High School Athletes: Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is a problem that athletes of any age can face. There are many pressures that befall high school athletes and they are very susceptible to sports burnout if you’re not careful. It is the role of parents, coaches and the players themselves to take the proper steps to try to avoid burnout.

Unfortunately, many kids quit sports before they ever reach a high school level. As a youth coach, I see this happen, usually a result of “burnout”. But should burnout be happening to kids this young? Definitely not but it happens for a variety of reasons, most of which you can control.

Helpguide.org says, “Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” This is essentially what happens to young people in sports and what often leads them to quit.

Overexposure to a sport or to athletics in general can lead a teenager to burnout, often resulting in loss of interest and enthusiasm for the sport.

The first step to avoiding burnout is to understand what causes it. There are a lot of pressures associated with high school sports. Pressures to succeed, to get a college scholarship, to turn pro or just to impress parents, friends and family are high for teen athletes.

Certain personality traits- such as perfectionism- also increase a teen’s chances of getting sports burnout. Ego-driven, impulsive players who are sensitive to criticism are much more likely to reach burnout ahead of those who are more laid-back about their sports. Many of the very personality traits that lead a teen to excel in a sport can also lead him to experience burnout.

Some signs of burnout include general anxiety, lack of willingness to talk, irritability, constant fatigue, inability to concentrate, lack of enjoyment from the game or appearing emotionless. If your teen athlete shows these signs, you need to consider burnout as a possible source.

You can avoid burnout by maintaining good communication with your high school athlete, remembering that more isn’t better (fewer sports and commitments at one time, fewer practices and games in the schedule, etc), avoid pressure to win, avoid equating success with winning, provide emotional support after each game or match, as your athlete for opinions and input on strategy of the game, and help your child reflect on his performance at the game while keeping it positive.

When you nag, fuss, yell or punish your high school athlete for what you consider poor performance, it increases the chance of burnout and the stress will only cause your teen to perform worse. Recognize when enough is enough, look for the signs of burnout and help your teen athlete deal with defeat and anger.