Over the years, I’ve talked to older teenagers who played organized sports growing up and inquired about whether they ever experienced some level of burnout. And almost everyone of those who played only a single sport year-round, all shared they had come close or had some degree of burnout from being involved in just one sport.
And while something I often discuss with parents of young children already going down the path of year round baseball or gymnastics (which is clearly the most time consuming sport at the 5-6 age range I’ve ever seen) or my favorite, soccer, is to just be careful and monitor for signs/symptoms of burnout in their children; it really hit me on a more personal level this past weekend after my son had a couple of soccer games about a 1.5 hour drive from our house. These were considered “friendly” games where it didn’t mean much to the standings but simply gave another opportunity for the boys to get their act together before their regular season began. But what didn’t sit well with me and something I do feel bad about is my son had to miss a birthday party of a good friend of his to make these games. Now you can put the blame on me as I also felt he shouldn’t miss these games and I’m just wondering if I am starting him down the path of a slow burnout.
Now the reason I share this is just a couple of days ago I came across an article in the August edition of Pediatric Annals discussing some of the factors associated with burnout in young athletes and some of things that can be done to reduce burnout and I thought I share them with you all. So parents and caregivers, some of the signs/symptoms to watch out for in regard to burnout include:
- High travel demands
- Parental pressure
- Long practices with little variety
- Overuse injuries as they get older
- Excessive time demands
And as far as some recommendations or strategies to help reduce burnout the list includes:
- Mind-body intervention: Now I do really think these will only work with children who are of a certain age and have reached a specific level of maturity, but certainly no harm in trying. For example, the authors suggest muscle relaxation, mental imagery (i.e. active daydreaming), total body relaxation and even deep abdominal breathing exercises.
- For the parents: It is imperative parents remain positive and supportive and not be at the end of the spectrum…i.e., not being under-involved but also being careful of not being over-involved as well. Take home message: parents, find a middle ground.
- For the coaches: Unfortunately, this may be a tough one for parents to enforce as it really relies on the coaches to step up and provide the right environment for the players. But ultimately, an overly negative coach only focused on results is probably not best suited to coach children.
Anyway, would love to hear from any fellow DS members about their experiences in this matter.
- Dr. Jeremy
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