Avoiding Youth Sports Burnout: More (Variety) is Better

Superstar high school athlete Kris Brackmann is a testament to avoiding one-sport burnout. The Mercer Island, Washington teen, recent winner of The Seattle Times’ female athlete of the year says when people ask her which sport, basketball or volleyball she liked best, she’d simply reply, “Whichever season I’m in!”

 

“If I’d only done basketball, I’d never be doing basketball in college.” Instead, Brackmann heads to California to play for Claremont McKenna College’s basketball team.  She hasn’t ruled out some involvement in volleyball as well. If she had picked one sport over the other when she was younger?  “I would have gotten bored.”

 

Instead she excelled at both, knowing that some of her coaches would have preferred to her to pick just one. “There’s pressure for you to play one sport, but in reality, they can’t do anything.”

 

A recent study, “Sports Specialization in Young Athletes: Evidence-Based Recommendations” for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine found: “For most sports, there is no evidence that intense training and specialization before puberty are necessary to achieve elite status.  Risks of early sports specialization include higher rates of injury, increased psychological stress, and quitting sports at a young age.”

 

In fact, Brackmann says she has a friend who she believes could have played Division I volleyball, were it not for the burnout factor that has caused her to drop the sport. “It’s so many hours, long weekend tournaments, I can see how 9 years of doing only that would have gotten monotonous.”

 

And as a senior who had finished with club basketball, and no hoops coach telling her not to track, she finally could. What happened? She qualified for state in the high jump, and though she placed (only!) 11th, she is thrilled she got the chance to compete.  It’s part of her high school memories, which for the vast, vast majority of kids last much longer than their athletic careers.

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