Coach and Athletic Director

April/May 2018

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44 A P R I L / M A Y 2 0 1 8 Reasons for burnout include: • Parental pressure • Excessive demands on the athlete • Lack of fun • Win-at-all-costs environments • Perceived lack of growth in personal development • Increased injuries • Decreased rest/recovery time Year-round sports also have been shown to lead to social development issues in young athletes. They can develop an inability to interact with peers outside the sport setting and refuse social support in stressful situations. They may want more time to dedicate to other activities where they can interact with other people. Coaching specialized athletes Once a young athlete decides to specialize, it's up to the parents and coaches to ensure they follow a safe training regimen. To avoid the pitfalls of specialization, following a few strategies can maximize the benefits of specialization while minimizing the risks. Here are four recommendations: 1 .Manage fatigue. It's important for the athlete to .be given appropriate rest between practices and competitions. A structured training regimen that balances physical and mental training with a full competition schedule allows for proper rest. Changing the focus on which organ systems (muscular, nervous and cardiovascular) are relied on more heavily during training sessions can lead to beneficial growth of these systems. Implementing imagery training and positive self-talk are strategies that can replace some physical with cognitive exposure. Use video analysis of the athlete for recovery and competitions to encourage mental growth and physical recovery. 2 .Watch and listen. Coaches must observe and listen to .their athletes about training and fatigue. If an athlete becomes sluggish, experiences a decline in performance, or begins to show emotional signs of concern, a recovery period may be necessary. Understanding the signs of overtraining — increased soreness, fatigue, increased minor injuries — are critical to maintain a safe environment for specialized athletes. Overtraining and staleness are precursors to burnout, so identification of these symptoms are instrumental in positive athlete development. 3 .Developing a plan. Prevent injuries with the same .concept of preventing fatigue. Rotating training schedules and focusing on different goals allow fatigued muscle groups and joints time to recuperate. Implementing a daily stretching and relaxation regimen helps young athletes to improve their range of motion and prevent injury. Work with a certified strength and conditioning coach to assist in developing a year-long training plan that incorporates different goals, exercises, focuses and recovery days. 4 .Take time off. While athletes may not be interested .in playing other sports, there are plenty of activities in which they may become involved, reducing social concerns and burnout from specialization. Athletes may develop and foster friendships away from the team that they can rely on for support during stressful times in training or competition. Encourage athletes to experience a wide variety of events, including music, art, community service and school clubs. If the coach has specific time set aside for these activities, athlete and parents are more likely to agree. If the coach does not plan for recovery time, athletes can be hesitant and feel guilty in taking time to do other things. Be an advocate of other experiences. Specialization will remain a debated topic for years to come. While athletes should have the final say on specialization, it's important they understand the advantages and risks making a decision. Coaches are in a unique position where their athletes may approach them for advice. Being informed of the advantages and risks, and providing all available information to their athletes, is a responsibility no coach should take lightly. Discussing all possibilities with the athlete and their parents can lead to an informed decision that will benefit children in their athletic endeavors. Jordan Donnelly is a second-year graduate student in the sport and fitness administration program at Winthrop University. Joni Boyd, PhD, CSCS, is an assistant professor of exercise science and the coaching minor advisor at Winthrop.

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