As we race to discover the best sport psychology and science training methods, one simple yet vitally important variable that directly impacts athletic performance is almost always overlooked…rest.
Lacking rest is especially true for many young athletes today, as it has become commonplace for student athletes to compete in sports year-round, sometimes even playing two different sports concurrently. When you add academics, clubs & activities, and trying to find time for friends to the already super-busy sports schedules kids keep these days, it becomes easy to see why so many are in desperate need of a break.
Interestingly, when it comes to the basic building blocks of human performance (nutrition, hydration, and rest), rest seems to be the most overlooked to sport performance. Getting enough rest is critical for everything we do in life (not just sports), as it is widely accepted how sleep deprivation negatively impacts hand-eye coordination, focus, muscle memory, accidents/injuries, and overall mental toughness. The problem is suggesting to an athlete to “get more rest” in order to perform better is perceived as advice that is too simplistic, hence the reason why the importance of rest is often overlooked or neglected.
The impact of sports burnout
Rest, or lack thereof, is inversely related to the number of hours an athlete plays sports. More simply, athletes who play a lot are most at-risk to not getting nearly as much rest as they should. Two types of sports burnout can lead to a lack of rest — the first is cumulative sports burnout, the type of burnout experienced by athletes who play competitively, often non-stop, over a long period of time. Acute sports burnout is the second type of burnout athletes experienced, and occurs when an athlete plays a lot of games (high intensity) over a shorter period of time. You might think of acute burnout when kids play a heavy travel sport season over the course of a summer.
Both types of sport burnout not only contribute to the need for rest, but can also lead to a variety of problems, including poor coping, premature quitting of a team, and possibly even an early sport retirement. In fact, intense sport training can even nullify would-be advances in sport skill acquisition and mastery because of over-training, fatigue, staleness, and burnout.
Simple but powerful advice
Yes, it is a tough sell trying to convince young athletes about the value of rest — and sometimes an even more difficult task finding time to get rest while in the midst of an intense sports schedule. Still, if you are talking to kids about the value of eating right and staying hydrated, it’s not a bad idea to include talking about getting enough rest. Athletes who prioritize rest enjoy the benefits of fully charging their batteries, allowing for better sport (and life) performances.