10 ways to keep youth sports burnout from sneaking up on you

By Janis Meredith | Posted 10/30/2017

Youth sports burnout is the last thing you want your young athlete to experience; it will hold your child back from reaching their potential, can cause physical problems, and could push him away from a sport that they truly enjoy playing.

What are the warning signs of youth sports burnout?

Dr. Geier, from Sports Medicine Simplified, explains the clues that could indicate your child is headed towards excessive sports fatigue:

•    Inconsistent performance or one that seems to be regularly going downhill

•    Lack of motivation to practice or play in games

•    Little to no enjoyment of the sport or game outcomes

•    Uncooperative with coaches and teammates

•    Fatigue

•    Depression

•    Anger

•    Irritability or quick mood swings

•    Lack of concentration

•    Uncommunicative

•    Difficulty sleeping

•    Loss of Appetite

•    Vague complaints about muscle or joint pain

•    Sick more often

•    Too-slow recovery from injuries

If you see any of these signs, then the next step is to have a heart-to-heart with your child to see if they are feeling burnt out. In this conversation, ask lots of questions and listen a lot.

But the best way to deal with youth sports burnout is to go on offense and prevent it from sneaking up on you.

Here’s how you and your child can stave off the burnout:


Decide which of your child’s activities is the most important to them and if you have to start eliminating some, start at the bottom.

Take a break

Encourage your athlete to rest from organized sports 1-2 days per week. Allow longer breaks from training and competition every few months.  Even in between seasons, if possible. Use the break to focus on other activities, and do light exercise.

Eat right and drink lots of water

This should be a no-brainer for athletes, but teens will still eat too much junk food, and they usually pay for it when they do.

Have a life outside of sports

Talk about sports and other things on the way home, and at the dinner table. If all you can find to talk about is sports, your child's life might be out of balance.

Sometimes say "no" to sports, and "yes" to another activity

As long as you understand there may be consequences for missing a practice, tournament, or game, then it’s okay for your athlete to periodically put another activity before sports. If your athlete plans to do that, however, he must let his coach know in advance so it does not hurt the team. Remember, that if this becomes a regular habit, it may cost them a position or playing time.  So keep those occasions to a minimum if they are serious about their sport.

Keep expectations realistic

Don’t expect too much from your child. Make sure you know their goals and try to help them achieve those goals without pushing them.

One size does not fit all

Every kid is unique, and you need to know how much your child can handle physically. Help them learn to prioritize what they should and can do; then help them find a balance between school, extra-curricular activities, and free time.

Downplay the importance of the outcome

We all want to win, but the more you emphasize sportsmanship, hard work, and small victories the less devastated your athlete will be if they lose.

Let them decide

Help young kids learn to make their own decisions about whether to play. Discuss the pros and cons with your athlete and then let them make the decision.  The older they get, the more this should happen. When kids feel they are forced to play, they are more likely to resent the sport.

Don’t put pressure on your kids to choose a sport

Many athletes played more than one sport in junior high and even high school.  Tennis great, Roger Federer and pro basketball player, LeBron James, didn’t specialize in a sport until high school. This is called cross training and can really help your child be a better athlete overall.

Janis B. Meredith is a life coach for sports parents. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Learn more about good sports parenting habits in her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents, available on Amazon.