Being burnt out is the fear of many athletes, more than they realize. Many athlete’s worst fear is getting injured but when an athlete is injured there is a sense of hope and security that they will heal and return to the game. However, with burn-out, there is no way to tell if once the athlete decides to step away from the game when or if they’ll return. As athletes are starting to specialize and dedicate themselves to sports earlier than ever, athletes are also getting burnt out much more often.
Athletic burnout leads to mental health problems in the athlete’s life outside of the sport if ignored. When an athlete starts experiencing burnout, they often push it to the side until they lose all desire to play the game they once loved. The treatment for burnout is the one thing that an athlete never wants to hear: it’s time to take some time away from the sport.
When an athlete starts getting burned out, it’s time to take a step back. The athlete needs time to reevaluate their motives and find their love for the game again. Depending on the age of the athlete they may come to the conclusion that they want to end their career early, but that isn’t the case for everyone. If you’re looking to support an athlete going through this situation, the best thing you can do is listen, offer advice when asked, and, most importantly, offer support in whatever decision they make.
I experienced burnout on several occasions. Near the end of my senior year high school season, I didn’t know it at the time but I began experiencing symptoms of burnout. They say the end of your senior season is bittersweet, which it was, but not the way I expected. With a month off I was able to return for my last club season eager to play again. Unfortunately, the symptoms of burnout returned because I ignored them. Still, I didn’t learn my lesson and kept ignoring myself. I told myself to just tough it out because the season was almost over. I did not have the ideal ending to my club career, in fact, it ended with me crying in the bathroom of a convention center. Regardless, it was over and I had four months to get my mind right before college.
I thought I did, I missed playing during the summer months and I was eager to play competitively again. August came and the first week of college was awful, but it got better. Everything was good for the most part until October when I started to feel burnt out yet again. This was the first time in my career that I considered quitting volleyball. I became extremely sluggish and lost enthusiasm in my everyday life. When practice time rolled around, I went through the motions day after day.
On a Monday night during our weekly study tables, I could not concentrate on school. I flipped into my notebook and started pouring out my thoughts and researching online what is going on in my head. That was the first time I could describe that I was burnt out.
two days later I broke down and let out everything that I’ve been holding in. Venting gave me peace of mind and things started falling into place. I took the weekend to go home and was able to return feeling more like myself. I didn’t hate the sport and I wasn’t going to quit. I was able to take care of myself before my symptoms escalated. My only hope is that I will continue being mentally happy as I continue my volleyball career.