Sterling ‘could be burning out’

Published: Monday 13th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Raheem Sterling “could be displaying some of the early signs of burnout”, according to a leading academic researching the field.

Dr Andrew Hill believes the Liverpool teenager’s complaints of tiredness on England duty could be linked to stress caused by fast-rising demands at both club and country.

England boss Roy Hodgson left Sterling on the bench for Sunday night’s unconvincing Euro 2016 qualifying victory in Estonia after the 19-year-old admitted to fatigue in training.

Hodgson has been criticised for his handling of the matter, with some suggesting he had given in to Liverpool following the controversy over Daniel Sturridge’s injury on international duty last month and other observers arguing that he should have kept Sterling’s admission private and given another reason for his absence.

York St John University lecturer Dr Hill conducts extensive research into the relationship between chronic stress-induced burnout and the drive for perfection, across sport and other areas of work and study.

The former Leeds University academic believes the impact of Sterling’s rapid rise to international acclaim – as well as “external pressures” – could already be taking a toll.

“He could be displaying some of the early signs of burnout,” Dr Hill told Press Association Sport.

“Burnout is something we consider far more psychologically-driven than anything physiological.

“That doesn’t mean they are not correlated, but we really understand it to be a psychological, stress-driven condition.

“It is the psychological toll that drives burnout.

“External pressures are a very big predictor of burnout, associated with stress, because you don’t have any control over those standards.

“You can’t control what other people are expecting of you. So that links to the chronic accrual of stress, which speaks directly to burnout.

“Everyone gets stressed, but not everyone burns out – it’s the people that can’t cope with that stress who burn out, and over time it accrues and weighs heavy on them.”

Sterling has come in for outside criticism following Hodgson’s revelations on his tiredness, with the likes of former England striker Stan Collymore suggesting it is too early in the season for professionals to be asking for rests.

Captain Wayne Rooney’s free-kick goal guided England to their third-straight Euro 2016 qualifying victory, with Sterling employed from the bench in the second half.

Dr Hill suggests Sterling’s request to be rested could indicate the early shoots of troubles with adjusting to the twin demands of both Premier League and international football.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers made no secret of his frustrations with England when striker Sturridge returned to Anfield with a thigh injury suffered in training.

Anfield bosses wanted Sturridge to sit out the session where he picked up the injury.

Dr Hill said many top sports stars display perfectionist tendencies, where outside expectation can weigh increasingly heavy.

Should Sterling find himself pulled in different directions by Liverpool and England, the stress could then rise, Dr Hill explained.

“Perfectionism at its core really is about either expecting lots from yourself or perceiving that other people are expecting a lot from you,” said Dr Hill.

“Those two things in combination really is very stressful.

“You can lower the standards for yourself, but perfectionists don’t.

“The perception of pressure is something you can’t do anything about: you just have to learn to cope with that.

“Coaches can create environments that downplay those expectations and help players understand the positive elements.

“It seems the management team has been responsive, either with or without collaboration from Liverpool.

“But certainly they have included the player in that decision-making, now that’s got to be positive for the long term.”

Published: Monday 13th October 2014 by The News Editor

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