Issues that are a “Rising in Sports” Anxiety & Burnout (Part 2)

Posted: December 19, 2013 in Thinking Corner
Tags: , ,

In part 1 ( we spoke about Depression and Gambling among some high profile sporting heroes and offered some good tips  on how to deal with these issues. The blog was met with loads of positive comments and emails from some people who have suffered from these issues or reaching out for help. In our next instalment we talk about Anxiety and player burnout, so let us know what you think and If you have anything you would like us to write about then get in touch. 


I once heard a quote that

 Depression is living in the past while Anxiety is living too far in the future, and to reduce these crippling feelings you need to place yourself somewhere in the middle as much as possible

Anxiety is a concept that is widely a big part of everyday performers and coaches. It is important that people involved in sports performance and any role in sport need to be aware of anxiety related symptoms.

Jonny Wilkilson has  indicated he has suffered from anxiety from a very young age how at times he can’t sleep before games due to anxiety, nor after if his performance has dropped short of his own sky-high expectation.

Nerves, anxiety, anticipation ………… sink or swim. No matter how long I play for, I`ve learned that these feelings never go away before a game. But now, nor would I want them to. I`ve come to realise that it`s how you interpret and use these feelings that matters the most”  

 Jonny Wilkinson at  behind the scenes at

RTE rugby pundit Brent Pope has been a huge campaigner from mental health issues in Ireland and around the world as he himself has suffered years of “Anxiety and Panic Attacks”

As part of Ireland AM’s “A Time To Talk Campaign, Sinead Desmond spoke to Brent about his mental health issues and what he’s done to overcome them .

Brent still works with charities, spreading awareness of depression and anxiety continues to say

I want to say, ‘it’s ok not to be ok.’ In the past, I’ve hidden it away. In 1991, before I came to Ireland, I was at an all-time low. I needed help. I locked myself away for six months. In the rugby world, there was no-one to reach out to.

Writing it in my book, If You Really Knew Me, and talking about it, was part of coming to an acceptance of it. I’ve had to stop running away from it. I’ve spent years resisting anxiety, but now I accept it. I identify it, then let it wash overme.

Another former Sports Player and once member of music band, the Blizzards, Bressie had played GAA for West Meath, and rugby for Leinster but behind his very popular and confident profile Bressie realised his anxiety was not new and it`s something that he has had for a very long time.

 ”Talking to Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show , Bressie expalins when his anxiety started and what he has done to conquer the crippling disease”

Burnout –

While there is no one universally accepted definition of burnout, However (Daniel G & Whitley MA, 3013) have identify athlete burnout as a physical, emotional, and social withdrawal from a formerly enjoyable sport activity. This withdrawal is characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion, reduced sense of accomplishment, and sport devaluation, often occurring as a result of chronic stress and motivational changes in the athlete.

In this video, Bo Hanson  who in 1992, at just 18, became Australia’s youngest rower to compete at the Olympics.  Bo went on to win bronze medals at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. Here Bo looks at research into the leading causes of burnout amongst athletes (which is often a surprise to many). He also shares some key issues for Generation Y athletes. 

However it`s important to note that burnout is not just something that can affect athletes but can effect anyone within a sporting role exspecially “Coaches”.  A study by Angela Calder, University of Canberra and published by the Australian Sports Commission showed that  like elite athletes, many professional coaches undertake large physical workloads and experience considerable psychological stresses over many years. The long-term effects of such stress on athletes have been researched extensively and appropriate recovery and management strategies have been identified for them but few reports have examined the effects of these stresses for coaches. The limited research that does exist focuses almost exclusively on the causes and identification of burnout (Kelley, Eklund and Ritter-Taylor 1999; Raedeke, Granzyk and Warren 2000) with little or no consideration given to overuse and overtraining problems that coaches also experience. The latter reports provide no recommendations of how coaches can maintain their multidimensional roles with minimum risk to their physical and psychological however the basic recovery strategies that coaches teach to their athletes are the same that they should use for themselves: Practise What You Preach.

The study discussed that Coaches are time poor and that Tennis coaches are a typical example of this scenario. They have three major roles — coaching tennis, managing a business and a private family life. One of the major causes of excessive stress for coaches is being ‘time poor’. They lack sufficient time to undertake the massive number of tasks required to fulfil their primary roles (Lazarus 1990). Balancing commitments to all these roles requires exceptional planning and management skills. The best way to minimise the impact of excessive stress is to plan ahead and identity all commitments including appropriate recovery strategies for every day.

The early signs of "Burnout" from the GAA Games Development Conferences 2007

The early signs of “Burnout” from the GAA Games Development Conferences 2007

Burnout Symptoms from the GAA Early Games Development Conference 20007

Burnout Symptoms from the GAA Early Games Development Conference 20007

Thanks to John O`Neill of for the guest blog.

John can be contacted at regarding any matters about this blog if you need any advice or help regarding issues of Depression, Anxiety, Burnout, Injury, Gambling our Retirement in sport please get in touch and I will do my very best to get back to you as quickly as possible with productive information. I just really hope you enjoy the aspects and reasons behind such a site.

You can also send us an email if you wish to discuss anything.

Don’t suffer in silence

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s