Burnout in young athletes
I’ve written several articles on burnout and it seems to be one of my top viewed articles. Why is that? I think it’s because the pressure to perform particularly at a young age continues to be on the rise. My 11, 12, & 13 year-old clients are putting so many hours into their sport that some of them are already experiencing signs of burnout. For most of them there is only time for school and their one sport. A lot of my clients who are kids experience burnout. It just looks a little different.
Many kids who are starting to experience burnout present with anxiety. That anxiety is generally associated with the pressure to perform well. It’s also associated with frustration because their lives are consumed with school teams, travel teams, school and homework and little, if any free time to just hang out with friends. Feeling consumed, anxious, overwhelmed and training a lot leads to burnout. It can also lead to poor performances which can decrease confidence.
Some kids who are starting to experience burnout present with low motivation. Low motivation is also generally associated with the pressure to perform well. It tends to stem from kids making a mistake, leading to more mistakes without the tools for knowing how to deal with what’s happening. This increases frustrated and anxiety. Initially in these situations kids continue to work hard(er) but aren’t able to perform better sometimes leading to burnout. Because they don’t have the tool to deal with the situation, it turns into a no-win situation and many at this point decide it’s easier to drop out.
Do you know how many times I hear my young clients say they are tired? What do you think happens when kids continue to feel tired day after day? As an adult what happens when you continue to feel tired day after day? You might take a day off or take a vacation. Young athletes rarely get a day off or a vacation. My gymnasts are told they can’t take a day off or a vacation. On top of that, kids don’t get enough sleep. Some aren’t eating well enough to handle the load. They aren’t drinking enough water. And they are running from one thing to the next. They barter with themselves on how to either sleep, eat, shower or get their homework done. Some of my clients have schedules that are more difficult than my schedule as an adult and I have a lot going on everyday! Kids do have a lot more energy than adults but does that mean they have to use it up everyday and then start over again the next day? Aren’t kids meant to be kids and gradually learn to be adults? What’s the result? Burnout!
I am already working with many of these young clients on time management. It’s fine because they need this tool to feel confident about being able to get everything done but should a kid be so concerned with time management at 11, 12, & 13?
I am not making this stuff up. This is the reality of what I see day in, day out. If you are reading this, I am not even sure you have the ability at this point to change much of it. So, what do you do? At the very least make sure your child has the mental skills to deal with some of this.