The National Council of Youth Sports Survey found that 60 million children aged 6 to 18 years participate in some form of organized athletics, with 44 million participating in more than 1 sport. However, 70% of youth athletes will stop playing sports altogether at age 13. Burnout is a common factor that leads to these young athletes ending their sports career.
Many of us have felt “burned out” with school, sports, work or other life related activities. Burn out in youth and adolescent athletes is an ever increasing problem that was not seen a generation ago. Burnout is a general term that is due to; overreaching and or overtraining. The overtraining syndrome is defined as a series of psychological, physiologic, and hormonal changes that result in decreased sports performance due to over training. Chronic stress is created making the sport or activity no longer enjoyable to the young athlete. The athlete has a perceived inability to meet the physical and psychological demands which leads to withdraw from the sport or training activity.
There are 4 stages of burn out: 1. The young athlete is placed in a situation that involves varying demands. 2. The demands are perceived as excessive 3. The athlete experiences varying degrees of negative psychological and or physiological responses 4. Burnout consequences develop due to the excessive perceived demands. (DiFiori, Clin J Sport Med)
There are several factors that lead to burn out such as; excessive training volumes, significant time demands, high level performance expectations (imposed by self or significant other), frequent intense competition, inconsistent coaching practices, little personal control in sport decision making, negative performance evaluations (critical instead of supportive), perfectionism, need to please others and a
high perception of stress (high anxiety).
Common symptoms of burnout and overtraining are; depression, irritability, weight loss, agitation, lack of mental concentration, loss of motivation or interest, decreased self-confidence, muscle pains (heavy, sore, stiff muscles), sleep disturbances, and frequent illness.
Consequently, the more fun and enjoyment the athlete has in the sport leads to less anxiety and stress reducing burnout. Youth sports participation and exercise should be fun and inspiring, leading to a life-long passion for physical activity and fitness. We as coaches and trainers have a responsibility to be mindful of how we approach sports and make the appropriate changes to keep the sport fun and enjoyable.
Keep in mind the following statistics. Of the 60 million kids playing youth sports,1 in 4 youth stars become a stand out in high school. Only 2 to 5 percent of high school athletes go on to play division I or II college sports. The odds are even much smaller to play professionally. The odds of a high school baseball player making it to the MLB is 1 in 4,000, high school football players making the NFL is 1 in 6,000, and a high school basketball player making the NBA is 1 in 10,000.
1. (Scholarship Stats.com; Athletes Going Pro, NCAA.org).
2. DiFiori, JP. Overuse Injuries and Burnout in Youth Sports: A Position Statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Clin J Sport Med 2014;24:3–20)