Youth sports burnout is the last thing you want your young athlete experience; it will hold your child back from reaching his potential, can cause physical problems, and could push her away from a sport that she truly enjoys playing.
According to Momsteam.com, there are four stages to burnout:
- a child is placed in a situation where the demands feel excessive
- that child has various physiological responses
- burnout consequences develop.
What are those consequences? Another way to ask is, what are the warning signs of youth sports burnout?
Dr. Geier from Sports Medicine Simplified explains the clues that could indicate your child is headed towards excessive sports fatigue:
- Inconsistent performance or one that seems to be regularly going downhill
- Lack of motivation to practice or play in games
- Little to no enjoyment of the sport or game outcomes
- Uncooperation with coaches and teammates
- Irritability or quick mood swings
- Lack of concentration
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of Appetite
- Vague complaints about muscle or joint pain
- Sick more often
- Too-slow recovery from injuries
If you see any of these signs, then the next step is to have a heart-to-heart with your child to see if they are feeling burned out. In this conversation, ask lots of questions and listen a lot.
But the best way to deal with youth sports burnout is to go on offense and prevent it from sneaking up on you. Here’s how you and your child can stave off the burnout:
Prioritize. Decide which of your child’s activities are the most important to him and if you have to start eliminating some, start at the bottom.
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. If your athlete plans to do that, however, he must let his coach know in advance so it does not hurt the team. Remember, however, that 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. 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. This is called cross-training and can really help your child be a better over-all athlete.