If you find yourself dreaming about a future as a professional athlete, you might wonder what it takes to get there. While learning the facts may burst your bubble, a passion for athletics can lead to many rewarding goals.
What does it mean to be a professional athlete?
Professional means that you are paid to participate in the sport. Not all sports offer opportunities to make a living at playing them. In general, sports that pay athletes to go pro include team sports like football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, and individual sports including tennis, golf, boxing, ice skating, skiing, driving stock cars, and riding in the rodeo circuit.
Several criteria are typical of professional athletes. As a rule, they:
- Are extremely motivated
- Train consistently for hundreds and even thousands of hours
- Continuously learn skills and improve on their own initiative
- Possess enormous, well-founded, confidence in their abilities
- Are resilient in the face of defeat and loss
How do pro athletes get started?
Most start early in life and spend hours each day practicing their activity. Many attend college to develop their athletic and life management skills and learn about other subjects to support them if going pro doesn’t work out, or they need additional income to pay the bills. Division 1 and 2 colleges and universities offer athletic scholarships to outstanding prospects, covering some or all of these students’ college costs in exchange for their sports participation.
What are the odds of getting to pro leagues?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association maintains statistics on players who move from high school sports to college, and from college to professional leagues. For example, here are recent yearly odds on making it in basketball:
- Total number of high school players: 438,933
- Number who make it to the pros: 255
- Odds of making it to the pros: 13,717 to 1
- Total number of high school players: 545,844
- Number who make it to the pros: 48
- Odds of making it to the pros: 11,372 t0 1
How hard is it?
Pro athletes carry a lot of expectations from their sponsors, coaches, teammates, and the public. They need to maintain top condition year-round and be at their peak all the time. There is both physical and mental stress from competing, including the risk of injuries.
Public appearances, diet and exercise restrictions, travel requirements, rigorous practice and study to improve technique and performance – are all part of the life of a professional athlete.
Consider a back-up plan
If sports are your passion but going pro is not in the cards for you, there are many other sports-related careers to consider. Learn about different sports-related careers by following links on the following job titles, then select your state: coach or scout, ticket sales manager, sports writer, physical education teacher, athletic trainer, sports equipment designer, umpire or referee, general manager, team owner, fitness instructor, gym manager and public relations specialist.
There are also powerful lessons that you can gain from participating in sports, that will contribute to your success in any career. For example:
- How to accept criticism
- How to accept loss
- Teamwork / cooperation
Find more details on being a professional athlete, check out CareerOneStop’s Occupation Profile for Athletes and Sports Competitors. Select your state and click “continue”.