With today’s intense youth sport environment, the frequency of athlete burnout is becoming a concern. Coaches, parents, and athletes themselves can engage in certain practices to decrease the likelihood of athlete burnout. Below are a few suggestions for how to help athletes stay motivated in sport and avoid burnout.
Create a fun training environment. Regardless of level, a fun sport environment is a critical component to keeping athletes engaged and refreshed in sport. Olympic level athletes consistently cite fun and enjoyment during training as a key to helping them fall in love with their sport and reach their high levels. Just a note – a fun environment can still be challenging, intense, and skill focused.
Build social relationships within your team. A consistent reason cited by youth for their sport participation is to be with friends and build relationships with others their own age. Creating an environment where athletes feel comfortable and safe is a key to helping these relationships grow. Allowing for pair drills and mixing partners so everyone can connect is a great way to ensure athletes have the social relationships that can buffer feelings of burnout.
Give your athletes some choice. One main cause of burnout is the feeling that athletes have no autonomy in their own sport. Providing athletes choices can ensure they feel empowered, stay motivated, and develop leadership skills. Giving athletes the option of Drill A or Drill B might create some extra work for you, but it will make athletes feel invested in practice time and let them know you value their thoughts.
Be aware of messages you are sending. Your children are smart and notice what you do as much, if not more, than what you say. Be sure the messages you are sending are supportive and encouraging and not distracting or negative. If you tell your child that fun is the most important thing in sport, but then get mad when they lose in a competition, it adds confusion and stress to their plate.
Promote balance. Sport can be a great opportunity for personal development, but youth need to have the opportunity to explore other areas of interest as well. Help athletes find time to participate in non-sport events they may enjoy or ensure they have time to hang out with friends. The opportunity to try new things can help them appreciate the sport environment more and keep them refreshed throughout the year.
Help them understand they are more than an athlete to you. Many parents get as disappointed (sometimes more so!) than the player themselves when an athlete plays poorly. Regardless of your own feelings about the performance, be sure your child knows you love them regardless of their performance. A great motto to tell your athlete is “I love watching you play!”
Play for your why. In sport, distractions exist that can take our focus away from what is most important. A simple exercise to try to refocus on the most important aspects in sport is to ask the question “What is your why?” In essence, what do you enjoy most about your sport and what do you want to accomplish. If athletes can reflect on why they are involved in sport in the first place, it can keep them refreshed and help avoid burnout.
Prioritize nutrition and sleep. Athletes are much more capable of dealing with stress when they are rested and when they focus on healthy eating. Burnout symptoms can sometimes manifest when we neglect our health and wellbeing. Paying attention to health and sleep is one way to ensure your body is fueled and ready to perform at the top of their abilities.
Dr. Eric Martin is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University and Co-director of the Center for Physical Activity and Sport(CPAS).Dr Martin is a Certified Mental Performance Coach who has worked with middle school, high school, and collegiate athletes focusing on enhancing performance through the development of mental skills. His research interest is in youth sports, specifically motivation, burnout and positive youth development. If you have comments or questions for Dr. Martin feel free to reach out at email@example.com
For those of us involved in the sport environment long enough, we’ve all seen the burned out athlete. It shows itself in various ways, whether it be a lack of effort during practices or competitions, an inability to perform at the same level as in the past, or just a lackadaisical reaction to what should be huge accomplishments. I want to dive a bit deeper on the most common ways burnout arises and then explain some aspects that might lead to burnout in athletes.
Symptoms of Burnout
Burnout in athletes appear in three distinct ways. First, and most commonly, athletes tend to become emotionally and physically exhausted and unable to recover regardless of time off. These athletes may seem like everyday tasks are monumental. In essence, instead of viewing practice or drills as engaging and fun, they view everything as a chore. Athletes often cannot muster the energy to perform well and struggle to physically and emotionally engage in their sport.
Second, athletes experience a decreased feeling of accomplishment when they meet their goals. An athlete who suffers from this aspect may seem disengaged or lackadaisical following a big win, personal best, or excellent performance. Athletes have trouble feeling good after big accomplishments and often feel sport’s challenge is no longer present or worth seeking.
Finally, athletes might feel a disconnect from teammates, coaches, or the sport themselves. At this point of burnout, athletes who were previously highly invested in sport now do not seem to value playing. Athletes begin to devalue the sport and the things they used to enjoy, for example being with friends, learning new skills, or competing against competition, and now athletes see these things are no longer worth doing.
It is important to note that some athletes may experience one of the three symptoms while others may experience all three (the extreme burned out athlete). Burnout is not just one symptom, but rather unique to each individual. Talking to an athlete in a supportive manner to find out what is going on can make a big difference and help you find out if the athlete is burned out, or if something else might be going on in their life (for example, school stress or poor nutrition/sleeping habits).
Causes of Burnout
Past studies have found a number of causes of burnout in athletes, but the most prevalent of these is stress without proper recovery or effective coping skills. Stress can manifest in multiple ways including physical (high training), psychological (pressure to perform from parents, coaches, or self), or a combination of the two. It is important to note that high stress is not bad. In fact, if athletes were not physically or mentally stressed at times they would never improve physical capabilities or learn how to perform under pressure. The problem with stress arises when the athlete’s environment does not allow for proper recovery from these stressful situations or if the athlete does not have the coping skills needed to deal with these assorted pressures.
Other common reasons for burnout is that athletes might feel trapped in their sport, perceive an unsupportive environment (coaches, teammates, or parents), or be experiencing a plateau of performance for an extended period. Athletes who feel that they are performing for reasons outside their own often forget why they started playing in the first place which can often lead to burnout.
—Next month, I will overview some strategies you can use as a coach or parent to prevent or treat burnout.—
Dr. Eric Martin is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University and Co-director of the Center for Physical Activity and Sport(CPAS).Dr Martin is a Certified Mental Performance Coach who has worked with middle school, high school, and collegiate athletes focusing on enhancing performance through the development of mental skills. His research interest is in youth sports, specifically motivation, burnout and positive youth development. If you have comments or questions for Dr. Martin feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Curt Clark
Several years ago at a local store in Garden Valley I heard the store’s owner remark, to a comment about some problematic situation a customer was going through, “I’ve slayed my dragons.” That saying struck a chord with me as I am nearing retirement. I wrote this letter from a coach at a mature stage in his career to himself as a young coach telling the younger version what the older guy has learned, apologies to Brad Paisley.
Although you said you never wanted to go into coaching when you were a player, guess what—you will be a coach!
Your first job will set the tone for your long career. You will make a great decision to coach a sixth grade church league team. Even though the team will get spanked regularly, you’ll do a good job encouraging the players despite getting pummeled. Always remember that because that guy with encouragement will return.
You’ll learn a valuable lesson early on when you learn the value of volunteering. You’ll start out at your old high school, when you’re getting your teaching certification, by volunteering to help with the sophomore program. That act will help you meet other coaches in the program. In turn, through circumstances beyond your control, you’ll end up climbing the ladder, quickly, to the position of JV coach and varsity assistant. Along the way you’ll become more concerned with winning games and feeding your ego. Your temper and immaturity will start to show. At times your actions will be embarrassing; you’ll yell at your squad and at refs in a rage. Your threats will come from ignorance and frustration. And these outbursts will come way too often. Oh, if you could be more confident and patient. That will come later.
At this point in your career you’ll remember the advice you got from your college advisor to keep your nose clean. As a young bachelor you may not think people know who you are. You need to know that you will always be watched and somebody will recognize you from coaching or teaching. Stay out of compromising situations. You’ll realize that you can’t be preaching no drugs and/or alcohol to your players and students while hanging out in some club with your buddies. Along those lines, sadly, you’ll see some brilliant coaches, at the high school and college level, suffer some considerable damage as a result of alcohol.
There will come a time of disappointment that will lead to you pursuing coaching at the college level. Again, volunteering will get one of your feet in a door. Those nine years wandering around college programs will be great times of learning. Yes, you’ll learn lots about X’s and O’s and all kinds of drills. You’ll work for some outstanding men. You’ll be proud of your loyalty to those men. Yet, you’ll fall into a pattern that is a double-edged sword. For some reason, you’ll become a great imitator of those coaches. On one edge of the sword, this will prevent you from developing into who you were supposed to be as a coach. On the other edge, your players and other coaches will get some good material from you. You’ll take a while before this trend passes.
Later, when you go back to high school coaching, you’ll want to try your hand at being the head coach. Don’t. Realize that you don’t have that demeanor. You’ll try twice and that will be enough proof for you to realize that a head coach position is not for you. At this time you might start to recall what you did best as a church league coach.
You will come across a challenging situation of players using drugs and alcohol. You will be right to confront the players and inform the team and their parents of the problems despite the flack you’ll get for doing what is right. You will try to prevent further problems and you will be correcting the players out of love.
The best part is that slowly you’ll remember where you came from, that position as a church league coach: all along your job as an assistant was to serve and encourage both players and coaches, especially the players at the lower end of the team’s talent level!!!
As this letter ends, as you get to the point where you’ve slayed your dragons, you will benefit greatly from Joe Ehrman’s words about one of the three big lies about being a man, that a man’s sense of self worth comes from how he does at sports. You’ll know that your worth comes from knowing how great God is and how much He loves you. You’ll also experience how He works all situations for His good will. You will understand, with age, why you didn’t get some jobs, why certain events happened, and you’ll be glad about the results in retrospect.
Each season will seem to pass more quickly than the last one. When you realize that you were called to serve then each day will be most enjoyable.
Curt has been a basketball coach at the youth, high school, and collegiate level for 39 years. He played his youth and high school ball in Richland, Washington He currently is an assistant basketball coach at Centennial High School in Meridian. Curt and his wife Kendra, and two children Jaden and Isabelle reside in Meridian.
Written by Melanie Simboli (Palenik)
Everyone is familiar with the “late” music artist, Michael Jackson, right? Are you also familiar with his song, “Man In The Mirror”? This song is about making a change and realizing that it has to start with you!
The teenage years are very difficult times. You stretch your wings and try to fly on your own but soon find out that even though you are growing to become more independent, you still need a support system. The truth is, as an adult, we all still need a support system. So choose wisely and spread your wings and fly!
So how do you fly when you may not think you are valuable, you are not confident in the way you look and your brain is changing, your hormones are kicking in and you generally just doubt everything and everyone?
I remember my first year in junior high (grade 7). All of my friends from elementary school had changed and yet I didn’t feel as though I fit in anywhere. I didn’t make the cheerleading team, I didn’t make the homecoming court or student council and wasn’t sure what I even liked!
I am not sure when the change happened…. but one day, I looked at myself in the mirror and liked the face staring back at me. That is when everything changed.
I remember finding my passion in sports. I participated in most activities and sports teams in junior high and started making friends that had common interests. I remember being nice to everyone and holding my head high when I said hi to people in the hallways. Before I knew it, I was also trying activities that I wouldn’t have picked years previously.
See, you have choices in life and you get to decide how your story is going to go! First start with something easy or something you are really interested in. Second, speak nice to yourself (look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are capable of anything you put your mind to and say it with a convicted, I CAN attitude). Once you have convinced yourself that you are worthy, create a “ripple effect”. Share kindness to others with these simple tips: share a smile, open a door, send a text with a compliment to a friend, or post a positive image on snap chat. You will find that the more you love yourself and others, the more positive energy will return back to you. You will feel on top of the world…..You will love the person you see in the mirror!
Lastly, I am proud to say at 50 years old, I have found life balance! I love the woman I see in the mirror and who I have become however I have to admit that my work is never done. I continually work at supporting myself with a network of positive people (starting with my family), support others, study the bible and find ways to share my gifts with others -while still keeping some time for myself.
Good luck in your journey of liking that person in the mirror. I know you can do it and know that we are all worthy!
(Wife, Mother of 2 Children, Account Executive for AED Authority-work at helping save lives and awareness in sudden cardiac arrest, Bachelor of Education, Small Business Owner-SimBale Sports, Volunteer, 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist-freestyle skiing, 1989 World Champion-freestyle skiing, Nominated for Colorado Sports Woman of the Year, Athlete of the Year-Deer Creek Junior High)
By Chad McKibben
Fall sports are arriving quickly and the intense Friday nights of battling the longtime rival, the revenge for the loss of last year, and the unforgettable upcoming senior season for some. All memories that we cherish as adults and never miss a moment of recollection with friends, past teammates, and hopefully for most, our past coaches and parents.
Unfortunately, there are some athletes that would rather forget their youth experiences or high school playing days because memories of their coaches and parents; memories that would better be forgotten. Parents show their love by traveling to all the camps, all the tournaments, all the practices; some of these parents love their kids’ success more than the players love for the game. The memories I speak of are the belittling of a player from the coach on the field because of a missed assignment or the bantering from Dad or Mom on the way home that he/she should have tried harder or made the ‘right’ decision. This is a growing commonality of the recent past that is forcing our youth out of sports and into other negative extra curricular activities (video games-leads to obesity, violence, drugs, to name a few). What has happened to the old school Sandlot playing days?
Jim Perry from the Positive Coaching Alliance offers some staggering statistics. 75% of 13 year old kids or older do not play in an organized sport. Why? Overbearing and high-pressure parents and coaches that are doing everything they can to ‘help’ their athlete be the next Steph Curry, Bryce Harper, or Cam Newton. But .05% of athletes get athletic college scholarships and .01% play professionally. These numbers should lead parents and coaches to do what is right for our young athletes and not force a falsified success on their own kids. Parents and coaches want the absolute best for their players and kids, but where does becoming the best lose the joy and love for the game?
We all have choices, we all have decisions, and we all have consequences. Fortunately and unfortunately, as parents and coaches, the consequences affect so many more than just ourselves. We must come back around to teaching and coaching life rather then tallying wins and losses. Although there are life lessons in winning and losing, the end-all be-all is not winning. The life lessons are learned through the journey of the season and it is the responsibility of the coaches and parents to capitalize on these moments. As a past player I remember several coaches encouraging us to leave our legacy on the program, pave the road for the next class. My challenge to myself (as a father and coach) and every Dad, Mom and Coach out there is to leave your legacy. Leave your footprint on what success truly is. A difference needs to be made and can be accomplished! Behavior reflects leadership. Teach, coach, love, and grow your legacy so that your kids, our youth, and our future can be and will be the future of the past.
Chad McKibben played football for the Boise State Broncos from 2002 to 2005. Before graduating from BSU, Chad played football, basketball, and baseball for Capital High School. Chad now parents and coaches his own kids in sports- Audrey (10), Cohen (8), and up and coming Avery (4). Chad serves on the Idaho Youth Sports Commission Player Board and loves all the outdoors Idaho has to offer.
By Skip Hall
Before becoming a speaker and leadership advisor, I coached college football for 30 years, and played quarterback in both high school and college for eight years. That’s 38 years worth of sports lessons, which has proved to be a rich repository for lessons in both life and business as well.
I often have people ask me what is the most valuable lesson I learned in football. It’s a tough question, and in many ways it’s difficult to answer, but there are three core lessons that stand out.
During a portion of my career at the University of Washington, our quarterback was a player named Tom Flick. He led us to the Rose Bowl in 1981. When he started his professional speaking career, we reconnected and talked through many of these leadership lessons together. I’d like to share them with you.
The Importance of Inspiration
Nobody can be pushed into success no matter how hard you try. People have to learn to push themselves in order to be truly successful. The will to win comes from within. Success is an inside job. We’ve all heard the old adage about teaching a person to fish versus just giving him a fish. The same applies here. Pushing someone to accomplish a task achieves a short-term goal, but inspiration creates long-term success. Inspiration is a way for leaders to help others win; it is not a leadership goal.
Diverse Skillsets Build Strong Teams
Diversity is a team strength and is important to the success of the team. You wouldn’t want a team full of quarterbacks. You can’t depend on any one player or position to win the game. None of us is as good as all of us. Together we win!
This truth is often overlooked in business. Many dysfunctional leaders will make the mistake of focusing only on their own responsibilities, and treat other team members and their functions as separate. Yet a true leader thinks about all the moving parts of the team, and in doing so is aware of the diverse skill sets needed to get the job done. Individuals with separate skill sets who retain a similar focus are more successful.
True Leadership is About Authenticity
What does it mean to be an authentic leader? Authenticity in general can be a tough thing to pin down, even more so in a leadership position. Leading others doesn’t come down to any tricks or tips, it comes down to being real and addressing the task at hand. Just like inspiration doesn’t occur within a vacuum, either does authenticity. Adopting authenticity is powerful when there are real-world tasks at hand. Authenticity builds trust. One of my favorite quips is the old southern preacher who once said “If you is who you ain’t, you ain’t who you is. Be who you is, not who you ain’t.”
Ultimately, these three lessons—inspiration, diversity and authenticity—have been the most pivotal in my own career and with those I have mentored. I’ve seen these same lessons play out consistently over the years.
When you set yourself and your team up for success, that’s when you win the game. The question becomes, will you crumble or will you shine when the pressure is on? As I learned from Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, how you handle adversity is more important than the adversity itself.
Skip Hall was the head football coach at BSU from 1987 to 1992. Skip
coached under Don James at University of Washington where the Huskies
won a National Championship. He currently is a motivation speaker to
the coach em up series.
Developing better people through sport.
Developing better people through sport.
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