Psychological Overload

Recently got sent this short article by a professor from a University in the US.

Psychological overload from excessive demands and expectations

Psychological stress can have both training and straining effects on the individual.130 Psychological overload, however, occurs when the level of stress becomes excessive, no longer affecting a positive response. Youth athletes are increasingly being exposed to inappropriate and unrealistic demands and expectations, and consequent psychological overload (self or coach/parent induced).54 ,60 How youth athletes perceive and cope with these stressors is neither predictable nor benign,131 with athlete burnout and subsequent related drop-out from sport being a recognised part of competitive youth sport.132 Use of performance-based field criteria (eg, resting cortisol levels and Profile of Mood test) may facilitate early detection of youth at risk of burnout.133 There is also the potential for developing maladaptive perfectionistic tendencies, prompted by elevated parental expectations and criticism.134

Widespread (often unrecognised) depressive disorder is especially prevalent in adolescent girls,135 and the psychosocial stress of an unhealthy youth sports environment or an injury could exacerbate the risk and levels of depression and anxiety.135 ,136 Providing youth athletes with specific coping skills through mental training seems promising,137 and goal setting can have a positive effect in reducing fear of failure among young elite athletes.138 Coping effectiveness specific to the competitive level and the demands of the sport can also be directly related to athletic achievement.139 ,140 Potential interactions between sport-related stressors and those associated with normal adolescence must also be recognised and addressed.

Coaching education should emphasise the importance of creating autonomy-supportive, mastery-oriented sporting climates that result in less stress and more intrinsic motivation,141 ,142which is especially important in elite youth sport where the pressure to perform is often overwhelming and can even increase the risk of injury.143 ,144 By focusing on a mastery developmental climate, a positive (sporting) community can evolve.145 Parent supporting involvement is also important in mitigating dysfunctional and/or destructive responses. Indeed, parents reportedly welcome advice on how to become a better sporting parent;146 ,147 although implementation is a challenge.

Thank you

The Sporting Influencer


The International Olympic Committee just published its recommendations and guiding principles for youth athletic development in the British Journal for Sports Medicine (May 2015).

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