The good news is that burnout can be avoided. Knowing what to look for and how to approach a child that may be suffering from burnout will encourage them to continue their involvement in sports.
What do I watch for?
- Be aware of the warning signs - loss of interest in sport, dreading practice, anger and irritability (especially if it has never been a problem before) at home and on the field.
- Injuries (real or imagined)
- Watch for patterns - quitting during a competition or not focusing or caring about the outcome.
- Child exhibits signs of fatigue, restlessness, apathy, loss of appetite, depression and/or a lack of motivation.
- Offer your support. Sometimes parents and coaches are so sure they are doing the right thing that they find it difficult to step back and see what's happening.
- Reduce the pressure to win by establishing goals.
- Recognize improvement and realize that there will be setbacks to progress.
- Sometimes performance gets worse before it get better; motivation and encouragement go further than punishment or criticism.
- Listen to what your child has to say and respect their opinions. The most common complaint is that "It's just not fun anymore."
- Keep a healthy perspective on the importance of raising a star athlete vs. raising a healthy child.
- Let them take time off, encourage them to play a variety of sports, and build other activities into their schedule.
References Available from the SIRC Collection:
1. Appleton P, Hill A. Perfectionism and Athlete Burnout in Junior Elite Athletes: The Mediating Role of Motivation Regulations. Journal Of Clinical Sport Psychology. June 2012;6(2):129-145.
2. Gustafsson H, Skoog T. The mediational role of perceived stress in the relation between optimism and burnout in competitive athletes. Anxiety, Stress & Coping. March 2012;25(2):183-199.
3. Harris B, Watson II J. Assessing Youth Sport Burnout: A Self-Determination and Identity Development Perspective. Journal Of Clinical Sport Psychology. June 2011;5(2):117-133.
4. Kids at play: risks and rewards. Handball. October 2004;54(5):37-39.
5. Metzl J. DO I HAVE OVERSTRAINING SYNDROME?. Triathlete. October 2012;(343):28.
6. Wolff R. Preventing burnout among young athletes. Sports Illustrated. April 21, 1997;86(16):79.