Winthrop's Dr. David Schary: Summer is the time to rest from competition

For athletes, summer is the perfect opportunity to rest and recover. Enjoying the nice weather without the daily grind of practices and competitions can help prevent burnout. In youth sports especially, burnout is becoming a problem.

Burnout does not happen overnight. It is the result of continued physical and emotional stress without enough time to recover. It can affect anyone at any level, novice to expert. Unfortunately, there is no formula to determine how much stress is too much because people vary with their abilities to cope with stress.

Certain characteristics may make someone more or less likely to burnout.

Confidence in one’s ability to train and improve will help avoid the onset of emotional exhaustion when training becomes hard, time-intensive, and inconvenient.

These tips will benefit everyone to avoid burnout.

▪ Take time off. This may sound surprising, but doing nothing will help prevent burnout and improve future performances. Just like muscles need to recover after lifting weights, the mind needs time to recover after a long season. Removing oneself from the daily commitments of a sport allows time to refresh, easing any built-up stress from the season.

For some, the thought of not being active is unimaginable. In those situations, cross training is a good option. Picking an activity that requires different skills will expand an athlete’s skillset, which could improve performance come preseason. Everyone should take at least a week off from doing any demanding physical activity.

▪ Have fun. Sports should be fun, but often fun gives way to practice and competition. Training, drills, and film sessions throughout the year can strip the fun out of the season. The summer provides a great opportunity to remember what it was like to actually play your sport. Do not compete or keep score; just think like a child learning the game for the first time. This is the time to play pick-up games or have silly competitions with friends.

Having fun can be an obstacle for some athletes. To them whimsical playing is not done once you reach a certain level. But a simple Internet search will show you that even professional athletes take time to have fun. LeBron James and Kevin Durant organized a flag football game during the 2011 NBA lockout.

▪ Be realistic. While summer allows for time off and fun, it is also a great opportunity to strengthen weaknesses. Championships are won in the offseason; a cliché that has some merit but can lead to unrealistic expectations – which can then lead to burnout.

Setting a goal that is too much of a stretch will force an athlete to spend the summer trying to reach it before the season starts. While all athletes should continue to train to reach goals, training too hard when your body should be resting undermines the body’s and mind’s ability to relax. During the summer, train to get better, but make sure your expectations and goals are realistic so you do not burn out before preseason even starts.

If left unchecked, burnout will cause athletes to leave sports they once loved. Work hard and set goals, but be sure to use the summer to help your mind and body recharge. This will ensure that you will be ready to start the season fresh, excited, and ready to go.

Do you have a question about how to improve your athletic performance? Dr. David Schary invites questions or comments from any athlete, coach, or parent. Email any question or comment to