Authors: Donna Webster Nelson, Merry J. Sleigh, & Alyssa M. Nelson
Donna Webster Nelson, Ph.D.
801 Oakland Avenue
Rock Hill SC, 29733
Positive and Negative Events Predict Burnout and Engagement in Athletes and Non-Athletes
The researchers compared predictors of engagement and burnout in adolescent athletes and non-athletes by focusing on daily positive and negative performance-related events (e.g., performing well in team practice) and interpersonal events (e.g., sharing a laugh with teammates). Participants were recent high school graduates who retrospectively reported participation in high school sports or heavy investment in alternate activities (e.g., marching band). The athletes and non-athletes were similar in how many hours they practiced and competed each week, frequency of activity-related travel, and performance level. In addition, the two groups did not differ in the extent to which their high school identity and self-esteem were based on their participation. Results revealed no overall differences between the two groups on engagement or burnout. For both groups, positive performance events predicted activity engagement (characterized by dedication, vigor and enthusiasm). However, the experiences of athletes versus non-athletes differentially predicted burnout (marked by emotional and physical exhaustion). In athletes, burnout related to both performance and interpersonal events. In non-athletes, burnout was only related to performance events. In addition, burnout was positively associated with coach focus on winning (a situation more common for athletes) and negatively associated with coach focus on fun (a situation more common for non-athletes). These findings indicate that experiencing positive and negative events is a precursor for engagement and burnout in high school athletes and non-athletes. Promoting positive (relative to negative) events during training, practice, competitions or performances could enhance benefits and prevent maladaptive outcomes of participation in extracurricular activities. Positive social interactions may be particularly important for preventing burnout in adolescent athletes.(more…)