Dear Coach: My daughter is 15 and has been playing tennis since age seven. She recently quit the junior circuit because of burnout. Now she's not doing anything athletic, and I'm worried. What should I do?
Dear Lost: Diagnosing the reasons your daughter quit is the first step toward coaxing her back into sports. Daniel Gould, professor of exercise and sport science at UNC Greensboro, says three key factors contribute to burnout: physical stress, perfectionism and excessive pressure from parents and coaches. "Find the causes and eliminate those stressors," Gould says. "If she's physically overextended, reduce her hours. If you're making the stakes too high, find a less intense level for her." Recognize, however, that her interests simply may have changed from tennis to a nonathletic discipline.
Dear Coach: I'm a high school sophomore, and I have a choice to be either the starting first baseman on the junior varsity or second string on the varsity. Where am I better off?
Dear Backup: Put aside your ego and play jayvee. "Sitting on the bench is a vicarious experience," says Leonard Zaichkowsky, professor of sport psychology at Boston University. "Some learning does take place, but to improve you need playing time." Try to make up for the drop-off in quality by drilling with the varsity whenever possible. But when it's time to suit up, make sure you're on the field. "The competition will be weaker," says Zaichkowsky, "but the overriding factor is quality game time."