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So, You Want to Be a Pro Athlete?

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If sport is your passion, you might be wondering how you can make an entire career of it – the good news is there are many options and becoming a pro athlete is one!

Over 90% of Australian adults are interested in sports, with 8.4 million adults and 3 million children participating in sports each year – it’s fair to say it plays a significant role in our lives!

Recreational activities form an essential part of the Australian lifestyle and culture – it’s not just about team sports. Swimming, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking – these are all big sub-sectors in the industry with job roles and career paths to go with them.

So, what exactly does it take to become a successful professional athlete? Let’s find out!

What Does a Professional Athlete Do?

Whether you’re into soccer, AFL, golf, gymnastics or swimming – professional athletes make a living by participating in top-tier sporting events and competitions. When they’re not competing, they’re training and being coached to be the best at their respective sport.

Many people wonder how can being an athlete be a full-time career – how do they get paid?

Professional athletes draw an income in a few different ways:

  • Signed team members, such as soccer or AFL players, are paid a salary through the team they’re a part of.
  • Through winning or being placed in events and competitions.
  • Through sponsorship deals with appropriate businesses.
  • Paid media appearances and interviews.

Becoming a professional athlete can be a long road requiring a lot of commitment, dedication, motivation and resilience. Most athletes compete as unpaid amateurs as they work their way up in skill and proficiency in their chosen sport until they can command payment as a professional.

What Are Some of the Core Activities of a Professional Athlete?

The types of activities you’ll be involved in will depend on the kind of sport you do, but some key things form a part of most athletes’ days.

This might include:

  • Meetings with teammates, coaches, or personal trainers to plan for the upcoming sporting season.
  • Regular training sessions with a professional trainer or coach.
  • Taking on board feedback for improvements and working to action this in training.
  • Participating in sporting events.
  • Offering coaching and training support to other team members.
  • Taking part in publication and promotional activities.

Depending on what stage of your career as a professional athlete, you could do additional activities such as becoming a brand ambassador, working with local government and not-for-profits to promote sport for health, offering to coach new athletes, and becoming a spokesperson for your profession.

What Skills & Attributes Do You Need to Become a Professional Athlete?

Again, a bit of variety here will depend on the type of athlete you want to be.

For example, if you want to play team sports, you’ll need exceptional team skills, communication and resilience to handle things together when you lose.

There are a few other core skills and attributes that are important for all professional athletes:

  • Dedication to maintaining a high level of talent and competency in your chosen sport.
  • Discipline to stick to challenging training regimes, including nutrition and exercise.
  • Exceptional communication skills for dealing with the public and media.
  • Ability to travel when needed for long periods.
  • Prepared to work evenings and weekends and unusual hours when necessary.

So, How Do You Become a Professional Athlete?

You can work as a professional athlete without formal qualifications. The essential steps to making it as a professional athlete include:

  • Some degree of natural talent is nurtured from a young age.
  • A high level of expertise in your chosen sport is developed through consistency.
  • Dedication and enthusiasm to continually improve your skill level through training and coaching.
  • Ability to bounce back and work through rejection, losses and failure.
  • Motivation to keep working through challenges.

Some states have specialist sports high schools, where you’ll have the opportunity to combine training for your sport with traditional school subjects, so you can gain your education without feeling as though you have to compromise your passion.

Athletes also often study courses in sports-related areas such as sports science, coaching or nutrition studies. While this isn’t essential to become a professional athlete, it will help with future employment opportunities.

Depending on your role, there are plenty of opportunities to take your career global. From coaching and umpiring to playing on teams or managing sporting events – these roles are typically in demand, with skilled professionals able to take their expertise anywhere they want.

Ready to Explore the Sports Industry?

Becoming a professional athlete can be highly competitive. Many will commit to their sport from a young age, training tirelessly to become the best and entering competitions to earn a reputation and name for themselves.

For those who don’t quite make it to professional levels, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other hugely rewarding opportunities to get stuck into.

Entry into the sector is as varied as the available roles, so no matter what academic pathway you choose, there’ll be an opportunity to start with a career in sports.

Want to learn more? Head over to our dedicated Sports and Recreation Industry Profile now.


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