It all starts out so fun. But somewhere along the journey, sports becomes serious business to many athletes.
And that’s okay. But it’s NOT okay when athletes are so overloaded that they experience sports burnout.
Last week’s post on 10 signs that your athlete has had enough pointed to the challenge of recognizing the problem and today I’d like to suggest how you can help your athlete avoid sports burnout.
Take a break. Encourage your athlete to rest from organized sports 1-2 days per week. Allow longer breaks from training and competition every few months. Even in between seasons, if possible. Use the break to focus on other activities and do light exercise.
Eat Right & Drink lots of water. This should be a no-brainer for athletes, but teens will still eat too much junk food and they usually pay for it when they do.
Have a life outside of sports. Talk about sports and other things on the way home and at the dinner table. If all you can find to talk about is sports, something tells me your kid’s life might be out of balance.
Sometimes say no to sports and yes to another activity. As long as you understand there may be consequences for missing a practice, tournament or game, then it’s okay for your athlete to periodically put another activity before sports.
For instance, my daughter missed a club volleyball tournament because she wanted to go on a church youth retreat. It was not a question of dedication to her sport, but a matter of maintaining balance in her life by doing something else she really wanted to do. If your athlete plans to do that, however, he must let his coach know in advance so it does not hurt the team.
And, I might add, if this becomes a regular habit, it may cost him a position or playing time. So keep those occasions to a minimum if he is serious about his sport.
Listen to your body. Take a short break or alter your training if your body needs a change.
Keep expectations realistic. Don’t expect too much from your child. Make sure you know their goals and try to help them achieve those goals without pushing them.
One size does not fit all. Every kid is unique and you need to know how much your child can handle physically. Help them learn to prioritize what they should and can do, and then help them find a balance between school, extra-curricular activities, and free time.
Downplay the importance of outcome. We all want to win. But the more you emphasize sportsmanship, hard work, and small victories, the less devastated your athlete will be if they lose.
Let them decide. Help young kids learn to make their own decisions about whether to play. Discuss pros and cons with them and then let them make the decision. The older they get, the more this should happen. When kids feel they are forced to play, they are more likely to resent the sport.
Back off. There, I said it. Parents, sometimes–most of the time–we need to back off and let our kids push themselves.
Don’t put pressure on your kids to choose their favorite sport. Many athletes played more than one sport in junior high and even high school. Tennis great Roger Federer and pro basketball player LeBron James didn’t specialize until high school.