Money Smart Athlete Blog

Overcoming Burnout: Strategies for Rekindling Passion in Sports

By Constantinos Massonos, Contributor

With a total of 28 gold medals, Michael Phelps is the most decorated and successful Olympian of all time. He is just one of many well-known athletes, such as basketball player Kevin Love and gymnast Simone Biles, who have opened up about their struggles with burnout. No matter the sport, level of competition, or professional status, sustained high levels of training and competition, pressure to succeed, and constant media attention can result in a condition known as burnout, which is characterized by physical, mental, and emotional tiredness followed by significant drops in performance, motivation, and general wellbeing.

So how can athletes overcome burnout and keep competing? What are some strategies athletes can utilize to rekindle their passion for their sport?

As a first step, athletes should educate themselves on recognizing the symptoms and warning indications of burnout. Fatigue, loss of motivation, cynicism, below par performance and physical problems, such as headaches and sleep issues are some of the most common signs that you are experiencing a burnout.

Reflecting on what initially motivated an athlete to begin playing their sport, can remind them of all the moments they felt pure joy participating in their sport and help them reconnect with their initial motivation.

Setting new goals can help refuel an athlete’s passion. While this can be hard for athletes who have already achieved everything in their sport, it is important to get creative in setting new goals and achieving new records as it can give them a fresh sense of purpose and direction.

Practicing every day can get dull. That’s why some of the best managers or coaches in the world try to introduce novelty into their training schedules. Incorporating different techniques, drills, or variations of the sport can keep things interesting and help bring excitement back to the athletes’ routine. If that’s not enough and there is need for a new perspective, athletes can change the training environment by practicing in a different location or with new training partners.

Mental techniques such as visualizing success and enjoyment in their sport again, shifting focus away from performance and outcomes and concentrating on pure enjoyment and celebrating progress no matter how small, can help athletes create a positive mental image that can motivate them to get back into it.

As a last resort and if an athlete can’t seem to reset and renew their enthusiasm for their sport, there is always the option to take a temporary break from the sport which can give the athlete some space to miss it.

Rekindling an athlete’s passion for their sport takes time and patience and is not a quick fix. It may require ongoing effort and adjustments, so athletes should be open to experiment with different approaches. It’s okay to take breaks, reassess goals, and adjust as needed to align their sport with their current interests and values. Of course, if an athlete’s burnout is severe or persistent, then they should seek professional help from a mental health professional or counselor.

The Money Smart Athlete® Blog is established and run by the Sports Financial Literacy Academy® (SFLA).  Through its education programs, the SFLA has the vision to financially educate and empower athletes of all ages to become better people, not just better athletes.  For more information on our courses, our SFLA Approved Trainer Program®, and how they can benefit you and your clients, please get in touch with us at [email protected].