Wearing their chains willingly: Athlete burnout and the case of adolescent Gaelic footballers in Ireland

Lynette Hughes, David Hassan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this article is to challenge the widespread acceptance of player burnout as an athlete’s personal inability to deal with the situational demands of sporting competition. Adapting Coakley’s earlier assertion that burnout is ‘a social problem rooted in the social organization of high performance sport itself’, the interactions between Gaelic athletes and the social world in which they exist are unpacked within an Irish context. Linking findings to Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, ‘dominant power relations’ within the competitive sport setting are identified and critically analysed. It is argued that Gaelic players are exploited within a competitive culture in which they feel entrapped, because their actions are informed by the cultural norms of the Gaelic Athletic Association, the sport’s National Governing Body, and dependent upon relationships with coaches and others in positions of authority in the federation. As such, Gaelic footballers are not voluntary agents, somehow acting independently of the constraints of the complex structures in which they compete. Instead, and aware of the often very intricate interdependencies that exist within the sport, it is argued that player burnout in Gaelic football is best explained through the deployment of a Coakley’s ‘vocabulary of empowerment’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-857
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number7
Early online date3 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Nov 2017


  • Athlete burnout
  • GAA
  • Ireland
  • Gaelic games
  • Gramsci
  • player burnout
  • power relationships


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