Lots of kids dream of being professional athletes. They’ve seen the fame and fortune that star players receive and it looks appealing. If you ask a 12-year-old boy if he’d rather work in a factory, work in an office, or be a professional basketball or football player, chances are he’s going to choose to be the sports professional. But how likely is it that a person can become a professional athlete? How many jobs are there? What does it really pay?

The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes statistics related to numerous occupations, including professional athletics. According to the BLS:

  • Professional athletic careers include baseball, football, basketball, and tennis players, as well as golfers, ice skaters, skiers, stock car drivers, and rodeo riders. Also included is anyone who plays a sport for money.
  • In 2008, there were about 16,500 professional athlete jobs; the average annual wage was $79,460. The pay ranges widely, from superstars who receive millions to players in minor leagues who receive relatively low pay.
  • Professional athletes are similar to performers or entertainers in that they are paid to entertain an audience. If they don’t perform well, they won’t last long in the profession.
  • The work of a professional athlete is extremely demanding and includes both mental and physical stress. While a sport’s season may be relatively short, most professional athletes condition and practice year-round.
  • Professional athletes must contend with the constant possibility of a career-ending injury.

Children or young men and women who aspire to become professional athletes are best served by setting this goal early and working towards it from a young age. Most professional athletes compete in their sport in high school and college. Playing and practicing at every opportunity can only help to improve a person’s skills and abilities.

Participation in college sports usually requires adequate academic performance in addition to sports skill; therefore, would-be pro athletes should maintain good grades in school.

Brian Mitchell grew up in a small town in Louisiana and set his sights on becoming a professional athlete. Drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1990, he went on to hold a 14-year career in the NFL and is second in the NFL’s all-time record books with over 23,000 combined return, rushing, and receiving yards.

Today, Mitchell has a successful career in radio and television. He also presents to groups of aspiring athletes, current pros, retired athletes, and more about goal setting, teamwork, and other keys to success. If you’d like to talk with Mitchell about a presentation for your group, email him at [email protected] or by phone at 703-688-2399.

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