Tending the fire; Athlete burnout and the athletics administration response, Part 1

William Woods EDU

Practice, competition, and conditioning in the off season, maintaining academic success and more — the external and internal pressures on a student athlete can be fierce. It’s why athlete burnout is a growing topic among athletics administration professionals; it is an issue many coaches, trainers, athletic directors, teammates and athletes themselves deal with on a regular basis.

Athletic Fatigue Athletic administrators must be educated to understand burnout, know the signs of it, and work to create a culture that can prevent it, combat it, and care for it.

It’s a topic William Woods master’s in athletic administration students may cover in courses like EDU524 Current Issues/Common Challenges in Athletics/Activities Administration.

In this three-part series, Look into Education will first define what burnout is, and then discuss how athletics professionals can respond to create a culture that prevents and addresses it.

The National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) defines burnout as a response to chronic stress of continued demands in a sport or activity without the opportunity for physical and mental rest and recovery.

“Burnout is a syndrome of continual training and sport attention stress, resulting in staleness, overtraining and eventually burnout,” states an article on the NATA.

“The athlete first feels stale or overwhelmed, but is encouraged by coaches, strength staff, athletic trainers, teammates or parents to push through symptoms of overtraining and potential burnout to continue with a demanding schedule in order to feel a part of the team, maintain their starting position or keep their scholarship.”

According to an article published in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine last year, “It is unknown what may [officially] cause burnout, but some theories suggest sport specialization, time conflicts or interest in other activities, or perhaps a psychological stressor.”

This report also notes a positive correlation between both anxiety/burnout and young athletes’ perceptions of parental over-involvement as well as emotionally abusive practices by both coach personnel and parents.

If not managed correctly, the article reports, “Stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout can have substantial impacts on an athlete’s welfare, affecting both mental and physical readiness to perform.” These can lead to severe psychological and physical injuries.

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