Burnout is often defined as physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, but it is also described as the distress resulting from such exhaustion. It often occurs when a player competes and trains for an extended period of time without adequate rest or relief. In short, the player is worn out, tired of tennis, and may never want to see a racket again!
Burnout usually develops slowly over time rather than suddenly. It also may be more of a problem for women athletes than men, as women appear to have higher levels of perceived burnout than men.
Let’s briefly examine four of the most common causes of burnout, with suggestions on how to reverse the onset. You may need to combine these solutions to meet individual needs.
Pressure to win. One cause of burnout is extreme pressure to win. Too much pressure to win (from others or self-imposed) can be extremely frustrating when the results do not come as quickly as expected. It’s a vicious circle in that the player’s ambition and drive to succeed actually causes performance to decline. The best solution to this problem is to rediscover the “process of performance” in tennis. Encourage players to focus on the intangibles such as striving to learn, finding meaning in activities, and seeing success in performance rather than winning. With pressure removed, winning often takes care of itself and burnout is reversed.
Feeling overworked. Another cause of burnout is feeling overworked. Coaches and players often become overly intense and serious about performing well, spending all their time on tennis with no time left to live. You can help by encouraging such players to schedule other activities into the day and reduce the time in training. Promote their attendance at social activities and other events not related to tennis. Cross training in another sport or pure rest are other possible suggestions.
Loss of joy. If tennis is no longer fun for the player, search for ways to make practice and training more enjoyable. As the joy returns, the player’s attitude often brightens, and greater creativity emerges too.
Poor social support. A final factor involved in burnout is poor social support. The player might have poor relations with coach, friends, or family. In these situations it is often difficult for the player to remain motivated. You can provide a great service by just listening to the player, engaging the player in dialogue, or trying to facilitate connections with significant others. Try planning a coach/player/parent meeting away from the tennis facility.
Other tips to combat burnout include these:
Set short-term goals for competition and practice.
Take frequent breaks during training.
Teach the player to use mental skills such as positive self-talk, imagery, and goal setting.
Offer support to the player after the match regardless of the outcome.
If the player is completely exhausted mentally and physically and has already reached burnout, the only real solution is time off. If burnout persists despite all the best efforts, you may want to recommend that the player seek professional assistance.