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Learning from sport burnout and overtraining
Learning from sport burnout and overtraining

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Session 1: What is burnout?


It was a combination of many things; sport, travelling, studies, trying to maintain personal relationships … everything together, it just did not work. I wanted to do everything too good and I pushed myself so far that I almost tore myself apart.

(Successful mountain biker (Engen, cited in Gustafsson, 2018, p. 2))

Feeling ‘burned out’ is a common idea in popular culture. In this session you will discover what burnout is from a sport psychology perspective, including some of the main symptoms. Through exploring two case studies – from cricket and swimming – you will start to see how burnout can reveal a lot about the positive and negative sides to sport.

In this first session you will begin to consider a number of insights into sport and training including viewing sport as a place of work. Throughout this course the term ‘sport’ is used to convey the whole range of activities that extends to training and exercise practices, including coaching.

Figure 1 Burnout is often a negative downhill experience yet studying it can reveal how sport environments can be made more positive

By the end of this session, you should be able to:

  • define both what burnout is and is not, including its relationship with dropout, overtraining, mental health and depression

  • identify the role of stress in burnout.

First you will look at how sport and training can have negative effects on athletes as in the case of Jonathan Trott who suffered burnout through prolonged stress and imbalance between training, competition and limited downtime.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.