Tennis, a highly individual sport, requires a particular breed of mental toughness.
Apart from being accompanied by a coach or a trainer, players predominantly travel alone. At both amateur and elite levels, players are often subject to internal and external pressures, which can be magnified by the isolated nature of the sport itself.
This is especially true for junior players who handle an array of competitive pressures and are at the highest risk of experiencing burnout. So, how can parents and coaches identify and prevent psychological, emotional, and physical withdrawal amongst these young athletes?
Research has determined that the specialization rate (specializing in a specific sport) gradually increased past the age of 14, reaching 95% by the age of 18. This isn’t an entirely positive signal for tennis, as they also found that the enjoyment and satisfaction rate gradually decreased past the age of 14, indicating possible burnout.
Recovering from burnout is not as easy as simply taking a few extra days off, or modifying a training program to a lighter load. Burnout rears its ugly head in the form of total lack of motivation, increased risk of injury and illness, depression, and the inability to concentrate within and beyond the sport.
Competitive junior players were surveyed to identify the precursors, signs and symptoms, and psychological and personality variables related to burnout. In a sport known for its focus on the individual, the results from the survey may be the key to athletic longevity and perseverance.
The study found that among players who had experienced burnout, common personality variables included greater concern over mistakes, higher perceived parental criticisms and expectations, decreased external motivation, and had less of an input into their training programs. Combined with social and logistical concerns, such as having no free time to socialize and demanding travel schedules, junior players found themselves burning out and withdrawing entirely from tennis.
In light of the study, the following recommendations were provided to help minimize the risk of burnout in junior competitive players:
Paying close attention to factors leading to burnout, and thereby modifying training and competition programs, can chart the course of a young athlete’s professional career. With open communication, coaches, parents, and athletes can work together to ensure psychological, emotional, and physical endurance for long-term success.
Get more information about Tennis Canada’s High Performance programs.
RightBlue Labs is a Toronto-based company that specializes in Athlete Monitoring Systems. Its flagship product, Logit Sport, is the world’s smartest Athlete Monitoring System. Logit Sport reduces instances of illness, injury, and burnout in athletes, and may detect early signs of such issues prior to any physical or performance related signs appearing. The system was built to model outcome predictions based on decades of validated research into monitoring athlete self-reporting of well-being.