How can you avoid burn out in lacrosse? You can “burn out” from doing something too much, and while may seem like a silly issue to many people out there, for others it’s serious. Some people can play lacrosse non-stop, in any atmosphere, and always want more. Others may not be as lucky, or may have a different situation in life, where burn out is a reality.
So how can those players make sure that the game remains enjoyable, instead of turning into work? I’ll run through why burn out often happens, and what can be done to avoid its most disastrous impacts. This is a helpful guide for players, parents, and coaches alike.
Where Does Burn Out Come From?
I played a lot of soccer when I was growing up. I played during the Summers, I played for my town club during the fall on weekends (even during my school team’s season), I played some indoor in the Winters, and I played on a spring team as well, during lacrosse season. I felt no pressure from my parents to play so much soccer, but the reality was, even in my small town, that soccer was a 24-7-365 affair, even if none of it was truly elite level. That was just the way things had to be done.
I had convinced myself that in order to “keep pace”, I needed to play all the time. I spent more time at practice than in my side yard, and I rarely took a break from playing on a team. My coaches were all great, and so were my teammates… but at a certain point, it all become way too much. I quit playing soccer altogether for about 9 months while in middle school, and for a while, I never thought I’d play again. I had lost my way when it came to having fun playing the sport. I was playing for something else, but I didn’t know what it was.
Burn out comes on when players stop enjoying the game. It can happen for a number of reasons, from playing too much, too much practice, bad coaching, tough team environments, constant competition, to parenting, as well a host of other causes. Burn out occurs when players begin to question why they even play this sport that they supposedly love.
Does Burn Out Go Away?
It certainly can, but every case is different.
Within 6 months of quitting, I got the itch to play soccer again. And that was what I did. I never became great at the sport and that was not my focus, but I enjoyed it a lot more. I stopped fixating on “keeping pace” with other players, and just played soccer. I never became the scorer I dreamt of being, but I did rise to the level where I could have played in college, most likely as a defender. I chose to play lacrosse instead, a sport that I have never burned out on, thanks to the lessons I learned from soccer, and from my dad. As a side note, I also got moved to defense playing lacrosse. Go figure.
I continued to play soccer in college intramural leagues, and even played for a men’s club team in New York City for a couple of years when I first moved to the five boroughs. I watch soccer on TV, and I appreciate the sport. My burn out went away, but that didn’t happen on its own.
How To Avoid Burn Out!
In my case, I simply needed to step back and re-examine why I was playing the sport. My Dad, who was running the town soccer club, was 100% supportive of my decision, which I needed. He recognized that I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore, and that I had gone too far with it. I know I am fortunate that he never pressured me to play, but his support when I gave up the game meant even more.
Burn out comes from getting lost. When you lose focus on WHY you play a game, the game changes. For some, this is just an evolutionary step. For others, the game loses some of its appeal. For the latter group, it often helps to step back, and re-evaluate your goals and desires, and you can do this while still playing the game that you love. Oftentimes, it is just about loosening the outside controls…
If you’re on the edge of burn out, or are worried you’re doing “too much”, it’s time to take a step back. No one can be on 100% of the time, so if you just finished up a full Spring season, a full Summer season could be pushing it. The rule of averages says you’re going to have some really off days, and that can get to anyone without a break. This brings us to our lost of ways to avoid burn out:
1) Limit Official Events to 20%
One Summer of missing ALL the recruiting camps won’t hurt you. It really won’t. But maybe that’s not realistic… So whatever you’re planning on doing for the foreseeable future (say, the next 3 months), make sure that only 20% of it is “official”. Official means a team practice with coaches, games, tournaments, showcases, lessons with a coach, etc. If you have to wear full pads, it’s official. If you have a coach there, it’s official.
Spend the other 80% of your time doing things outside of lacrosse, and that are “unofficial” lacrosse activities. Unofficial activities include shooting with friends, wall ball, stick tricks, stringing sticks, dyeing heads, running on grass fields, catching frogs, target shooting, watching the sun rise, backyard 2-on-2, swimming, running, climbing trees, meeting people, and playing catch with nature:
At the end of the Summer, you’ll either realize how much you miss lacrosse, or how you were doing it wrong in the first place. Either way, you’ll have clarity and be happier in the long run.
2) Find A New Place In The Game
Are you a star player, but your game has stagnated? Try coaching for the Summer. It will help you become a better player. Are you a coach? Play as much as you can. It will help you get back into your players’ heads. Are you a parent? Try coaching, or even better, learn how to ref! Maybe now you can see what it’s like to be a zebra! The point here is to change your perspective on the game. Sometimes that is enough.
3) GROW The Game!
You can also decide to take your game to someone new. Sometimes it helps to see someone learn and appreciate lacrosse for the first time, and if you can be the one to give them the game, you get to see it firsthand. Nothing resets perspective like fresh perspective. This is definitely worth a shot.
4) Stop Playing? Stop Playing.
The Stop Playing route seems extreme, and it is, but it is another potential avenue to find help. It certainly helped me fall back in love with soccer when I was young.
People will tell you that once you quit, you can never come back. This is a lie. There may be coaches out there who don’t take “quitters” back, but that doesn’t mean the game is lost to you moving forward. It just means you may have to do things differently. The best advice I can give is that you go to your coach before making any decisions, and tell him what you are going through. Most good coaches will want to help you. The ones that shame you? Well, do you really want to play for a guy who shames you when you’re down and struggling? Maybe you do, but if that’s the case, you’re probably not dealing with burn out from the game.
To stop playing is altogether is drastic. But, for some people, it makes sense. Talk to your parents, and coaches, and talk to trusted teammates. What is bothering you? How can you make changes to begin enjoying it again, without being selfish? A big step back can help you see the big picture, but be prepared for some push back. It’s natural, and often comes from people wanting to help. Embrace it, and use it to help figure out what you really want.
There can be major repercussions to fully quitting the sport, but if you’re miserable right now, the risk-reward ratio seems worth it on some levels.
For some burn out is real. For others, it is not. Try to be honest with yourself, and find ways to enjoy the game no matter what. If you follow that advice, you should eventually see the success that matches up with your efforts. That is the best path I can think of when it comes to avoiding burn out, and if you put in the work, it should also take you where you want to go.
Any sport can become a “job”. Those who truly excel at it, always find a way to make sure it’s also still just a “game”.