At this point the excitement of a new season may be fading, seasons are starting to be defined as potential championship runs or as a rebuilding year, and you are trying to keep your athletes motivated to play at their personal best as both a team and as individuals.

I call this "The Grind."

No matter how passionate you are about coaching or how much your athletes love playing, the long hours are catching up to everyone and maintaining a fun, energetic and exciting environment is a much bigger challenge than teaching the newest X’s and O’s in preparation for your next opponent.

"The Grind" can contribute to athletes burning out and potentially dropping out of the sport altogether.

Do any of these signs of burnout look familiar?

  • Tension
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Decreased energy level
  • Problems sleeping
  • Increased occurrence of illness
  • Inconsistent performance

It’s okay if you see these symptoms among your athletes and maybe even yourself. It’s to be expected with the time and commitment involved in playing a sport. What you do to combat the signs is what will make the difference in getting you and your team through the grind of a season. Here are four suggestions.

1. Take time off!

Think of it as a mental health day. Players and coaches at all levels need some time away from the game. One extra day off during the week will actually benefit you and your team. Even better is if you can schedule it for a Monday or Friday, so it becomes an extended weekend rest. It gives the coach time to be mom or dad, husband or wife, etc., and put the team aside for a minute. The extra day off gives athletes’ bodies time to heal and their minds time to recharge and come back to practice excited again.

2. Remember why kids play

Do kids play sports to have fun or win? Sure winning is fun, but ask yourself: Are my players having fun? If the answer is no, it might be time to re-analyze your coaching philosophy.

3. Mix it up

Lacrosse practice doesn’t have to be all lacrosse, all the time. For example, play team handball one day when you notice your team is in a lull. It contains many similarities to lacrosse strategy and is a great hidden conditioning exercise. It’s also a good idea to vary your drills so that practice doesn’t become a predictable routine.

4. Think positive

Emphasize positive thoughts about each athlete’s value and role, which is vital to your team’s success.

TJ Buchanan is the coaching education content manager at US Lacrosse. Suggest topics for future coaching blog posts in the comments section.

Coaching Education

Find sample practice plans and more US Lacrosse coaching resources to help you get through ‘The Grind.’