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Softball Burnout: A Case Study

By Coach Marc

Yesterday, i got my heart broken. I got an email from the father of Samantha (i changed her name), a 15-year-old young lady I’ve designed personalized softball-specific program for for the better part of the last 3 years.
Samantha started playing softball at age 8. She fell in love with the game and she couldn’t get enough of it. The family got involved in travel ball when she was 9 and did the whole travel ball thing for the past few years (playing well over 100 games per year).  She’s also attended dozens of camps and clinics and done hours and hours of private lessons since started travel ball.
That’s pretty typical for a lot of softball players and their family.
Until a few months ago, she was a very promising softball player. Since she’s only played softball for most of her life, my job as her virtual softball trainer was a) improve her overall athleticism (that she was not getting from playing other sports), b) make up for physical deficiencies through corrective exercises (from the repetitive movement from softball)  and c) help her perform better on the field (run faster, throw harder, hit with more power, and be mentally tougher).
And it worked great. She got stronger, faster and more powerful. She was dominant on the field. The future was bright. She even got interest from several colleges coaches.
She was your softball poster child. So, what happened?  She burned out. BIG TIME.
According to her dad, her HS school season didn’t go well (she underperformed, didn’t feel like going to practices (even skipped some), got into arguments with her coaches, etc.).  Then, travel ball started and it got worse.  She played really poorly, had no motivation, started complaining about everything (having no life, never seeing her friends, practices being too long, long car rides, etc.) and even not looking forward to weekend tournaments. Her dad thought she was only going through a bit of teenage rebellion at that time.
She finally dropped the bomb in early July: “Dad, mom, I’m through with softball. I don’t wanna play anymore”. She said that she didn’t like it anymore, didn’t have fun and didn’t have time to do anything else.  She just quit right there and didn’t finished her season.
Her dad wrote me that initially he thought this would be temporary but it seems that it’s permanent. Even 2 months later, she doesn’t miss the game and doesn’t want anything to do with it.
That’s a classic sports burnout.
This really breaks my heart. You have a young lady doing something she loves that end up hating it because she did too much of it for many years. That’s really sad.
Unfortunately, it’s too common. Most studies show that young athletes that specializes too early are at a much greater risk of sports burnouts, injuries and not reaching their full athletic potential.
Check this out:
For more information about this vital subject, i invite you to read the following articles:
The detrimental effect of early sports specialization
Nine Reasons Why Early Specialization is a Bad Idea
In the mean time, i sent Samantha a Facebook message telling her that i support her, that I am proud of all the work she did the past few years and encouraging her to explore other sports just for the fun of it. She replied: “Yes Coach Marc, i will. Thank you for everything.” (including a nice smiley!).

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