This month, Andy Brandi of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., addresses the dreaded problem of junior tennis burnout.
Burnout is a symptom which can physical, emotional or mental. The results can be a decline in performance, fatigue or exhaustion. It can be related to stress from pressure to perform, from overtraining or from lack of social interaction. The warning signs are: reduced motivation, lack of interest, mood swings, muscle and joint pain, weight loss and loss of appetite.
In order to develop one’s talent, it has been thought that you need about 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice and training. Does it sound like a lot? It is a lot! That is about 20-25 hours a week.
The problem comes from wanting fast results and rewards. Tennis is like a marathon. Because we live in an instant society, we want instant results. We think that quantity is the answer.
As parents and coaches we need to realize what it feels like to train for 4 to 5 hours a day; we need to think how old the person is and how it much strain this is putting on their body.
When in my early 20’s, I trained with Harry Hopman. Our schedule was two and a half hours in the morning, followed by two and a half hours in the afternoon. By Wednesday morning, I could hardly get out of bed. I had no legs left! We justify this regiment with younger kids by saying that they are young and they do not get tired. Put yourself in their shoes.
Here are some suggestions to prevent burnout:
1-Take a day and a half or two days off every week. It might be a good idea to take a Wednesday afternoon off to balance the week. If you want, consider a light workout on Saturday.
2-If you are playing in a tournament over the weekend, begin to taper on Thursday. On Friday, play at most an hour and a half. If you finish on Sunday, take Monday off. The most important thing is to go to the tournament well rested. If you are not ready by Friday, playing four hours that day is not going to solve the issues.
3-Plan over the year to take some weeks off away from tennis. Think of maybe three weeks off--one after the summer grind, one during December and one before the summer.
4-Have realistic goals and look at the long term. Players put expectations and pressure on themselves as it is. They do not need more.
5-The philosophy in training should be quality and not quantity. If you do this, you will stay fresh and improve faster. Secondly, you will be eager to go to practice. Coaches need to provide variety in the practice sessions. Leave time for some fun. Set aside some weeks for fitness training away from the courts. That means maybe 30 minutes of hitting each day.
6-Make time for social activity away from tennis. Interact with friends. Maybe even limit the amount of talking about tennis away from the courts. If you are burned out, you might need to take from 4 to 12 weeks away from tennis. Rest is the only solution. Being away is the only way to rekindle your desire to play.
So you want to avoid burnout? Be smart about your approach to tennis. It is not how much or how hard you train. It is how smart you are in doing those two things! Best of luck!
Do you have a question for Andy or Harold? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches Q and A in the subject line.
Friday, April 30, 2010