Are We Creating A Generation of Burnouts?

This is a topic that has been heavy on my mind and certainly one I think is so important.   Honestly, I have hesitated to even begin to “go there” as I know that this is something that is so multifaceted, and the reality is I am IN it.  I LIVE it.

I’m talking about our culture around youth sports.

Yep.  I said it.

Are we creating a generation of burnouts? 


Here’s the thing.  I was a young competitive athlete.  I began swimming at age 7 and swam in college.  When I think about who I am, one of the first thoughts that goes through my mind is ” I’m an athlete”.

That label has colored my entire life.  Even now, after two babies, 25 pounds, and three (yes, three!) back surgeries.

When I say that the “label” has colored my life, that’s a good thing.

For me, that is a feeling of empowerment, success and accomplishment.  Not to mention hard work, defeat, and obstacles.

In my day, there was pressure.  Pressure that I put on myself, expectations from my coaches, and support from my parents.  If I wanted to explore a different sport in high school, I could just walk onto the team and know I would have a spot.   And even in that culture, I burned out.

I burned out when it mattered.

After my freshman year of high school, I was D.O.N.E.    I stopped swimming right at the time when the scholarship offers would have come in.

Five years later, I went back to the sport and finished my career strong.

So, I get it.  I get what it’s like to be a competitor.  I get how important sport is.

Let’s talk about the culture of youth sports today…

More and more, my professional practice {and my home life…full disclosure}  is seeing young athletes struggling with the demands of their sports.  The time, the expectations, the plans for a BIG career as an athlete that starts at age 10 (or younger).

Younger and younger, our kids are specializing in a single sport.  Playing year-round and suffering from overuse injuries.

The anxiety is overwhelming.

Parents are anxious and stressed, kids are anxious, and if they are going to play their sport in High School, you better get them going before they’re 10, or else they may not make the team when they’re 15.

I am totally that parent.  I value the life lessons of competitive sports.  I don’t believe in participation trophies and I think that kids should learn to work for their place on a team and work to stay there.  I am anxious about baseball, stressed about how my sons’ are performing.  I lose sleep over it.

But personally, and professionally, I am concerned.

Are we raising a generation of athletes that are going to burnout, both mentally and physically?

Are we raising a generation of athletes with BIG professional sports career goals and nothing else?

What happens if injury happens?  Or the passion fades?  Will they have anything to fall back on?  Because reality…. who has time for anything else?

Let’s talk about this…  I want to hear your comments.












6 thoughts on “Are We Creating A Generation of Burnouts?”

  1. Your thoughts are my thoughts! I think it’s a good and bad reality.. Growth improvenent, learning to work hard and achieve more in life or sports is a great thing to teach your child early on in life but if the pressure is so great, the goal possibly unachievable, then what? What’s left.. a unconfident, overwhelmed, depressed athlete/teenager? I truly appreciate you bringing this issue to light, it’s everywhere..

    1. It is such a hard balance and so hard to know what is too much, or not enough…? I hope we can continue to talk about this topic and shed some light on how to raise confident, resilient children and athletes that continue to love the sports that they play long term 🙂

  2. I’ve been reading “The Self-Driven Child” by William Stixrud, PhD and Ned Johnson. A major take away is this. Children are being challenged and facing stress at school and with sports. That makes it extremely important that their home is a calm safe place to recharge. I’m working on me because that is what I can control. I want to be my sons source of encouragement and an adult he can consult with. I was so anxious last season that I could barely bring myself to go to a game because I was fearing the future, something I literally have no control over. So many what ifs. What a waste of energy! So, I’m going to keep checking in with him and as long as he continues to show desire I am going to try my hardest to keep myself in check and be the best non anxious mother I can be for him. As for the rest, only time will tell. But odds are everything will turn out just fine.

    Thank you for taking the time to write about this subject. 🙂

    1. I love this perspective!! I think as parents, we all have to remind ourselves and each other that we can provide a calm and safe place in our homes and certainly our support and love is the most important thing!! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment!!

  3. We realized early on that our son has wonderful hand to eye coordination. We put him in gymnastics, but he also played other sports (flag football, basketball and baseball) After his team won the state gymnastics title he decided he wanted to do Track. Most of these sports have their season, so as long as he could do them one at a time we were fine. Too much time commitment from one sport ruined it for this young, all around athlete. What we’ve told him is, we want him to always be involved with something. As a 10 year old he doesn’t need to choose one specific sport. Just play, work hard, pay attention, be respectful but most importantly, love the game!! He’s qualified for National Jr. Olympics in Track and Field almost every year. He took a break from baseball for three years but decided to play summer ball this year, it didn’t take him long to get back into the “swing” of things. We will worry about what sports will get him into college at a later date. For now I think 10-11 is way too young to spend on any one muscle group~

    1. I personally agree, and the research would agree as well! Everything I have read confirms that the more sports that children are playing at a young age the better! Your son sounds like a super athlete! I am sure he will appreciate you always supporting him and his love for what he is doing! Thank you for your comment 🙂

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