[Guest Post] John Kessel’s view on Burnouts in Sports

Hello Readers,

First of all, I want to give a big thanks to John Kessel for writing the first of Guest Blog post on ChristianVball.com, Thank you for your great insight, John! Most of us volleyball players have hit a Burnout at one time or another. Read what John has to say and you won’t be disappointed. Make sure you check out his blog here!

Burnout in Sports

By John Kessel

1. As someone who has not yet burned out on the sport I love, still playing in the dinosaur division with my son and doing my sport 7 days a week for over 40 years, I hope to share some ideas with you on how to avoid burn out. In no particular order, I share my “Top Ten” thoughts in the hope one or more might help you…
If it really is your passion and even purpose, burn out is minimized or eliminated. I would sum it up this way, keep doing lots of sports until you find the one you LOVE. If you find the one you love early in your life (your love, not one force on you by others) GREAT, stick with it. If not, keep giving other sports a go until you find one you love.

This diagram might help you in finding your passion and purpose in sports, and in life. I know it sums up well how I feel:




2. The words you say to yourself can cause a range of doubt that can move into burnout. Many top athletes have surprising high levels of self-doubt in their striving to be perfect.  I have covered before in my Grow the Game Together blogs on eliminating words like “try,” “don’t” and “but” as those words negatively impact your performance and passion.  The thing is, many other words and phrases you might say to yourself can do the same. So if the words you say to yourself were to appear on your skin, would people still see yourself as strong or confident?  Imagine saying those same harsh words you say to yourself, to your teammates…would you ever say them? You would not…so stop saying them to yourself!

3. There is no such thing as overtraining, but most people do not give themselves enough recovery/rest time.  A lack of recovery time impacts both learning time- by not getting enough sleep and because fatigue is detrimental to learning – and increases burn out. The USOC just spent millions on an athlete recovery center. Your own center starts at home, in your room, where you need to make sure you schedule in rest time, and in training, where you schedule breaks from practice. As a wise woodsman once said, you need to take time to sharpen your saw/axe – or else you have to work harder and harder with a duller and duller tool.

4. That which you teach, you learn – If you feel like you are burned out playing, take time to teach your sport to others less experienced/skilled than you. If you are burned out coaching, take time to play. Working with elementary aged kids, Paralympian, and Special Olympians in your sport will help you realize how lucky you are to play at the level you do.

5. Never let the pressure of competition get in the way of the pleasure of competition. Remember, in every event you compete in, there is only one gold medalist. In team sports, 50 percent of the teams lose every single day. Focus on what you can control and enjoy!

6. Likewise, if you feel like you have hit a wall in a skill set, challenge yourself to see things through other’s eyes by playing a new position. In volleyball, you will be a better hitter if you set, and a better setter if you hit, for example. Learn something completely new or foreign to your current skill set. Play a different team sized game from what you are used to – singles players in tennis can play doubles, indoor volleyball players can play outdoor doubles, and so forth.

7. Make practice FUN – Practice needs variety. It needs deliberate practice for sure. Work with yourself, or your coaches, to make sure that the GAME side of your sport is included, wacky scoring, fun endings. I have to admire this list of ways to make something that takes thousands of hours of training with not much variety, into much more fun:

challenges as games


8. Citius, Altius, Fortius – Again the Olympic motto comes to assist, for it is about excelling, not winning, the process, not the outcome, as the pathway is simply not linear. The pathway is more like this:




In the end, it is about caring for yourself first, so you can care for others, teammates included, better. You know what you love beyond sport – so DO THOSE TOO. Sport is great, there just is a lot more to life than sport – music, books, movies, different sports, comedy, cooking…thousands of other ways to take a break and add to your specific sport success.

It’s not about the nail. – I feel I have to close with one of the funniest clips I have ever seen – that is about the relationship with yourself and your loved ones, who just need to listen to your concerns about burn out…Jason Headley makes a brilliant clip –

Follow me on twitter if you found this of value @JohnKesselUSAV or check out my blog at http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Volleyball/Grassroots/Grow-The-Game-Blog