Athletes Are Facing Burnout At An Alarming Rate | Forward Motion Aims To Change That

Updated: Jul 31

Sponsored by ~ Forward Motion

Up to 70% of children quit organized sports before the age of 13 due to emotional/mental health concerns, stress, burnout, and injury, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

We live in a constant state of distraction, stress, and pressure, and this becomes an all-encompassing balancing act for today's youth between family, friends, peers, and mentors alike, all of whom intend to have the youths' best interest in mind. It can be challenging for children to understand the importance of approaching athletics holistically and in a way that embraces the physical and mental aspects of competition.

With continual, nearly immediate ranking systems available online for high school and collegiate athletes, it's essentially impossible to avoid comparison when the ultimate goal is to be a stand out in the sport they love. When does the love for the game become a mental barrier to progress and success, and when does the sport they love become a dreaded pastime they wish to avoid at all costs?

For a journey that begins at home, it often takes skilled individuals throughout an athlete's life to cultivate well-rounded children that have the confidence to speak up when things aren't going well, persevere when the competition gets tough, and to have the mental fortitude to understand that they are more than just a name on the leaderboard.

Injury Is One Of The Leading Causes For Youth To Drop From Competition

According to Stanford Children's Health, "more than 3.5 million children ages 14 and younger get hurt annually playing sports."

During the teenage years, the body goes through tremendous amounts of change. From growth spurts to hormonal changes, bodies are primed for new experiences and increased levels of competition, but this is also an extremely vulnerable time in an athlete's life.

The expectations begin to mount, and unforeseeable circumstances such as competing against children much further along in maturity place pressure on children to "keep up," which may place athletes at risk of injury. Skilled mentors trained to see signs of mood changes, excessive fatigue, or masked injuries are essential to the well-being of our gifted youth.

Coaches and mentors should have the ability to communicate the importance of healing and rest between competition. Speak to the sport's longevity concerning how well the body is rested and recovered. Injuries at the youth competition level should never be career-ending. Although growing bodies are exceptionally good at repairing themselves, overuse injuries or returning to competition too soon can spell disaster for kids looking to compete beyond grade school.

The Mental Health Of Young Athletes Is Suffering

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, up to 70% of children quit organized sports before the age of 13 due to emotional/mental health concerns, stress, burnout, and injury.

Baseline stress levels for preteens and teenagers are climbing. Although parents greatly influence their children's ability to cope with stressors, it takes more than cultivating the perfect home environment to help young athletes navigate these challenging waters.

"The mental aspect is just as important as the physical" Lisa Landrum of Forward Motion

We now have a greater understanding of the different learning styles, different ways of delivering constructive criticism, and the importance of listening to the needs of our athletes to build strong, trustful relationships. Coaches must address the physical and mental aspects of training.

Much like researching a new medical provider, it's vital to look into the background of the coaches and mentors that work with your children. What seems like a perfect fit based on accolades may not be an enriching experience for your young athlete. Although we like to think that our children will be a chip off the old block, remember that the coaching styles of the past that some were exposed to are perhaps much different than what's taught today.

Let The Coaches Coach

Young children already have much focus on as it relates to competition, staying tuned in to guidance from their coaches, and being present for their teammates. They do not need their parents' coaching from the sideline.

A parent's job is to support wholeheartedly. Even if opinions differ from those working with the kids. During competition is not an appropriate time to voice our concerns. Making opinions known during play teaches our children to question the leadership style when they may not grasp the entire concept related to the team as a whole.

Once the competition is over, try leading with open-ended questions to give your child the opportunity to express themselves before offering critique. Our children are amazingly resilient, but we must listen first when speaking to them about their favorite sport.