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What is Burn-Out?
Burn-Out occurs where people who have previously been highly committed to a
sport lose interest and motivation.
Typically it will occur in hard working, hard training, hard driven people,
who become emotionally, psychologically or physically exhausted. This can occur
- you find it difficult to say 'no' to additional commitments or
- someone has been under intense and sustained pressure for some time
- a perfectionist coach does not delegate
- someone is trying to achieve too much
- someone has been giving too much emotional support for too long
Often it will express itself in a reduction in motivation, volume and quality
of performance, or in dissatisfaction with or departure from the sport
Symptoms of Burn-Out
Burn-out will normally occur slowly, over a long period of time. It may express
itself physically or mentally. Symptoms of burn-out are shown below:
- Physical Burn-out
- Feelings of intense fatigue
- Vulnerability to viral infection
- Immune breakdown
- Mental Burn-out
- Feeling of lack of control over commitments
- An incorrect belief that you are accomplishing less
- A growing tendency to think negatively
- Loss of a sense of purpose and energy
- Increasing detachment from relationships that causes conflict and
stress, adding to burn-out.
If you are training and performing hard, then you should take great care not to
You can avoid physical burn-out by keeping the sport fun: intense, difficult
training sessions that significantly improve technique should be mixed with
lighter, enjoyable sessions that use new skills to good advantage. A relatively
slow build-up from off-seasons can be adopted so that your body is not put under
excessive stress. You should respect feelings of intense physical fatigue and
Similarly, you can avoid mental burn-out by ensuring that the sport remains
fun: there is a limit to your mental energy that you should respect. As you get
better at a sport, people will want more and more of your time, and will rely on
you more and more. It is easy for commitments to get bigger and bigger: people
tend to be quite happy to consume other peoples mental resources without
worrying about the consequences. You must learn to say 'No' to
commitments that you do not want to take on - otherwise you will be in severe
danger of burning out as you become unhappy with your situation. Involvement in
sport must be fun, otherwise there is no point in doing it.
If you are in Danger of Burning Out...
If you feel that you are in danger of burning out, or are not enjoying your
sport, the following points can help you correct the situation:
- Re-evaluate your goals and prioritise them
- Evaluate the demands placed on you and see how they fit in with your goals
- Identify your ability to comfortably meet these demands.
- If you are over-involved, reduce the commitments that are excessive
- If people demand too much emotional energy, become more unapproachable and
less sympathetic. Involve other people in a supportive role. You owe it to
yourself to avoid being bled dry emotionally.
- Learn stress management skills
- Examine other areas in your life which are generating stress, such as work
or family, and try to solve problems and reduce the stress
- Get the support of your friends and family in reducing stress
- Ensure that you are following a healthy lifestyle:
- Get adequate sleep and rest to maintain your energy levels
- Ensure that you are eating a healthy, balanced diet - bad diet can
make you ill or feel bad.
- Get adequate regular aerobic exercise
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake
- Perhaps develop alternative activities such as a relaxing hobby to take
your mind off problems
- Acknowledge your own humanity: remember that you have a right to pleasure
and a right to relaxation
Late Stages of Burn-Out
If you are in late stages of burn-out, feeling deeply demotivated and
disenchanted with your sport, get help from a good psychologist.
If You Have Burned Out...
Do not worry. If you are so demotivated in your sport that for a time you do not
want to continue it, then drop it for a while. If you come back later, you may
find that you start to enjoy it again, and can take on only those commitments
you want to.
You may, however, find that you have absolutely no interest in continuing
with the sport. In this case it is best to drop it altogether. If you are the
sort of person who has burned out, i.e. highly motivated and hard driving, then
a complete change of direction may be appropriate - it is very likely that you
will find another area in which you will excel. You will find that you are only
demotivated and listless in the area in which you burned out.
The difference is that you will have already burned out once: next time you
now know the signs to look for and the things to watch. You will be able to pace
yourself, and control your energy much more effectively, ensuring that you
operate at stress levels where you can give your optimum performance.
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