In this day and age of hyped up new sport science technology, athletes might need reminded that one of the most important contributors to athletic success is likely something most take for granted — rest. While it is true that the advances we are seeing in sports today have lead to bigger, faster, stronger athletes, our bodies also need proper rest in order to reach our full potential. Of course, this is especially true for young athletes.
Over-training can lead to countless physical and mental issues, and most sport psychologists and athletic trainers would agree that “more” isn’t always “better” when it comes to sports training. When athletes regularly play with pain they can lose their mental toughness, motivation, and resiliency — factors that essentially hold them back from playing their best.
Physical concerns relating to lack of rest
When athletes train and compete without taking breaks they run a greater risk for physical injury, as well as delaying a proper injury recovery if they are rehabilitating from an injury. These days it is not uncommon to hear about elite-level athletes who come back too soon from an injury only to re-aggravate the injury and sometimes cause even more long-term damage as a result. Constant, day-to-day wear and tear of muscles can also lead to various cumulative effects of over-training, including the shortening of an athletic career.
Mental concerns relating to lack of rest
Arguably the biggest problem athletes face when not taking adequate time off is sports burnout, a condition that is actually a collection of symptoms athletes feel by experiencing depression, anxiety, and decreases in motivation. In fact, many kids who experience sports burnout often lose the fun they had when they first began sports, and with “fun” being the #1 reason why kids play sports it’s important that we keep this in mind. Other risks for kids who rarely take time off from sports and experience sports burnout include poor stress coping responses, including drugs, alcohol, and reckless behaviors.
Impressing upon young athletes the importance of rest is no easy task these days, especially when there are countless premier, travel, and showcase leagues that run year-round. And lets face it, suggesting to a youngster that he or she needs rest is pretty boring, and might also lead to the false thinking that taking time off will inevitably put the athlete behind his or her peers. Ironically, though, it’s often the well-timed rest periods that allow the body to recover and the mind to stay fresh — 2 important qualities that allow athletes to reach their full athletic potential.