Athlete Burnout in Young Females

Emily Gehlsen '16

Emily Gehlsen ’16
Majors: Communication Studies, Spanish                           

Research Abstract

This study addresses some specific causes and effects of athlete burnout in Division III female athletes. It will ask specifically: What do female athletes at NCAA DIII schools reflect on as contributors and outcomes related to experiencing burnout in terms of communication, relationships, and body image? Using qualitative analysis of face-to-face interviews, this study sought to expand on our understanding of this question. Findings indicate that coach and parental involvement and relationships are a factor of athlete burnout. Additionally, distorted communication patterns and a skewed body image are common outcomes of athlete burnout.

Vested Interest in the Topic

After two years of playing soccer at Luther, I had a personal experience with athlete burnout. It led me to wonder if others had similar experiences. I focused my research on parental/coach involvement, communicative patterns, and body image/distortion. Listening to others’ experiences made me realize this is becoming a prominent issue in a society that glamorizes overworking ourselves. It’s also starting to happen at younger ages in more competitive sports. I decided that researching this topic could help reinforce positive values in athletics.

Making New Discoveries

I thought I would find parental involvement being a large attributor to burnout. Rather, I discovered that head coaching is a huge attribution to burnout experiences in females. I also found that there seems to be a management hierarchy with coaching. Most participants (all from a variety of colleges that affiliate with NCAA DIII) noted their head coaches influenced them negatively.

Project Challenges

It was difficult to hear some of the participants' experiences and stay objective. I have my own experience to compare to, and some of what they shared hit home for me. This project drove me to make a difference with this issue, but I know burnout will still continue to happen.

Why She Recommends Research to Others

Doing further research on this topic was rewarding. I also liked that this area of study was interactive and hands-on. Doing a project like this also teaches you important skills beyond academics. I learned a lot about time management, the rewards of hard work, and that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.