As seasons wind down, athletes often experience symptoms of burnout (in fact, coaches often experience burnout as well). This problem is quite common and equally frustrating. When athletes are unmotivated and unhappy, it negatively affects everyone around. Burnout is not a negative reflection of the athlete or coach, but more so the result of monotonous activity.
So what can you do to spice up your season in hopes of avoiding both coach and athlete burnout? Incorporate some of the ideas below into your regular routine, and watch the life come back to your team!
1. Ditch Practice – No, not in the literal sense of simply not showing up, but surprise your team at practice with something different. Maybe begin with your usual practice schedule and mid-way through incorporate some team bonding activities or games. If you can spare an entire practice, consider moving the practice to a surprise location. This may take some parent support to arrange transportation, but meeting at a local ice cream shop or restaurant would be a nice treat for any hard-working team.
2. Be Creative – Allow the team to put their heads together and come up with a theme for a particular upcoming game. Maybe you want to do a “PINK OUT” night where you challenge everyone to wear pink in honor of breast cancer awareness. Allowing the cheerleaders to cheer in their themed outfits will definitely spice up the season. These themes don’t have to be limited to just the squad either. In fact, sharing the theme with the entire school will really bring your theme to life. For instance, maybe sponsor a crazy hair night. Select members out of the crowd that are contenders for the craziest hair, and allow the crowd to vote by cheering for each contestant. You may even be able to find a local salon that will award the winner with a free service! Giving the team and school something to get excited about and involved in will definitely help in avoiding burnout.
3. Change up the Routine – For those squads who simply can’t afford to miss out on practice time, consider simply changing the order in which you do things at practice. Maybe run a backwards practice; run your routine full out to start and then break down individual sections. This will spice up the regularity of the average practice schedule. Also if you can streamline your practice to allow for a few minutes of team bonding at the end, it will be greatly appreciated by your athletes.
4. Make Your Down Time Count – Most teams have a very limited time to practice, so making the most of this time is critical. Evaluate your current practice regime. Are you maximizing every moment to the fullest? For instance, instead of giving your team a set amount of time to stretch individually, consider stretching together as a team. During each stretch, go around and have everyone answer a question. For example, while holding splits, have everyone tell the best part of her day. This will ensure that your stretches are being held for a sufficient amount of time, and lets the team get in some quick bonding.
Ultimately, the key to avoiding burnout is to do things a little differently every once in a while. Doing the same thing over and over for months can wear even the toughest of the tough down. So don’t be afraid to try something new!