positive social support and encouraging positive thoughts about their role on their team
I have told many of the athletes I work with they need to take some time off from their sport. These days many sports happen all year round, and you need the break both physically and mentally. I have had a few who followed through recently and realized the benefits and how much better they were coming back from taking the time off. Managing pressure and stress is also very important and there will be pressure and stress, but they are not bad things, we just need to learn to manage them and make them in the right range for optimal performance.
To your success,
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Kate Allgood Masters Sport Psychology (with distinction) Masters General Psychology (with distinction) Sports Hypnosis Certification Muscle Activation Techniques Certification