July Softball – The Burnout Factor Written By John Michael Kelly
This time of year after months of playing endless games I start to see the wear and tear on both body and mind begin to take its toll on my athletes. It's an important time of the season, but a perilous time if you aren't careful to read the signs your athlete or team is about the crumble!
As I often talk about here the emotional strain we as parents and coaches put our kids under often borders on child abuse. We ramp up the expectations during Nationals season and as our expenses or traveling go up…magically so do our expectations for our athlete and team.
At the older ages elevated expectations (including self-expectations) coupled with the pressures of performing in front of college coaches who can decide the course of their future.
The mental strain becomes ever evident. Weather gets hotter, competition gets better and every failure or miscue on the diamond gets magnified under the microscopic eyes all around.
Additionally after playing 100 games since January (for you warm weather folk) the body begins to break down as aches and pains become more frequent and nagging tendinitis and those scrapped knees and elbows that never seem to heal become nearly intolerable.
So what can you do as parent or coach to help your athlete or team finish the season strong in spite of these five signs:
1. Give them a break. If your athlete plays every inning of every game suggest to her coach to give her a breather during pool play. Burnout can happen from too much playing and too little rest. If her swing is slower, her feet are slower in the field, she becomes more quiet in the dugout and seems more frustrated than normal after making an out or an error, she needs a break.
2. Watch diet, sleep and mood swings. Monitor if your athlete stops eating as much, begins to lose weight, or isn't getting enough sleep. Hot showers for achy muscles or ice baths (as one of my former pitchers uses for sore muscles) can reinvigorate the body. Vitamin supplements and more fruit and veggies can help to maintain energy levels. Proper sleep is paramount. Give her the best bed in the hotel; make napping comfortable in the car; bring her pillow from home.
3. Hydration. This may seem obvious, but a dehydrated body will cause lots of unpleasant physical side-effects like headaches, nausea, lack of focus and muscle cramping. Start hydrating DAYS before the big tournament, and keep hydrating before, during and after the games. Lack of hydration can also accelerate mental fatigue, which leads to physical errors on the field.
4. Mental relief. As parent or coach this time of year emotions can run high in national tournaments. Yet for many players they are at the emotional breaking point. Help to relieve that pressure by maintaining “big picture” thinking. Don't kill her joy for the game. Keep it fun for her; plan team activities off the field to make it more than just about the game. (see #5 for incentives)
5. Playing any sport year around can cause burnout for any athlete. As the end of this season approaches, and as a motivator to get her through the next few weeks, create an incentive; maybe a “spa day” or a mini trip to an amusement park or to the beach/shore. Seriously…take the month of August off. Let her mind, body and spirit rest and recuperate. When the game stops being fun for her she will want to quit, or will care less about it. For any teen making the sacrifices we ask of them for the game is demanding enough. Give her a break!
When an athlete is emotionally “done” the best remedy is always rest. However, in the middle of the busiest month of the softball season try these five tips to gently nudge her to the finish line!
Thanks for reading! –John Michael Kelly
John Michael Kelly: John Michael Kelly, America’s Sports Confidence Coach, is known for skyrocketing the self-confidence and game performance levels for thousands of youth athletes and teams from coast to coast by reducing the stress and increasing the joy for playing the game! John also coaches travel softball with the 18u and 18 Gold teams for The Next Level (“TNL”) organization in sunny San Diego. You can follow John at SoftballSmarts.com and Facebook.com/SoftballSmarts.
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