It’s not just players who suffer from burn-out in GAA

Sep 30, 13 It’s not just players who suffer from burn-out in GAA

I have been looking for a good write up on burnout in GAA for players and managers over the last while and I came across this great piece that was wrote for “The Southern Start, A paper based in Cork. It doesn’t indicate who the author is but it gives a exceptional insight in to what is happening to players and managers all over Ireland.


Here it is (Their is a link to the write up, and Southern Star Paper at the bottom of the page)

WHAT is burn-out and how do you recognise the symptoms? Does it refer to players only or can mentors and club officers also suffer from it? What should you do when it does strike?

These questions have struck me forcibly in recent weeks, as I watch players trying to serve so many masters, and as I have found myself getting more and more narky with the players under my care and with fellow selectors.

I spoke to a young player recently who had been a member of the Cork minor panel for the last few months, as well as being involved with various club and school teams, in both football and hurling.

Everybody who watched him playing said the same thing, he was burned out and not playing anywhere near his potential.

The result was that he was dropped from the Cork minor squad, becoming a member of the extended panel.

These players are in no-man’s land. They are expected to give the same training commitment as the full panel members but, realistically, have little chance of ever making the team.

If they are the full 18, what is the point? If they are only 17, then they at least have a chance to make the team next season.

Anyway, this particular player was withdrawn from the extended panel by his father, who saw little point in what was happening.

It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened the young lad.

Free from the commitment of Cork minor training, he got much more rest time between games and is now flying again, back to his best form. So much so that the minor selectors have again come hunting him.

There are many more young lads like him, burned out because of the over-zealousness of selectors, who think that the more time spent training the better chance of success.

That is far from true, as it should be quality and not quantity that really counts. Should this player return to the Cork minor squad he will be in grave danger of going down the same burn-out road again.

Surely, some effort must be made to protect these young 17 and 18 year olds? These young lads are usually in transition, fifth year or Leaving Cert. They are still living at home, too available to every selector who is struggling to get a team together.

The married guy, the guy with a new job, even the third level guy is often unavailable for selection for various reason but not so the young student. He is always around, always available and over-used as a result.

Should 17 year olds be banned from adult grades, confined to minor and U21 as well as college games?

Would this, however, protect them from the over-demands of inter-county selectors?

If they were banned from adult grades, as president Liam O’Neill proposes, and they had some spare time on their hands, would that stop them from playing soccer or rugby?

"Mentor burn-out, too much being loaded on the shoulders of too few, is just as common as player burn-out " - Picture by

“Mentor burn-out, too much being loaded on the shoulders of too few, is just as common as player burn-out ” – Picture by


Remember our most talented young players are good at every sport and in demand by all.

Should there be a strict guideline, a limit on the amount of training and games these players can undertake each week? Who would monitor this? If that was introduced, which would suffer most, the club or the county? The club team of course.

While the young 17-year old is being burned out, the very opposite is the case for many of the older players who aren’t quite good enough to make the club’s first team.

Second teams are often tolerated in clubs, rarely promoted properly and it is often impossible to find mentors to take them on.

These players are often lucky to get a dozen games in the year. Can we truly deny that the GAA is an elitist organisation in many ways?

But let’s return to the burn-out aspect. When a mentor becomes involved in a number of teams because nobody else will do the job and when he really loses the enjoyment factor and comes home from most training sessions and matches in a grumpy mood, is that not mentor burn-out?

Trying to serve too many masters, with little support or interest from parents or the club. Often being left on his own with the team for training sessions and often with less than a dozen players turning up.

Trying to organise everything from jerseys to transport to laying out the pitch, notifying players, looking after the team lists, notifying the referees of changes, obliging other teams by changing fixtures. It all falls on his shoulders, not with just one team but with several.

When a potentially good team begins to lose interest and excuses flow in for not attending training, or when no excuse comes for missing a match, that is the straw that really breaks the camel’s back.

Mentor burn-out, too much being loaded on the shoulders of too few, is just as common as player burn-out. What should such a mentor do?

The enjoyment is gone, the satisfaction in a job well done replaced with frustration and anger. Is it not time to pull up the pegs then, fold the tent and walk away?

But how can you walk away from the handful of players who are really committed, who deserve better than to be left with no team, no mentors?

It’s happening in every club in the country and nothing is being said or done about it.

It’s not inter-county stuff, not high-profile, just basic club teams and basic club mentors. Less and less volunteers every year, more work for the dedicated few.

When a burned-out player pulls out it usually only affects himself and maybe his team-mates for a while, when a mentor pulls out it can often affect numerous teams and players, not an easy thing to do.

But what use is a mentor who derives little satisfaction or enjoyment from his teams?

If other mentors are available to run the teams, then that mentor should definitely take a break but if nobody else will take the team, what then? Nobody in the association, at any level, is irreplaceable but sometime the replacements are very slow to step forward. Instead of always talking about rules and changes in our games, maybe some time should be set aside to discuss the very people who make out games possible, the players and the mentors.

Here is a link to the write up and publishing papers page –

Thanks to all whom were involved in making this write up come to life.

Enjoy and happy reading,