Exploring the odds: the path to becoming a pro athlete

Sept. 15, 2023
by Andrew Meuleners

A topic lately around my house has been what it takes to become a professional athlete.

Especially since the football season has rolled around again, I watch it in as many forms as possible. My oldest son and I like to talk all about who we think is doing great in college and who we believe could be the next fantastic athlete to be drafted. I have to admit, when it comes to stats on athletes, he has me beat by a mile.

I have always been realistic with my kids about their dreams of being professional athletes. I have told them that the chances that they will be able to rise to that level are very slim, and it takes a lot more than just God-given talent. 

I have instead stressed the importance of academic success over success as an athlete.

Many young athletes dream of becoming professional players in their favorite sport. They work hard, practice diligently, and hope to get noticed by scouts and coaches. But what are the odds of making it to the big leagues? How many high school athletes actually go on to play at the professional level?

According to data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), only about 0.03% to 1% of high school athletes go on to compete at the professional level in their respective sports. This means that out of every 10,000 high school athletes, only three to one will go on to compete at the professional level. While about 1.5% of all high school players will make it into NCAA college play, less than 0.2% will be drafted into the pros.

The odds vary depending on the sport and the level of competition. For example, the odds of a high school football player making it to the NFL are about 1 in 1,010, while the odds of a high school basketball player making it to the NBA are about 1 in 8,926. For women, the odds are even lower, as there are fewer professional opportunities and fewer scholarships available. For example, the odds of a high school softball player making it to the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch) are about 1 in 19,506, while the odds of a high school basketball player making it to the WNBA are about 1 in 12,114.

These statistics may seem discouraging, but they should not deter anyone from pursuing their passion and enjoying their sport. Playing sports can have many benefits for physical and mental health, academic performance, social skills, and character development. Sports can also teach valuable lessons such as teamwork, discipline, perseverance, and sportsmanship.

Moreover, there are other ways to stay involved in sports besides playing professionally. Many former athletes go on to become coaches, trainers, referees, broadcasters, journalists, teachers, or mentors. Some even use their athletic skills and experience to pursue careers in other fields, such as business, law, medicine, or politics.

The bottom line is that becoming a professional athlete is extremely difficult and rare, but not impossible. It requires a lot of talent, dedication, sacrifice, and luck. However, playing sports can also be rewarding and fun, regardless of the outcome. As long as athletes have realistic expectations and enjoy the journey, they can be proud of their achievements and contributions to their sport.

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