2.1.12

DOES BURNOUT EXIST?

The answer to my own question is almost certainly yes, it does, but with some qualifiers.

There’s been a lot more snooker of late and a lot more to come before the betfred.com World Championship in April.

You’ll hear talk of burnout and players too exhausted to seriously compete at the Crucible, but what is the actual evidence for this?

Last season John Higgins played in everything he could and was in such good form that he went all the way to a fourth world title.

Ronnie O’Sullivan opted out of quite a few events and was clearly rusty in the run-in to Sheffield.

OK, this is not the most scientific example. Higgins is a great player and could win the world title any year regardless of how much he has played. O’Sullivan was low on motivation and wanted out of the game for good.

However, if you are looking for a likely winner come May 7 surely a player who has been playing a great deal would be a better bet than someone who has been losing early?

Momentum is important in sport because it is linked to confidence. Mark Selby started the season with this very commodity. He won the Wuxi Classic and shortly afterwards the Paul Hunter Classic and then the Shanghai Masters.

But runs come to an end and Selby was a disappointment against Marco Fu at the recent UK Championship. The good news is that players experience peaks and troughs and I’m sure the world no.1 will get going again soon.

Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry were the dominant players of their respective eras and the more they played, the more they won. In Hendry’s case he won five successive ranking events during one particularly purple patch.

But when they weren’t playing in tournaments they were on the exhibition circuit making serious money and, in the case of Davis, conquering new horizons with his manager, Barry Hearn.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of Davis’s 147 at the 1982 Lada Classic, the first in professional competition.

He had in fact just returned from a round-the-world trip so tiring that he was falling asleep between matches.

Later that year he was signing copies of his book in a newsagent’s in Sheffield a few hours before playing Tony Knowles in the World Championship. We all know how that played out.

Hendry, like Davis, was no slouch but he was a young man and had the bloody-minded professionalism to grind it out, understanding that this was his time to cash in on his success. Not many players since have had that same attitude.

But it isn’t really the amount of snooker being played that could lead to burnout – the more you play, the tougher you should in theory be – it’s the travelling.

Flying back and forth to places like China does take a toll. I’m sure many people will feel this is part of sport and, frankly, tough if you don’t like it, but a long season of planes, trains and automobiles can be physically demanding, especially as the calendar isn’t structured like golf and tennis where events in a particular part of the world come one after another.

This year there will be two new ranking events in China, further increasing the air miles top players will rack up.

I know a few players who love all this, and they are the ones prospering, but there will come a time, particularly for older players, where the prospect of another flight, another hotel becomes irksome to the point where it will negatively affect mental attitude.

It’s easy to say they are only playing snooker but not true. They are also investing huge mental reserves into their profession and travelling here, there and everywhere to play.

So burnout is a risk but as more tournaments crop up, there will be more choice and players can better manage their schedules.

And I’d still back a player with momentum come the Crucible than those who have hardly played at all.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Higgins had played in everything he could but he hadn't played in most PTCs because he wasn't allowed to. Those events have an extremely punishing schedule and they come thick and fast all in the first half of the season, with half of them implying traveling outside UK. Mark Selby said at the start of this season that he had felt burnt out at the end of the previous one and that he would give some of them a miss in order to avoid the same situation this season. Neither him or Shaun Murphy - the two men who really did invest in the PTCs in 2010 - did well in Sheffield. Burn out exists and players need breaks in order to recharge their mental and emotional batteries. It might be a case of structuring the calendar correctly rather than anything else but they definitely need breaks. There is a balance to be found: they need to be match sharp, but they also need time to practice (one doesn't replace the other), time for their other duties (promotional work for the top boys) and time for themselves.

Michael said...

We have already had some cases of burnouts.

Anthony Hamilton for example played every event he could last season. After losing his qualifier match for the World Championship he wasn't motivated anymore. The result was that he wasn't interested in the PTC Final and he lost to Mark Williams without any resistance.

I think the players must have the possibility to leave out some events (maybe 1 of 5 tournaments). An Order of Merit would be a good step to this. If you have played some successful events, you would be higher in the ranking. Ranking points like today require too much constancy.

kildare cueman said...

The ranking system needs to be revisited. Obviously as snooker moves towards a 52 week circuit, no player will enter everything.

Reducing the points for the UK PTCs and other UK tournaments and increasing the tariff for new overseas events would allow top players to choose events, but also motivate them to play new events where their presence is needed.

Anonymous said...

i work long shifts, including night shifts.

i wish i played snooker for a living, and id NEVER complain of all the travelling.

you may think, "how can he be so sure?".

well, i am me. i am sure.

the player(s) who moans about all the events can just go and get a job manual labouring night shifts 20 miles from their home, travelling by bus, in the rain and snow, if they dont like flying to china.

wild said...

but a long season of planes, trains and automobiles can be physically demanding, especially as the calendar isn’t structured like golf and tennis where events in a particular part of the world come one after another.
-----------------------------------

Problem with that is some players will be then complaining i want to go home to change nappies its to long away from home.

just cant win.

Anonymous said...

does burnout exist?

quite hard to say

some players get fed up of certain things and want them to change to suit them.

some players want more and more of everything

one player wants to quit every few months

what will burnout one player would be fulfilling to another.

you cant please most of them and there are a select few, very few, who want to dictate what goes on.

Tim Sandle said...

Wasn't John Spencer's 147 in the Holsten Lager the first 147 in competition? The break was not recognised as the thrid official maximum because the pockets were not verified prior to the match taking place.

Davis' break became the third official maximum after Joe Davis and Rex Williams and the first of these three to be undertaken in a tournament (although both Joe Davis and Rex Williams made their breaks in competitive frames with referees present, these were exhibition matches).

Anonymous said...

1.26 ... Here here!

I love what Robertson said a few months back, when he won a ptc (I think); "with all the stuff that's going on in the world, how lucky are we to play snooker for a living?"

Players who call their situation 'burn out' are burnt out with themselves, not with snooker.