Youth sports burnout is a growing issue in America today, as increasingly more kids play intense sports — and often with little, if any breaks. While sports burnout isn’t a formal mental disorder, it is a serious condition loosely defined as the stress symptoms experienced directly from playing an intense sports schedule, or by playing sports over a long period of time without much time off from the sport. The symptoms from sports burnout can include lack of personal motivation, anger and agitation, premature quitting of the sport, or even drug and alcohol use.
Many kids experience sports burnout over the summer when school is on break and kids play one (or more) sports at an intense level. Some kids handle their sports schedule quite well and without issues relating to burnout, but many other kids don’t — and instead struggle trying to keep up with their team obligations and efforts to please parents.
While sports burnout is impossible to predict with 100% certainty, there are some key questions for parents to examine to help mitigate risks of sports burnout this summer:
- Do you have a summer sports schedule that already appears to be overwhelming, even before it has started? Parent intuition is a powerful force when it comes to raising kids, and it can be used when looking at upcoming youth sport schedules to get a “gut feeling” whether it might be too much. When you think about the sport requirements for your child this summer do you get the feeling your child will struggle with the commitments in front of him or her?
- Does your child’s summer sports schedule take away from other important life experiences and opportunities? Will your child’s summer sport schedule dominate and take away from other important, and often fun, life experiences? Will your child’s sports schedule prohibit other academic, social, community, and volunteer experiences? Will there be any time left over for your child to hang out with friends, visit the zoo, go swimming with friends, or have fun at an amusement park?
- Is your child committed to two, or possibly even three different sports or sport teams this summer? Do you already have concerns about how many sports your child will be committed to this summer? Are you worried there will be scheduling conflicts, and that your child might experience a high level of stress trying to please all of the teams he or she is obligated to when it comes to practices and games?
- Has your child been involved in summer sports scheduling, or have you done it all yourself? Have you talked to your child about this summer’s sport schedule, or did you make the schedule without his or her input? Is your child expecting to spend his or her time this summer very differently than what you are expecting?
- Are your “vacations” this summer really just sports travel requirements? Summer is a great time for family vacations, but some kids feel mislead when the vacation isn’t really a vacation at all, but instead simply a place where they will play sports rather than enjoying the beach.
Preventing sports burnout
Sports burnout is something families can avoid by paying close attention to their child’s interests, as well as working hard to create healthy, balanced schedules that allow for breaks and time off from sports. More isn’t always better in life, and when it comes to performing at a high level countless studies have repeatedly shown that going too hard can lead to burnout, and taking mini-breaks can actually lead to better performances. If you’re a sports parent be sure to keep an open communication with your child, as well as a balanced schedule that includes breaks from sports, and chances are if you do this you’ll have a very happy, healthy, and productive summer.