Rather than getting a group of friends together and playing a pickup game of basketball or baseball, today’s youths seem to be enrolled in organized sport leagues year-round. The focus on these leagues while specializing in one specific sport can lead to athlete burnout in youths.

Burnout in younger athletes is not uncommon and can lead to youths wanting to quit sports entirely. Burnout in younger athletes is described as a response by a youth to anxiety and stress in which they stop participating in an activity they used to enjoy; they’ll withdraw from the sport believing they aren’t able to meet the physical and psychological standards according to MomsTeam Senior Editor Lindsey Barton Straus.

Essentially, burnout is common among athletes who specialize in one sport year-round without any rest time or breaks throughout the year. For example, burnout can occur in a youth baseball player who plays travel ball throughout the year with minimal to no offseason.

There are also different types of burnout that can occur in a youth, from physiological to physical burnout.

Physical burnout can be viewed as a youth athlete that specializes in one sport through the year experiencing more overuse injuries such as Tommy John Surgery or chronic arm pain in baseball or ACL tears in basketball and football. These injuries are much more common in youths that specialize in a single sport due to using the same muscles over and over again in the same motion without much rest according to Ken Reed.

Physiological or emotional burnout can lead to a child abandoning a sport completely due to several factors such as overwhelming pressure to win and perform at high levels consistently, not seeing any payoff from spending countless hours involved in their sport, and the control sports starts to have in a youth’s life.

One common theme seen in emotional burnout is the power that coaches and parents wield. Coaches that hold the same repetitive practices will lose the interests of their athletes who may become unmotivated to continue their career in sports.

Another scenario is the presence of overbearing parents. Though these parents may want their child to perform at the best level possible, they may contribute to their child’s burnout through constant pressure from the sidelines, stands, and extra practice at home.

Some consequences of burnout are low self-esteem, low personal expectations, focusing mainly on failure and adult expectations rather than success, higher anxiety levels due to increased parental pressure to participate, extreme athletic stress leading to sleep loss, physical injury, and lowered performance, and ultimately withdrawing from the sport.

What are some solutions to preventing burnout among youths?

One solution is to have athletes participate in more than one sport rather than specializing in one sport year-round. This plan will have youths put their focus on more than one sport giving them a fresh mindset while also resting and using different muscles and lowering injury risk in the process.

Another solution is to take time off from a sport and have a rest period. This will clear the young athletes mind while also resting their body.

Lastly, find out if there are any pressures on the athlete such as pressure from parents, coaches, or themselves. Is the athlete forced to participate in a sport or are they doing it because they want to? Hearing the concerns of a youth athlete and giving them a voice will reveal what can be fixed and what needs to be changed to prevent burnout.

Burnout is common among youth athletes for various reasons and if they quit the sport they are in, they will rarely play that sport again. With this said, it is essential for parents and coaches to look into these factors and prevent burnout.

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