Beating Burnout: How Teen Athletes Can Stay Happy, Healthy, and on Top of Their Game

Coach Stuart
April 10, 2024

Have you ever felt like you’re just running on empty, no matter how much you love your sport? Or maybe you’ve noticed that your once boundless energy for practice sessions and games has started to wane?

Well, you’re not alone. Many young athletes face a challenge called burnout. It’s like hitting a wall, not just with your body, but with your heart and mind, too. Let’s dive into what causes burnout and how you can tackle it head-on, ensuring you keep loving your game and smashing your goals.

Taking a Breather: Why Rest Days Are Your Best Friend

Overtraining. Imagine pushing a car pedal non-stop – eventually, the car’s going to overheat, right? That’s what happens to your body when it doesn’t get a chance to chill after all that training and competing. If you’re feeling sore all the time and starting to dread practice, it might be your body’s way of saying, “Hey, can we take it easy for a sec?” Taking regular breaks isn’t slacking off, it’s smart. It gives your body and brain the downtime they need to bounce back stronger (Meeusen et al., 2013). Junior athletes should take at least one day off each week, if not two.

The Pressure Cooker: Why It’s Okay Not to Be Perfect

Pressure to perform. It comes from all sides – coaches, teammates, and yep, even your own goals. It’s like being in a constant state of having to prove yourself, pushing past your limits even when you’re already giving it your all. But here’s the thing: always aiming for perfection and losing sight of the joy in your sport can leave you feeling down and out. Remember, progress and effort count for a lot. Setting goals that are about personal bests rather than just winning can make a huge difference in how you feel about your sport (Gustafsson et al., 2011). Focus on the process, not the outcome.

Own Your Game: Why Your Voice Matters

Autonomy – having a say in what you do. Sometimes, the pressure to keep playing comes from outside – maybe from parents or the feeling that you have to stick with a sport because it’s expected of you. But feeling like you’re only playing because you “have to” can suck the fun right out of it. Having the freedom to make choices about your training, or even which sport you play, can light that spark back up. It’s all about playing because you want to, not because you feel you have to (Deci & Ryan, 2000).

Burnout is real, but it’s also beatable. By listening to your body, setting goals that celebrate your effort, and making sure you’re in the driver’s seat of your sports journey, you can keep the fire for your sport burning bright. And parents, supporting your young athlete means encouraging rest, recognizing their hard work, and empowering them to make choices about their sport. Together, you can tackle burnout and keep the joy in the game.


Wanna learn more? Check out these awesome reads that inspired this talk:

  • Meeusen, R., Duclos, M., Foster, C., Fry, A., Gleeson, M., Nieman, D., Raglin, J., Rietjens, G., Steinacker, J., & Urhausen, A. (2013). Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome. European Journal of Sport Science, 13(1), 1-24.
  • Gustafsson, H., DeFreese, J. D., & Madigan, D. J. (2011). Athlete burnout: Review and recommendations. Current Opinion in Psychology, 16, 109-113.
  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “What” and “Why” of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227-268.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *