So you’ve got a talented athlete in the family and you’re banking on them becoming a rich and famous professional athlete. This is a wonderful dream to have, and congratulations on your extremely talented child! However for most people, as in 99% of people, this really is just a dream.
Because professional athletes are the most elite of the elite and competition is fierce with thousands of people competing for essentially a handful of careers, typically only the top 1% of athletes in any given field will be accepted into a professional athletic career and see any playtime.
The NCAA released a report of statistical probabilities in 2012 stating the chances of a high school athlete becoming a professional athlete in a number of sports. Most professional athletes, depending on the sport, are required to complete a certain amount of college education, and the most professional athletes have taken the path after they completed a successful college career in their sport.
This NCAA survey looked into six major sports including football, basketball, baseball, women’s basketball, hockey and soccer. Every sport except for baseball rated the chances of transitioning from college to pro were less than 2%. And baseball was an extremely high rate of success in comparison to other sports, coming in at 11.6% of college baseball players playing in the Major Leagues.
The overall statistics from the NCAA say that only 1.7% of college football players and only .08% of high school players get to compete at any professional level. For the sport of hockey, only 1.3% of college players and .1% of high school players compete professionally. As far as basketball, only 1.2% of male and .9% of female college players go pro and only .03% of either sex high school players go pro. Soccer has a 1% rate of college players moving on, and .04% of high school players make it professionally.
In addition to pure talent and diligent practicing, many factors come into play when it comes to breaking into professional sports. Financial background can come into play when someone is able to hire a personal coach or trainer and get private lessons over someone who does not have the financial means to do that.
Injuries can affect not only someone’s ability to play their sport, but also the timing of the injury and recovery is crucial. If an athlete does not have time to heal from an injury before a professional scout comes to check them out, they obviously are not being scouted at their best. Whether injured or not, if an athlete has a bad outing in front of a scout, their future is potentially over. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you have one bad performance in front of the people who potentially control your future, it’s difficult to get a do-over performance.
Practice may not always make perfect, but it certainly can go a long way towards muscle memory. The more an athlete can practice their craft, the more easily the sport will come to them when it matters. Athletes who are able to spend more time practicing are more likely able to perform when it really matters.
Even if a young athlete is not on a track to turn professional, the benefits they gain from being a part of organized sports are many. Part of being a team is great for emotional and social needs, the exercise they get is great for their health, and the moral development they receive from their peers and coaching staff can help keep them from getting involved in negative or harmful activities.
The reality of becoming a successful professional athlete is a pretty small window, but that shouldn’t prohibit dreams and aspirations. Dreams do come true, and the 1% to 2% of athletes that make it professionally come from somewhere. Keep a positive attitude, keep practicing and if you do make it professionally, know that you are definitely in an elite group of athletes no matter what sport you play.