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How to Avoid Youth Sports Burnout

How to Avoid Youth Sports Burnout – Interview with Dr. Jared Wood, Sports Psychologist about how to keep youth sports fun for kids and how they can avoid physical and emotional burnout from the sometimes stressful word of Little League and other youth sports organizations.


Whether you’re talking about Little League Baseball, youth football, youth soccer, swim meets or any other youth sports league or organization, kids today are starting younger and younger. The competition factor ramps up at earlier ages than in the past as well – often becoming highly competitive as young as 8 or 9 years old.

Often the first steps of getting a child involved in youth sports is for simple fun and exercise at a very young age. 4 year olds bumbling around a soccer field, kids nubbing a baseball off a tee and scrambling around the bases while parents happily snap pictures. Every child gets a chance to play and scores and statistics aren’t kept. Exercise and teamwork for all in the name of fun.

As the youth sports seasons pass, the focus can quickly become about the wins and losses in addition to the fun and teamwork. With the importance of wins and statistics comes the pressure and often the pressure to succeed is doled out by the parents.

Over-rating a child’s ability also puts unfair pressure on parent and child. Many parents and children often “hear only what they want to hear” when it comes to a child’s potential in youth sports from the child’s coach. Parents may think their child could be the next Michael Jordan or Mia Hamm when the reality may be far different.

I’ve seen the hazards of pushing a child too hard to succeed in sports first-hand. Burnout, fatigue, injuries, over-emphasis on sports and over-parenting often lead kids down a path where the pressure is too much causing the child to burnout or quit.

So, how do we as parents keep the fun and life lessons of youth sports moving while avoiding burnout? I sat down with Dr. Jared Wood, local sports psychologist and frequent OCM contributor to ask him how to avoid youth sports burnout.

How to Avoid Youth Sports Burnout

Dr. Jared Wood, Sports Psychologist – I like the idea of exposure to many pursuits, not just sports, and let the child inform you with their actions and words. What do they do in their spare time? What do they ask to watch or play? Are they engaged when playing their sport or distracted? Do they seem to want more of their sport without you pushing? These guidelines are good for any age. And I think exposure to a variety of sports and activities is best for overall physical, intellectual, and emotional development.

Awareness of youth sports burnout warning signs is important. Any frustration, anger, tears, sadness, or certainly depression need to be dealt with, professionally in some cases, but the early signs don’t need to be that extreme. Other signs such as boredom, avoidance of or resistance to practice or games, lethargy, or even lack of enthusiasm are important to notice. Young athletes typically play for fun, excitement, and challenge. If you notice any of those are lacking, that’s an important sign as well.

Jared Wood, Ph.D., is a sport psychology consultant and limited licensed psychologist based in Clarkston, Michigan. Additionally, he has 15 years experience as a school psychologist in the Lake Orion School District. He is the author of “It’s Already in Your Head: How Everything You Know About Caddyshack Can Improve Your Mental Golf Game”. You can follow Dr. Jared Wood @woodjared, on Twitter.

For more on sports psychology and youth sports burnout, visit

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