When you dream of becoming a professional athlete, you might think you have to be incredibly talented. While talent is certainly a factor, you will also need to know how to become a professional athlete.
For many pro athletes, college is the path they take. They play NCAA Division One sports and end up drafted into a professional league. Some will have to try out or play in a lower-level professional league, if they cannot make it into the majors, such as the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, or MLS.
There are many different sports you can play as a professional athlete. While basketball, baseball, football, soccer, hockey, tennis, and golf tend to be the most televised, there are many others. Let’s look at the sports you can play as a professional athlete, some of the leagues around the world, and the steps to becoming a professional athlete.
Sports for Professional Athletes
There are many different sports you can play as a professional athlete. Some of the most common might not be the right sports for you. Of course, everybody knows about baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, golf, tennis, and football. Here are some of the many others.
- Auto Racing
- Australian Rules Football
- Disc Golf
- Horse Racing
- Bull Riding
- Ultimate Frisbee
- Track and Field
- Distance Running
- Base Jumping
- Martial Arts
- Dog Racing
- Drone Racing
- Figure Skating
- Speed Skating
- Jai Alai
- Knife Throwing
- Miniature Golf
- Motorcycle Racing
- Dirt Bike Racing
- And more!
There are hundreds of sports professional athletes can choose to play in.
Professional Sports Leagues Around the World
Not all professional sports are the same. Finding the right league makes a difference for a professional athlete. There are many leagues you can play in as a professional athlete, depending on your sports.
Some of the professional sports leagues found around the world include:
- National Football League
- Major League Baseball League
- National Basketball Association
- National Hockey League
- Major League Soccer
- Professional Golf Association
- Canadian Football League
- National Lacrosse League
- Major League Rugby
- North American Ruby League
- Premier Lacrosse League
- Indoor Football League
- Major League Cricket
- National Pro Fastpitch
- Professional Bowlers Association
- World Cricket League
- Major League Cricket
- World Curling Tour
- National Bicycle League
- World Snooker Tour
- Association of Tennis Professionals
- American Ultimate Disc League
Many other professional leagues are found throughout the world for different sports. It’s also common to find minor leagues under the major leagues in most sports.
How To Become a Professional Athlete in 4 Steps
Step #1 – Get the Right Mindset
While you certainly need talent to become a professional athlete, you also need the right mindset. Many professional athletes will spend years training to get to the peak of their abilities. You have to be willing and able to work hard every single day if you want to become a professional athlete.
Young athletes looking to go pro will need to stay motivated. It’s easy to become burnt out or to struggle with rejection. You will likely fall short of your goals, but you have to get back up and keep working hard.
Even highly talented athletes that make it to the top of their game can struggle. Negative feedback is a part of sports and remaining positive is necessary or you could fall from the top of your game very fast.
Step #2 – Work with Top Trainers
The best professional athletes tend to work with top trainers along the way. Whether in high school, college or even after college, the right trainer can make a bit difference.
You want a trainer that has a strong track record. Someone that can keep you motivated is the best choice. They should also know how to push you and develop your abilities.
Step #3 – Develop Your Core
Unless you plan to go into professional bowling or drone racing, you will need a strong core. Most sports require a strong core to perform at the top of the game. Make sure your training includes plenty of core work.
Step #4 – Get Your Nutrition Right
What you eat and drink will make a huge difference, too. You want to work with a professional nutritionist to make sure you’re fueling your body properly. The right calories and hydration can certainly help you push through workouts and train harder.
The steps to become a professional athlete are different for each person and sport. These are a few basic steps. The actual path you take will depend on what sport you play and which professional league you plan to play in.
Commonly Believed Myths About Becoming a Professional Athlete
It’s common for young athletes to fall for the following myths about becoming a professional athlete:
I will play all the time: Actually, many professional athletes spend most of their time training and very little time playing the sport. Even the top athletes might spend five days a week training for six or eight hours a day just to play once a week for a few hours. Plus, they may spend six to nine months of the year training only to actually perform for a few months during the actual season.
I will get drafted by a professional team: Most professional athletes won’t get drafted. They might get drafted in a minor league or end up playing in another. It’s common for professional athletes to never make it to the major league of their sport.
I will become rich as a professional athlete: Maybe, but it’s more likely you will earn a smaller, more common salary as a professional athlete. Those making it to the top of their game will likely become rich, but this is very difficult to do.
I will become famous: Most professional athletes never become famous. Even many playing at the highest level don’t become household names. While you might have heard of Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, or Joe Montana, you might not have any clue who the guys were on their offensive line, yet all of those men are professional athletes at the top of their game.
It’s important to keep things in perspective as it’s very difficult to become a professional athlete.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Professional Athlete
How much can I make as a professional athlete?
We have all heard the high salaries of those in the NFL, NBA, MLB, and other major sports leagues. However, the average salary for a professional athlete doesn’t come close to the millions of top athletes make.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for Athletes and Sports Competitors is $50,850. This may seem low, but you can get paid this type of salary and get to play the sport you love.
If you make it to a high level in your sport, you can earn quite a bit more. The minimum salary for some of the top sports leagues is found below (according to the18.com):
- NFL – $495,000 (practice squad $8,000 per week)
- MLB – $555,000
- NBA – $582,180
- MLS – $56,250
- NHL – $650,000
- NWSL – $16,538
While these may be the minimum salaries, the average salary can be far higher. For example, the average salary for those playing in the NBA is more than $8 million and in the MLB it’s more than $4 million, according to Statista.com.
What are the odds I will become a professional athlete?
It takes talent, determination, and an incredible work ethic to become a professional athlete. The chances you will get to play a sport as a career are very low. Only about 1% of the top 1% of athletes will go pro as their career. This is a very small amount. For many, the journey ends in high school or college.
How long will my career be, if I become a professional athlete?
The length of your career will depend on your sport. For example, the average career for all professional athletes is around ten years. However, if you play in the NFL, the average is just three years. Those playing professional golf may play for decades, however.
What can I do after retiring as a professional athlete?
You might have a college degree to fall back on, but if you want to stay in the sports industry, there are plenty of good careers you can enjoy. Many professional athletes go on to become coaches or scouts. You might also become a sports announcer or a sports reporter. It’s also common for professional athletes to become fitness trainers.
If you want to become a professional athlete, you certainly need the right talent. However, talent will only get you so far. You will also need the right mindset and an incredible work ethic.
The steps for how to become a professional athlete are not nearly as cut-and-dry as other career options. It will depend on your sport, your talent level, and how you prefer to go down this career path.