Burnout in Sports was originally written as a guest blog for Christianvball.com.
As someone who has not yet burned out on the sport I love, still playing in the dinosaur division with my son and doing my sport 7 days a week for over 40 years, I hope to share some ideas with you on how to avoid burnout. In no particular order, I share my thoughts in the hope one or more might help you.
1. If it really is your passion and even purpose, burnout is minimized or eliminated. I would sum it up this way, keep doing lots of sports until you find the one you LOVE. If you find the one you love early in your life (your love, not one forced on you by others), GREAT, stick with it. If not, keep giving other sports a go until you find one you love.
2. The words you say to yourself can cause a range of doubt that can move into burnout. Many top athletes have surprisingly high levels of self-doubt in their striving to be perfect. I have written about eliminating words like “try,” “don’t” and “but” as those words negatively impact your performance and passion. Many other words and phrases you might say to yourself can do the same. If the words you say to yourself were to appear on your skin, would people still see you as strong or confident? Imagine saying those same harsh words to your teammates. You would not, so stop saying them to yourself!
3. There is no such thing as overtraining, but most people do not give themselves enough recovery/rest time. A lack of recovery time impacts both learning time – because fatigue is detrimental to learning – and increases burnout. The USOC spent millions on an athlete recovery center. Your own recovery starts at home, where you need to make sure you schedule rest time, and in training, where you schedule breaks from practice.
4. That which you teach, you learn – If you feel like you are burned out playing, take time to teach your sport to others less experienced or skilled than you. If you are burned out coaching, take time to play. Working with elementary-aged kids, Paralympian, and Special Olympians in your sport can also be rewarding and motivating.
5. Never let the pressure of competition get in the way of the pleasure of competition. In every event, there is only one gold medalist. In team sports, 50 percent of the teams lose every single day. Focus on what you can control and enjoy!
6. Likewise, if you feel like you have hit a wall in a skill set, challenge yourself to see things through other’s eyes by playing a new position. In volleyball, you will be a better hitter if you set, and a better setter if you hit. Learn something completely new or foreign to your current skill set. Play a different discipline than what you are used to – indoor volleyball players can play outdoor doubles, and so forth.
7. Make practice FUN – Practice needs variety. Work with yourself or your coaches to make sure that the GAME side of your sport is included.
8. Citius, Altius, Fortius – The Olympic motto is about excelling, not winning; the process, not the outcome. The pathway is not linear.
9. In the end, it is about caring for yourself first so you can care for others, teammates included, better. You know what you love beyond sport so DO THOSE TOO. Sport is great, but there is a lot more to life than sport – music, books, movies, different sports, comedy, cooking and thousands of other ways to take a break.