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Student athletes fight back against burnout

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Rex Sample
Staff Writer

With increasing competition, and sports teams practicing – or at least conditioning – for extended periods beyond their competitive seasons, some student athletes here struggle to balance their academic classes with work and their intense practice schedules.

Even though University of La Verne is a Division III school, student athletes here still practice for up to 20 hours a week during season, and eight hours of conditioning during off-season.

“If you are a fall athlete, you’ll get maybe a month off,” said Joanna Engel-Finer, director of athletic training services. “If your season is ending before New Year’s you’ll get the holidays off. Right when you come back they’re training all the way through spring semester, for some sports all the way through the summer.”

Students athlete have to learn to balance their time to ensure they will finish their school work, but their dedication to their sport encroaches on that time.

“I absolutely think it’s … my burnout (affecting) things like my senior project … it’s become a mental road block I have to face every day,” senior kinesiology major Mason Fox said. “I have to come to practice and flip a switch and forget about doing my senior project … and it’s becoming harder and harder.”

“Burnout in Athletes,” a 2016 report by Timothy Neal, assistant professor and clinical education at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan, defined burnout as a combination of physical and emotional exhaustion, due to chronic stress of sports or activities without providing proper opportunity to rest and recover.

“(Some) athletes self-induce their burnout with personal motivation for success. (And)burnout may be the triggering mechanism in developing or exacerbating a mental health disorder that negatively impacts the athlete’s life and relationships,” Neal’s report, posted on the National Athletic Trainers’ Association website, found.

“There really is no off-season,” said water polo head coach Pat Beemer. “You play for four years regardless of the college competitive season you’re still training.”

There are, however, tactics that can help anyone fight burnout on a day to day basis.

Strength and conditioning graduate assistant Isaiah Gueits said maintaining a regular sleep schedule and a healthy diet, along with staying hydrated, are the keys to replenishing your body and managing the stress of the intense student-athlete schedule.

Whether it is food, water or sleep, it all helps fight burnout.

“We preach (this) to the athletes,” Gueits said. “You get the most of your recovery … if it’s muscle stress, whatever it is; 99% of the time sleep is the best tool of recovery. Diet also aids with that.”

Some student athletes say they have availed themselves of services such as tutoring at the Academic Success Center, or just meeting with professors during office hours to help alleviate the sports-school stress they sometime feel.

Experts say it is important for athletes and their coaches to recognize the signs of burnout in college athletes.

According to the report “Burnout in Athletes,” those signs include chronic fatigue, elevated blood pressure, trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, irritability, and an increase of anxiety and depression due to falling short of sports demands.

“I think athletes have to be proactive about their health, specifically with athletic training (and) sleeping, hydrating and eating,” Beemer said.

“Any potential nagging injuries can be pre-habbed. And any actual injuries can be rehabbed,”Beemer added.

Being aware of your mental and physical health and what more you need to be at 100% is the biggest factor to living out a healthy life, the experts say.

“The hardest thing is finding the days off, taking advantage of the day off,” Engel-Finer said. “Hopefully it’s a day you don’t have school (and) you can shut off your brain a little bit and be an individual… Be who you are to find a hobby.”

Rex Sample can be reached at rex.sample@laverne.edu.

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