sports Psychology

Athletic Overtraining and Burnout

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A variety of signs and symptoms characterize overtraining and burnout, and many types of factors cause burnout. Every athlete’s experience of burnout is unique. If you have an athletic background, think of the point in the season that you were most tired, most stressed, and least motivated. If you do not have an athletic background, imagine some other personal situation (another activity, school, work) in which you experienced burnout. Alternatively, you could interview an athlete you know who has experienced burnout at some point in his or her career. In the table, mark an X in the column next to the specific factors that characterized your situation. When you are finished, answer the questions that follow the table.

Factors Related to Athletic Burnout

Situational demands

· High conflicting demands

· Lack of control or powerlessness; dependency

· High expectations on the part of self and others

· Low social support

· Excessive demands on time

· Limited social relationships

· Parental involvement: restrictive, inconsistent feedback, negative feedback

· Coach involvement: inconsistent feedback, negative feedback

· Injuries

· Training loads: repetitive, high volume, number of competitions

Cognitive appraisal of the situation

· Perceived overload

· Few meaningful accomplishments

· Lack of meaning and devaluation of activity

· Lack of enjoyment

· Chronic stress

· Learned helplessness

· Decreased life satisfaction

· Identity crisis

· Stifled; trapped

Physiological and psychological responses

· Decreased motivation

· Fatigue

Physiological and psychological responses (continued)

· Decreased concentration

· Weight gain or loss

· Illness or injury susceptibility

· Moodiness and impatience

· Poor sleep

· Anger; irritability

· Muscle soreness

· Boredom

Behavioral responses

· Physical withdrawal

· Emotional withdrawal

· Psychological withdrawal

· Decreased performance

· Giving up during play, tanking

· Rigid, inappropriate behavior

· Interpersonal difficulties

· Lowered school performance

Personality and motivation factors

· High trait anxiety

· Low self-esteem and low perceived competence

· Competitive orientations: fear of failure, fear of poor evaluation

· Unidimensional self-concept

· High need to please others

· Low assertiveness

· Self-critical

· Perfectionism

· Low perceived control

· Low frustration

Data from D. Gould et al., “Burnout in Competitive Junior Tennis Players: II. Quantitative Analysis,”
The Sport Psychologist 10, no. 4 (1996): 341-366.


1. When did you burn out?


. In what sport or activity were you participating?

3. How intensely were you training when you burned out?

4. How did you feel physically at this time?

5. How did you feel psychologically at this time?

6. Relative to questions 4 and 5, for how long did you feel this way?

7. Did your symptoms occur suddenly or build up over time?

From R.S. Weinberg and D. Gould, 2019,
Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology Web Study Guide, 7E (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics).


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