I would like to thank the Medina Athletic Boosters for allowing me to come and speak about Athletic Burnout this week. I was thrilled to be able to speak to such a wonderful organization filled with such caring parents, and coaches.
The teen years are a tremendous time of growth both emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Emotionally they are challenged with new freedoms, and increasing responsibilities. Intellectually children are expected to get good grades, prepare for college, and for some even attend college classes. Physically teens start to experience a separation between those children that are naturally gifted and grow into their sports and those who may struggle. No matter where they are physically there is a high demand to prove themselves now so they can have a bright future later.
All this change and responsibility does not leave much time to enjoy today and be present and mindful of their current experiences. Children and teens need downtime to relax, be bored, create, and explore. In this way they can develop their sense of self and where they belong in the world. A balance between sports and non-sports related activities can help them achieve a sense of self, and is pivotal in preventing athletic burnout. Some examples of activities they could engage include art, music, reading, theater, hiking, watching movies with their family, and having a bonfire with friends. It is during these down times that our children are able to synthesize all the information coming in from the world around them and truly develop into the wonderful adults we know they will be.
Besides encouraging your child to have some down time my biggest piece of advice for parents of athletes is to listen to what your child is, and is not telling you. Watch their body language. Take note of their excitement or resistance going to practice. Listen to them when they vent about their injuries, team, coach, or ambitions. Then respect their decisions to move about the world and make their own choices. A guide to deciding if this is the right decision for them is to ask yourself these three questions:
Does this go against my morals?
Will this negatively impact anyone on a personal level?
Will this break the law?
If the answer to all three is no, there is a good chance you should allow your teen to make their own decision and experience the natural consequences, good or bad. Teens still need their parents to provide structure and direction, but they also need the freedom to make their own decisions and learn from their choices. It is this ability to believe in their choices and think critically that will ensure a bright future, and reduce the chance of burnout both in sports and out.