Post By: John Pine | Saturday, June 6, 2020

sport psychology performance STRESS burnout

Over the course of a season there can be a lot of different areas in athletes' lives can be overwhelming. The higher up the ladder of elite sport, the more there may be.For instance, a typical college athlete may have 20 hours a week of practice paired with weight trainings.Adding on classes, homework and studying makes being a student athlete a full-time job. Besides just their lives as student-athletes, they are also human beings (a lot of people tend to forget this part). So they need to find time to eat, sleep, socialize, and relax as well.According to Williams and Andersen's Stress and Injury model (1998), depending on the athlete's personality, coping resources and intensity of stressors are more prone to becoming injured than other athletes with less on their plate. Psychological stress occurs when athletes see some sort of imbalance between sports demands and their ability to meet those demands (Smith, 1986).

When athletes fall in love with their sport as children, they have an intrinsic passion for the game, they want to play it as long as they can whenever they can, this is probably what places them in the position to become elite athletes. When the sport they fell in love with becomes viewed as a job, due to constant practices without breaks, stresses of constantly needing to improve to move up the ladder, and strict diet and training regimens, then can become susceptible to burnout. Burnout is described as emotional and physical exhaustion, reduced sense of accomplishment, and sport devaluation. These components can create a negative impact on individual athletes like decreased performance and motivation, potential dropout, and troubled social relations that can affect team climate (Gustafsson et. al, 2008).

Overtrainning is one aspect of burnout that we see in athletes and in the general public as well.For athletes this problem comes from constant high-volume training to get better, faster and stronger in their sport.Too much high intensity training over time will cause physical exhaustion.For the general public, overtraining is one of the main reasons for drop out. In the podcast Theo gives a great example of over training, this similar example may apply to a lot of people. You start a new work out program that you are really enjoying, they meet 4 times a week for an hour and a half. By the end of the first week you are tired, but you loved the content provided by the instructor. An additional two weeks go by of at the same pace, that “new work out program motivation” is starting to fade and by the time the 4th week comes around, you attend one session that week. Many people like the idea of a high intensity workout program to start with, but the purpose of exercise is to be continued on a week to week basis continually. If you are not a regular exerciser, 4 weeks of that type of training could take a toll on the performer, when you begin to recognize that motivation fade, it is time to mix things up!

I think the above Youtube video ProPerformance created about preventing burnout is awesome!!I am going to take a deeper dive and explain the 5 ways to help prevent and treat burnout the video shows.

1. Variety – As an athlete, exerciser, or coach, we need to spice things up to keep our performers attention.Think of it this way, when you were in school did you learn more from the professor that read off PowerPoint slides every day of class or from the professor that got the class involved, showing videos, being silly and maybe making a fool of themselves.That is how teachers keep the attention and get their message through to their students.Coming up with the same practice or exercise plans gets stale to people quickly!

2. Autonomy – Giving athletes and exercisers say in what goes on in their training gives them ownership.When people have creative control over a topic, they are more inclined to be motivated and put in more effort.One simple way to do this if you are a coach or exercise instructor is normally, they have a task list of what they want to accomplish that day.Simply, letting the athlete/exerciser choose the order in which it is completed can increase autonomy and you still accomplish everything you wanted to that day.

3. Fun – As I said before, did you learn more from the monotone teacher who reads off slides? Or the teacher who is throwing things to get their point across, the teacher who is reenacting Shakespeare in full costume.Those are the things we remember and make us excited to go to that class.Let loose, sport is supposed to be fun!

4. Relaxation & Recovery – this is one that gets overlooked, giving your athletes an off day here and there is important to their recovery.Studies show that giving athletes time to relax and recovery actually boosts their performances.Let them do things as a team off the court, maybe a team movie, or a team activity besides sport.This will increase social cohesion and improve comradery in on the team.

5. Take Time Off – Normally done at the end of a season, give athletes a few weeks to be completely aware from their sport.This gives them time to focus on other things in their lives (yes, even elite athletes have hobbies outside of sport).After that time is over, they will come back hungry and ready to participate and improve.Look at this COVID-19 era we are living in as a silver lining.I have worked with the Chicago Fire Youth Academy since this pandemic started, at first the athletes loved their time off, now they are antsy to get back to the field and play the game they love!