by David G.
Burnout in youth sports can be a deciding factor in ending participation in physical activity and sport. Physical activity is very import to youth development not only because it allows them to improve their physical and mental well-being but also gives them a safe environment during the afterschool hours. Burnout can be understood as social, psychological and sometimes physical withdrawal from sport or activity brought on by chronic stress. It’s important for sport and recreation professionals to understand where the main sources of burnout are found and how we can prevent burnout in youth.
Parents and coaches play an important role in the development of youth athletes. The parents facilitate the activity while the coaches develop the athletes and the program. Parents and coaches must be careful with their youth athlete and how they implement training schedules. It’s common to see training schedules mimic that of professional sports program which will factor into increased stress on the athletes therefore increasing the risk of burnout. Stress can be brought on from both internal and external factors. Athletes may face pressure to perform from coaches, parents and program leaders as well as face internal pressure to perform. Balance in a youth athlete’s life should be prioritized over performance as this will give the athlete a chance to take a break from the potential demanding pressure of sport.
Preventing burnout can be done by the structure of the program implemented by the coaching staff. During their work on burnout in youth athletes, it was found that how the program leaders coach plays an important role “The main findings of this study suggest that a perceived mastery (task-involving) climate created by coaches may play a protective effect against burnout in youngsters, whereas a perceived performance (ego-involving) climate may lead to burnout” (Vitali, Bortoli, Bertinato, Robazza & Schena 2015 p.106). By focusing on developing skills instead of performance the athlete will be less likely to drop out of the sport. This task mastery focus also increases the athlete’s perceived competence which also can be a factor in burnout prevention.
It’s important for us as sport and recreation professionals to be aware of the issue of burnout. Youth sport is supposed to be a positive experience for athletes, coaches, parents as well as the community but also has the potential to be a destructive action for the youth. By focusing too much on performance and outcome, we can increase stress on our athletes. It is important to educate parents and coaches on the issue of burnout and prevention tips including the structure of practice and balance in youth’s lives.
Vitali, F., Bortoli, L., Bertinato, L., Robazza, C., & Schena, F. (2014). Motivational climate, resilience, and burnout in youth sport. Sport Sciences for Health, 103-108.