A lot of people believe that most elite athletes began training for their sport at a young age. But, that’s simply not true.
While you have athletes like Tiger Woods, Serena Williams and Michael Phelps, who began perfecting their craft at an early age…t here’s also athletes like Hakeem Olajuwon, Tom Brady and Tim Duncan, who excelled in their sport despite starting at a later age.
It’s interesting to compare and contrast the two different types of athletes.
For the athletes who’ve trained tirelessly and competed in their sport for a long time, their can face physical and mental challenges that contribute to burnout.
According to the NCAA burnout is “..often regarded as the endpoint of this breakdown process and is characterized by the absence of motivation as well as complete mental and physical exhaustion…What leads to burnout is too much training stress coupled with too little recovery.”
Some of the world’s top athletes have fallen victim to burnout. Williams, one of the greatest female athletes to ever set foot on a court, has said before how she’s grown tired of tennis.
Williams began intensive tennis training at the tender age of three.
“I mean, I don’t love tennis today, but I’m here, and I can’t live without it. So I’m here and don’t want to go anywhere anytime soon… It’s not that I’ve fallen out of love; I’ve actually never liked sports, and I never understood how I became an athlete. I don’t like working out, I don’t like anything that has to do with working physically… Anything that involves sitting down or shopping I am excellent at that,” Williams said in a 2012 press conference.
While the early beginners enjoy long careers, so do the late starters and burnout isn’t much an issue.
Even at the age of 40, Tom Brady, who didn’t begin playing football until his freshman year in high school, is still slinging the rock…and enjoying it.
In fact, he’s still dominating and helping the New England Patriots win. The quarterback, helped the Pats to a Super Bowl appearance this past season.
Brady’s longevity in the NFL can be contributed to a very short list of injuries he’s had to deal with.
He did miss the 2008 season after tearing his ACL during the Patriots’ season opener. Besides blowing out his knee, he’s only had four reported injuries during his career and none of them have caused them to miss games.
There’s no doubt Brady spends a lot of time and money taking care of his body, but then you have younger athletes from Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving, who can’t seem to shake the injury bug.
Interesting enough, Rose, Curry and Irving began playing basketball at an early age and even specialized in the sport, competing with AAU travel teams.
Fast forward to the 2017 NBA season they’ve all faced injury this year. Rose has even considered early retirement with his constant injuries taking a toll on him physically and mentally.
According to ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, the 2010 NBA MVP said, “He’s tired of being hurt and it’s taking a toll on him mentally.”
While Curry and Irving aren’t thinking retirement anytime soon, they’re still on the road to recovery while their teams the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics, respectively compete in the playoffs.
Irving is recovering from a second knee surgery and Curry with an MCL sprain.
With the mental and physical strains competitive sports takes on a body over the years, it appears as if starting sports later and not specializing in one thing, may be the way to go.