Below is the second article in a series of articles written by Dr. Kenneth Ransom, all designed to provide our readers with valuable information about the health of their children. Look for future articles about other health-related topics.
“Burn-Out” to “Drop-Out”
The 2012-2013 basketball season is coming to an end, the tournaments are over except for AAU Nationals. But not to worry, summer leagues have already started. “Suit up son! We need to get started on the 2013-2014 season.” Many athletes will begin to focus on one sport by the time they reach adolescence, especially in a sport like basketball that requires year around participation to stay competitive. These kids are at risk for burn out.
Burn out has been referred to as “overtraining syndrome” when the player becomes fatigued from too rigorous a schedule and not enough rest. Even though physical exhaustion and overuse injuries may contribute to burn-out; it is the underlying psychological devaluation of the sport and reduced sense of accomplishment that can ultimately make a player drop out. Signs to watch for include 1) less enthusiasm for the sport often associated with complaining about the time and energy to participate, 2) increase in physical complaints of injury or illness and 3) a noticeable reduction in performance during practice and games. There are things that can be done to combat burn-out and hopefully prevent the player from eventually dropping out of the sport.
People in general and young athletes in particular have three basic psychological needs to maintain a mental state of well-being. They must feel competent that they are able to do a good job. It is also important that they feel some autonomy to make choices, and enjoy a sense of self-directedness. And lastly, relatedness or identity, as a perception of connectedness with others such as parents, friends and coaches. Conversely, the thwarting of these needs can lead to a sense of ill-being and disenchantment with the sport, possibly resulting in the player dropping out.
COMPETENCE: The player needs to feel confident about his ability to play the sport. Competence is more than just physical traits and skill level. General health with good nutrition along with adequate amounts of rest will enhance the player’s performance and general sense of well-being. Injuries from overtraining or inadequate warm-up prior to playing can also impair performance. Good performance leads to more confidence that in turn results in continued improved performance and ultimately an enhanced feeling of competence in the sport.
AUTONOMY: Even though coaches and dads usually know what’s necessary to become a great player, the player needs to feel that he has some say in what goes on in his life. This is particularly true for adolescent boys that are transitioning into manhood. A young player can feel entrapped when he has no control. This can lead to resentment and eventually disenchantment with the sport. It is better to educate and convince the player of the value of their sports activity rather than simply dictating to them. They must develop their own self-motivation and inspiration in order to become great.
RELATEDNESS: It is critical that a young athlete feels that other important people in his life have a positive perception of him as a basketball player. This is an important part of his identity. Are his parents supportive? Are the coaches positive? Does he like his teammates and do they like him? Do his friends give him value as an athlete? These perceptions are especially important to adolescents.
Participating at an elite level in sport involves much pressure and stamina. The type of kid that can achieve this level of performance and dedication is preparing himself to succeed in whatever he chooses to do in life. It is very important that the sport experience remains a positive influence and that he not only develops his physical abilities but also matures psychologically as well. Some degree of “burn out” is probably inevitable but the key is to be aware of underlying causes and manifestations seen in the player then work on reducing those negative influences that can create disenchantment with the sport and possibly dropping out altogether.
by Dr. Kenneth Ransom