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Sport & Recreation careers

Professional Athlete

Why be a professional athlete?

At some point during your life, you’ve probably dreamt about becoming a professional athlete. Perhaps you’ve imagined performing in front of adoring crowds, taking home medals and basking in the glory of victory, whether you thought about being a gymnast, an ice-skater, a rugby player, a footballer, a dancer or a chess player.

Professional athletes make their living by playing sports. These guys are literally at the top of their game, especially when you consider the huge number of amateur sports players in comparison to the amount of professionals.

How do I become a professional athlete?

In most cases, professional sportspeople start competing from a young age and typically outperform their classmates. Becoming a professional athlete requires sustained commitment to your sport for many years and an unrelenting desire to be the best.

In many cases, amateurs turn professional between the ages of 15 and 18, although there are plenty of exceptions to this rule. For example, Ian Wright, the former Arsenal striker, didn’t become a professional footballer until he was 21.

Sometimes you might have to make a difficult choice between choosing to continue your education and pursuing your aspirations as a sportsperson. You can, of course, revisit your studies at a later time, but this is something to be considered on a circumstantial basis.

In many cases, professional athletes have limited careers in terms of longevity. The vast majority of professionals do not have playing careers that exceed 20 years. However, this is not always the case, and it depends on the physical demands of the sport you choose to pursue. For example, there are many golfers who are well into their sixties and still play professionally.

Professional athletes face a number of additional pressures too. There can be a lot of disappointment and frustration. You have to be able to perform on demand, you need to maintain your fitness and you will be constantly assessed and criticised. Of course, there are many advantages too, such as high earnings and worldwide recognition.

What does it take to be a professional athlete?

Drive and self-motivation are very important for a professional athlete. The rewards can be immense and becoming a professional sportsperson is a dream come true for many people.

The pressure and temptations that a large salary and fame can bring may be difficult to manage, especially at a relatively young age. It can also be difficult to cope with the fact that every action you make during a game, and throughout your private life, may be publically discussed.

You need to be strong-minded and prepared for setbacks, such as injury or poor performance at vital times. You need to be able to prepare for a future where fame and fortune can be short-lived, so being able to re-invent yourself and push your career in new directions should be a consideration of yours.

So if you think you could be the next David Haye, David Beckham or David Weir (honestly, you don’t need to be called David, but there’s a spooky correlation here), then go for it! Go pro!