The youth baseball season seems to have become longer in recent years. A decade ago it was reasonable to play a spring season and put the bats and gloves away until the next spring. Since then, parents and young players have developed a desire to play more baseball. Today’s youth season can be as long as the professional season. Workouts begin indoors in the winter, going through spring, summer and fall baseball schedules. This all can be positive, and provide more opportunities for young players. Players are entering high school more skilled, and increasing their chances of playing baseball at the high school and college level, and also increasing their chances for academic and athletic scholarships. However, there is also a down side – baseball burnout.
Today’s youth game put’s enormous physical and emotional demands on young athletes. Burnout can cut a young athlete’s participation in baseball short, depriving them of all the advantages of playing youth sports. Parents of young players have a critical role in managing the demands on young athletes, and should be aware of the signs of burnout. Dr. David Geier explains the signs of burnout which are summarized here:
Changes in performance – consistently performing below expectations.
Emotional or attitude changes – fatigue, lack of focus, or being uncooperative.
Health changes – muscle or joint pain, slow recovery from injury, more sick days from school.
Parents should also be proactive in preventing burnout before signs are even visible. The easiest way to do that is to enjoy the offseason, and take a break from baseball. It’s important to be the best player you can be, but playing or practicing baseball all year is counterproductive and can be unhealthy. Don’t be afraid to take a break during the months between fall ball and winter workouts. Give young athletes a few months to decompress emotionally, and allow muscles and ligaments to heal, especially in their throwing arms. During the season, be aware of the emotional and physical stress, and take a short break if needed. Provide an outlet for your child to release some stress and enjoy something other than baseball following a game. Talking about a loss or an error for the rest of the day isn’t helpful. Take the rest of the day off, and get back to practice the next day.
In summary, practice and play baseball hard – every day during the season if you can, but take appropriate breaks when needed. As a parent, don’t put more stress on a young player than they already put on themselves, and coaches and peers put on them.