How quality training protects against athletic burnout

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It is summer. You wake up full of energy and pride, and all sorts of ideas begin to race into your head: “I wish him all the best. I hope he brings his A-game today.” You start saying your prayers, begin to wonder if you should call or not, start scanning through social media for posts and information, and then head up to the stadium, and it is a completely different feeling. The atmosphere is chilling. Everything seems, feels, and sounds different: it is your son’s first Tennis Grand Slam.اضافة اعلان

Big sports events are what many parents dream of seeing their children participate in. But for that dream to come true, there must be quality training provided for years. And so, as parents, you begin working with your child, giving them academy training, private training, abroad camps, intensive training, and anything that can bring that dream closer.

But can we train too much? Tudor O. Bompa and G. Gregory Haff, two leading professors in sports science, define overtraining as a long-term decrement in performance capacity resulting from an accumulation of training and non-training stressors.

These stressors are physical and psychological. This means training “too much” can have a huge detrimental impact on one’s physical and psychological abilities. Overtraining can cause negative physical outcomes such as injuries, but it can also cause harmful psychological effects such as burnout.

According to the Children’s Hospital of Chicago, overtraining syndrome, or burnout, is when an athlete experiences fatigue and declining performance in their sport despite continuing or increasing training.

Multiple risk factors can lead to burnout, especially in young athletes. Specializing in one sport from an early age, sudden and large increase in training, and pressure from parents or coaches are just a few factors.

In young athletes, signs and symptoms of burnout can be highly variable and can include chronic muscle and joint pain, weight loss and loss of appetite, decreased sports performance, fatigue, frequent illness, decreased school performance, personality or mood changes, sleep disturbances, and increased anger or irritability.

Burnout can be described by Naomi Osaka’s words after a painful third-round loss when she was the defending US Open women’s singles champion in September 2021: “When I win, I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief, and then when I lose, I feel very sad, and I don’t think that’s normal.”

Similarly, on July 28, 2021, in Tokyo, gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the individual all-around competition at the Olympics, a day after she shocked the world by pulling out of the team event and later said: “It’s been really stressful this Olympic games ... it’s been a long week, a long Olympic process, a long year. I think we’re a little too stressed out — we should be out here having fun and that’s just not the case.”

In their book “Periodization,” Bompa and Haff explain the term “overreaching” as a short-term decrement in performance capacity that occurs as a result of an accumulation of fatigue resulting from training and non-training stressors. Overreaching usually occurs without the physiological and psychological signs and symptoms of overtraining.

The thin line between overtraining and overreaching can only be monitored and applied by professional sports scientists and coaches. Nonetheless, parents and coaches need to control their pressure on athletes.

Seeing positive feedback and enjoyment is what fuels our fire as coaches and parents to push our young athletes even more. Sometimes, this becomes a habit, and we unconsciously begin piling on the pressure on our children without even knowing that we are leaving ourselves outside the support process.

It is hard to imagine, but we might just be part of the problem. Judging that our child is enjoying the sport the same amount as they did when they first started, believing that our cheering is actually supporting them to become what they want to be, and sometimes, neglecting the simple question of: “is it still fun for you? Are you ok with the demands at this level?”

Because demands do change with time, and our sense of enjoyment does not stay the same with all the ups and downs and different variables that enter the fray.

Ensuring that the young athlete spends a day or two every week and every couple of weeks every three months resting from organized training or participating in other activities are ways to minimize overtraining or burnout.

Making sure that training is age-appropriate and understanding the needs of each biological training age is also a must for proper development.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, a poet and a scientist, once said: “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” So to do, we must support the development of better athletes and individuals by providing them with the proper environment to grow; physically, technically, and mentally.

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