Going Pro in Sports…

there's a chanceResearch clearly shows that the chances of young athlete garnering a professional contract or competing in the Olympic Games are astronomically small. There are also injuries. So even the best of the best should not bank on an athletic career.

But my personal experience seems to indicate otherwise. I mean, I know many people who would say their sports has been good to them…


Only 10% of high school athletes will go on to play in college. I wonder how those responsible for this statistic define high school athlete. Do they include every person on the roster, many of whom are not all in? For example, a given high school track & field roster may have hundreds of athletes, with only about half of them seriously striving for excellence in their event rather than socializing or staying busy during the off season from their main sport.

Of those 10%, only 3% will play under a college scholarship. Again, I wonder if this number includes partial scholarships, work studies, grants, and other indirect breaks given to student-athletes. And a final stat to note: Of the 10% of high school athletes who will go on to play in college, only 1 to 2% will go “Major Pro.” I wonder if “Major Pro” includes those who go pro directly out of high school (extremely rare) or in an indirect route like through the minor leagues or international playing opportunities (fairly common).

Read for yourself. There are numerous credible sources and pieces of journalism on the topic, like THIS from the NCAA. Many of them lack the details that are likely provided in the original research documents. I don’t have time to filter through it all, but something seems a bit askew…

How is it that my next door neighbor is an Olympic caliber wrestler who already reaped the benefits of a scholarship to Harvard? I’ve worked with a family where two of three sisters obtained full D1 college soccer scholarships. Seven of the eleven baseball players who I trained last winter are seriously pursued by major colleges and universities, having issued verbal or actual commitments. In my small physical therapy office and tiny personal training studio basement, I’ve trained or rehabbed over twenty major professionals and national champions (DIII Volleyball and Soccer,  etc). I have three former professional athletes in my family.

2006_nacho_libreI highly doubt that this has anything to do with my own special geographical location or professional skill. More likely, the bottom line is that a lot of somebody’s from all over the country -do- have a shot. I would not argue that anyone should count on making it into the pros. Even playing in college demands tireless work and talent and much good fortune. But the odds may not be so steep for athletes and parents who sets their sites on a collegiate scholarship or other financial assistance.

According to the NCAA, those athletic scholarships average approximately $14,000 per year for men and $15,000 per year for women. But this figure does not include all the student loan debt and interest that’s typically paid by the rest of us non-scholarship people. I mean, I know a husband and wife who had 14 years of combined college, and now in their 40s, are still paying off student loan debt. The interest rate is low and the amounts are tax deductible, but still, it would be awfully nice to NOT have principle and interest of nearly $1000 per month for 15 to 20 YEARS ; (

In this instance,  you’re looking at $240,000 that could have possibly been spared by being a better athlete. This burdensome figure is based off the consolidated debt of two former students, so you could even say $120,000 each. I would call that a nice signing bonus…pretty “Going Pro” to me!

So if you’re anywhere close, do your dead lifts, your hours of deliberate practice, and practicing and playing with good competition… … … [And here’s the kicker] … …

… especially if you enjoy it.

Seriously. all of the time and at least some of the money invested into athletics is justifiable if the kid (and often their parents) enjoys the process. Not just the competing, but the effort and discipline of pushing to be a better player and teammate.. High level athletics are by no means the only worthy endeavor in this regard. But if the kid simply loves a sport, why not make a run at it, fully knowing that his or her academics and character must be in place?

Also of note: The percentage of student-athletes who finish college with a degree far exceeds those who enter college as non-athletes.

I’m not claiming that we should pursue sports at any and all costs, but that we should be less critical of those who do pay the club and equipment and training fees in the pursuit of fun and a route to personal development. Allow the kids to dream, realizing that “hitting it big” doesn’t require “going pro.”  Let the process shape the kids into more stable, hardworking people than they otherwise may have been. And let the parents remain hopeful for tuition assistance and a few more years of watching their kids do what they love.

Dream Big – Work Hard – Stay Humble

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s