Youth burnout is becoming a prominent issue as children are specializing in sports and even individual positions at earlier ages. "Burnout" is when an athlete develops emotional and/or physical fatigue towards a sport from one or a combination of reasons, including too much time spent on one activity or not enough time off. Specializing in a sport in elementary school also can lead to overuse injuries later on in middle and high school.
There are many benefits to having children participate in more than one sport.
- Build athleticism. Before specialization, develop both sides of the body and improve flexibility and coordination. Children should participate in a variety of activities as well as rotate positions on the baseball or softball field to become well-rounded athletes and have a lower chance of burning out mentally and physically.
- Develop a variety of skill sets and movement patterns. Children often lack correct body mechanics, resulting in fatigue and overuse. Body awareness and balance learned in gymnastics or dance can mean better coordination when learning new baseball skills and drills.
- Take a break! Rest is important on a big and small scale. Day to day, we all need to make sure we get enough sleep relative to our age and activity level. During the offseason, pitchers should take at least a couple of months off from throwing or overhead activities. To maintain or build fitness or skills during that time off they can participate in complimentary activities such as swimming, basketball or long distance running.
Burning out isn’t uncommon but can easily be avoided with these simple steps. At some point, a maturing athlete may decide on their on to cut down to one sport, but in the meantime, focus on having fun and making memories that will last well beyond their athletic career.