By Ker’Shyra Myrick
We are all familiar with that burned out feeling: too much work, not enough sleep, and the list goes on and on.
And burnout can strike young athletes, driving them out of sports, too.
Young athletes are being exposed to games at younger ages, often participating year-round, and are burning out because of the full schedule of practices, games and training sessions.
Burnout is defined by Richard Cox, author of Sport Psychology: Concepts and Applications, as: physical/emotional exhaustion, sport devaluation, and reduced athletic accomplishment.
It is important for parents and coaches to be aware of the signs that their young athlete may be heading toward burnout.
“Burnout is when an athlete is over trained and begins to withdraw from their sport psychologically, physically and socially,” says Dr. Amy Baltzell, President of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, a Certified Mental Performance Consultant and Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the Sport Psychology Specialization (of Counseling) at Boston University.
We spoke with Baltzell to get her insights on this serious issue. Check out what she had to say:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How common is burnout in youth sports?
BALTZELL: Burnout in youth sports is becoming more common because kids are starting to play sports at younger ages. I have seen some cases where it is starting in children that are 12 and 13 years old. Kids are not just playing on their middle school and high school teams; they are also becoming involved in travel teams as well, which is leading them to drop out of youth sports due to too much travel and training. Of course, this is on a sport by sport basis. For instance, gymnastics has a lot of burnout in athletes ranging in ages 10-12.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How can parents and coaches help athletes deal with burnout?
BALTZELL: Burnout has a lot to do with the child’s interest and the coaching environment. There are some levels of training that are intense, but if you have the right type of coaching, kids will not get burned out. When young athletes feel supported, encouraged and acknowledged, and the coaching environment is right, burnout tends not to happen. This is conducive to having a good match between the coach, the team and the athlete.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are the signs of an athlete who is burned out?
BALTZELL: Some signs to look for are physical exhaustion during relatively easy training; an athlete who usually wants to go to practice, but all of a sudden does not want to go anymore; athletes who do not socialize with teammates like they used to; athletes who opt out of practicing with the team in order to practice on their own; and athletes who resist any extra training, and who talk about being too sore and more tired than usual.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are some tips for parents when dealing with a suspected case of burnout?
BALTZELL: Parents should ask their child basic questions like: Are you enjoying it? Do you want to go to practice tomorrow? Do you still enjoy playing the sport? Kids will talk and open up, but parents might not want to hear what they have to say. When, or if, the child says no, parents need to listen and be prepared for the outcome. There are times when parents want to “fix” their child and their attitude, but when it comes down to it, their child is just burned out from too much training and pressure.
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