Tips for Coaches to Help Kids Avoid Sports Burnout
Today’s young athletes play more games than ever before, often specialize in one sport, and sometimes play sports year-round without any real breaks or downtime. While there are some benefits to this type of a sports schedule (i.e. it may help with physical development and helping kids with time management by having structured schedules), there are also many concerns as well — including increased risk for sports burnout. Coaches can, in many cases, mitigate some of the risks for sports burnout by considering some of the following tips:
- Keep sports FUN! The #1 reason kids play sports is to have fun – if you are a coach make sure you think about this before every practice and game. This does not mean you should never be serious, nor does it mean you should throw discipline out the window, but it does remind us that it’s OK to laugh and have a good time while experiencing youth sports.
- Vary routines. As humans we often get into ruts in life when we go through very predictable daily patterns. For young athletes, practices can be grueling enough, but they often become even more mentally exhausting when they are run the same way, day in, day out. Try to find creative ways to vary your practices whenever possible.
- Use a lot of positive reinforcement – especially for effort. While it’s easy to find all the things kids do wrong while competing, be sure to tune in to the good things they do, especially with respect to effort (even if the results aren’t always there).
- Create downtime. Young athletes today are busier than ever before, with many kids involved with additional sports trainers, nutritionists, sport psychologists, and other helping professionals. It is important coaches find strategic times to take days off and cut practices short to help kids maintain a healthy balance in life.
- Seek outside help when necessary. If you have a gut feeling a kid is going too hard and possibly becoming burned out from sports, you are probably right. Make sure to check in with kids who you think might be burned out, and work with their parents to help find school/community professionals and resources that can help.