Sports burnout occurs from kids playing sports at an intense rate over a period of time, and can lead to a host of issues including mood state problems, anxiety, reckless behaviors, and even premature quitting of sports. Unlike physical bumps and bruises kids experience competing in sports, burnout is not an easily visible condition, and therefore often goes unnoticed until it is too late. Remember, the #1 reason why kids play sports is to have fun, but when sports stop being fun and start becoming work sports burnout becomes a common problem.
2 main types of sport burnout
The two types of burnout I commonly see at my office are the long-term burnout experienced over years, and the short-burst burnout that comes from a more intense, shorter period of play (i.e. summer travel season). The longer term sports burnout generally evolves over time when kids consistently train and play sports year-round with few (if any) breaks. In these situations sports begin as a fun experience, but after awhile the experience becomes more business-like, leaving some kids less interested in playing yet still committed to the team.
In cases of short-term sports burnout, kids often enjoy playing but become mentally spent devoting so much of their lives to sports over a short period of time. In these examples kids tell me they miss “being a kid” and all the things kids do besides playing sports, including hanging out with friends, going to the pool, playing video games, and simply relaxing. When you consider that some kids play 50 or more games over the course of a summer, it’s easy to see where their frustrations originate.
How to tell if your kid might be burned out
Since sports burnout isn’t a clinical diagnosis but instead a collection of correlated symptoms relating to sport participation and intensity, it can be difficult to determine of a kid is truly burned out. Fortunately there are a few big indicators that can provide parents and coaches important markers to look for to avoid sports burnout.
- Emotionally drained. When you see an otherwise happy and excited kid looking like he or she is always tired (especially at practices and games), it might be time to have an honest conversation. Kids aren’t always the best at hiding their emotions, making it relatively easy for adults to notice that something isn’t right. If you see that a kid is really struggling to be excited playing sports it is important to ask why, and even more important to create an environment where the kid can answer truthfully. Ask if the child needs a short break, as well as the means in which you can help the situation.
- Lacking pride over accomplishments. Most kids beam with pride when it comes to their team and individual sport accomplishments, so if you see a kid who doesn’t seem to care much it might be a red flag.
- Little motivation to play sports. When kids are having fun playing sports you don’t have to remind them over and over about getting ready for practices and games. Conversely, kids who regularly make excuses to not go to practices and games might be trying to tell you something — again, take time out to have a conversation about whether a break from sports is needed.
Sports burnout is more prevalent than you might think, especially with so many kids playing intense sports year-round. The good news is sport burnout signs are relatively easy to pick up if you are paying attention, and the condition can be quickly improved upon if you are willing to be patient and lend support to your child. Keep sports fun, and check in regularly with your child to make sure he or she is having fun and your chances for sports burnout will be greatly minimized.