Toward a Cognitive-Affective Model of Athletic Burnout

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Ronald E. Smith University of Washington

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Although athletic burnout is a frequent topic of discussion and speculation, little in the way of a conceptual model or empirical data currently exists. An attempt is made to incorporate what is known about the nature, causes, and consequences of burnout within a cognitive-affective model of stress and to note the parallel situational, cognitive, physiologic, and behavioral components of stress and burnout. Thibaut and Kelley's social exchange model is used to define the conditions under which withdrawal from a sport can be attributed to burnout. Empirical findings concerning the causes and consequences of burnout derived from nonathletic populations are incorporated within the athletic burnout model, and its implications for preventing and coping with burnout are discussed. A number of conceptual and methodological issues are discussed, including operationalizing and measuring athletic burnout, the need for epidemiological research, and the assessment of causal and moderator variables. Based upon the literature on burnout in nonsport environments and the literature on sources and consequences of athletic stress, a number of testable hypotheses are advanced.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Ronald E. Smith, Dept. of Psychology, NI-25, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195.

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