This past year has been quite a transition for Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) rookie of the year Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky. During her senior year at the University of Delaware, Elena led the women’s basketball team to their first ever appearance in the Sweet 16. Within the next four weeks, Elena was selected as the number two overall pick in the WNBA draft and began training with her new team, the Chicago Sky. In her first professional season, her team finished first in the Eastern Conference and advanced to the playoffs for first time in franchise history.
After making the jump into professional basketball right after her college season, Elena admitted that she struggled with fatigue. “I struggled the most just being a little bit tired especially by the end of the pro season. That was about a full year of basketball for me, so my body was pretty exhausted. Other than that though, mentally I was able to get through it. I had really great captains, kind of leading me through that, and warning me that the tiredness was going to come.” Although Elena described feeling exhausted at points during the season, it appears that she relied on the support of her teammates to get her through the season and avoid burnout.
Burnout is a term used to describe players feeling emotionally and physically drained due to excessive strenuous activity. If not recognized or addressed, burnout can lead to unhappiness, negative performance, and quitting the team or sport. You can prevent burnout by first recognizing the signs. Some signs include exhaustion (beyond normal tiredness or soreness that result from training), a lack of motivation, and feelings of loneliness. The majority of players experience moments when they lack motivation or feel fatigued, but if these signs develop into a pattern, it’s time to take action. One way to take action and avoid burnout is to schedule periods of relaxation throughout each week, allowing your body and mind to recover and reenergize. Also, reminding yourself the reasons why you are playing and why you want to improve can be an effective way to boost levels of motivation and drive and overcome periods of fatigue. In Elena’s case, her teammates played an important role in helping her overcome fatigue. Consider who your support system is. Whether it’s teammates, coaches, friends, or family, your support system can help you get through challenging situations or circumstances during the season. Like Elena, identifying the signs and developing strategies to cope can help you prevent burnout and reach your true potential on the field.