Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

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The discouraging odds of becoming a professional athlete


To many boys (and some girls), professional athletes are modern-day heroes. Iconic celebrities with fame, fortune, and power. What wide-eye youth wouldn’t want the same?

Turns out, a lot of them do. (With oversized Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan posters adorning my childhood walls, I certainly did.) But as with all desirable things in life, getting paid to play sports isn’t easy.

In fact, the odds are downright nasty for aspiring players, according to new data from the NCAA.

For instance, boy basketball players stand a .009% chance of turning pro (it’s even worse for girls—not only is their insolvent league subsidized by a profitable men’s league, female basketball players stand just a .007% chance of playing professionally), followed by lower-paying soccer and hockey leagues at .017% odds, and injury-prone football at .02%. Of the four major sports in America, baseball provides the best shot for aspiring athletes: a whopping .13% chance of getting paid to play.

Obviously many, if not well more than half, of all high school players have no intention of going pro, and play for fun. So those odds would at least double when deduced to only those seeking a career in pro sports. Nevertheless, those are still stiff odds.

Morale of the story: You can be anything you want to be, but that doesn’t mean people will pay you to be it. To get paid for what you want to do, you need five things: a natural gift (which most athletes lack), a hard work ethic (which many gifted athletes lack), confidence (which we all lack until some of us eventually find it), perseverance (which haters try to discourage but anyone can learn), and luck (aka fortuitous timing, circumstances, or relationships).

I’ll be rootin’ for ya. This article first published in 2015

See also: Don’t aim for success. If you persist, it will find you.