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

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1 Why is a sense of control important in motivation?

In Session 2 you were introduced to fifteen burnout factors. One factor under ‘Situational characteristics’ suggested that a sense of limited control over circumstances can contribute to burnout. This factor is common to motivational (e.g. Cresswell and Eklund, 2005) and social (Coakley, 1992) burnout perspectives. The next activity explores this further.

Activity 1 What does ‘limited control’ mean in training?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch the following video in which former Olympic rower Bo Hanson presents his thoughts on burnout and control.

Do you feel his explanation that limited control is a ‘leading cause of burnout’ is an oversimplification?

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Hanson certainly provides a good example of what control means in a coach–athlete context. He describes a ‘controlling and pressuring structure’ and lack of genuine two-way communication with a coach. He presents this as the single most important cause of burnout. As you have seen burnout has many contributing factors. Perhaps he fails to connect the feeling of a lack of control to how this can create perceptions of stress. In addition, exhaustion factors are downplayed.

Having some control over your work, sport and life generally is important since, without it, it can be debilitating (Deci and Ryan, 1985). Exerting some control is a feature of a Self-determination theory (SDT) approach to understanding motivation. In SDT literature, the term autonomy is used rather than control.

To examine the role of the three SDT needs, you will apply each in the following section using the case of former Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton.