How to Become an Athlete or Sports Competitor
Athletes and sports competitors gain experience by competing in high school, college, or club teams.
No formal educational credential is typically required to become an athlete or sports competitor. Athletes must have athletic talent and extensive knowledge of their sport. They typically get such knowledge through years of experience at lower levels of competition.
Although no formal educational credential is typically required to enter the occupation, most athletes and sports competitors have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some play their sport in college, where they take courses that may lead to a degree. They must have extensive knowledge of the way the sport is played—especially its rules, regulations, and strategies.
Athletes typically learn the rules of the game and develop their skills by playing the sport at lower levels of competition. They often begin training at a young age and may compete on club teams or in high school and collegiate athletics. In addition, athletes may improve their skills by taking private or group lessons or attending sports camps.
It typically takes many years of practice and experience to become an athlete or sports competitor.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some sports and states require athletes and sports competitors to be licensed or certified to practice. For example, racecar drivers need a driver’s license issued by their state and a certification or license from an automobile racing organization to compete in some races. State licensing boards and professional athletics associations, which serve as governing bodies of various sports, may revoke licenses and suspend participants who do not meet the required performance or training. In addition, athletes may have their licenses or certification suspended for inappropriate activity.
Turning professional is often the biggest advancement that aspiring athletes make in their careers. They may begin to compete immediately, although some also may spend more time on the bench (as a reserve) to gain experience. In some sports, such as baseball, athletes may begin their professional career on a minor league team before moving up to the major leagues. Professional athletes generally advance in their sport by displaying superior performance and receiving accolades; in turn, they typically earn a higher salary. They also may receive endorsements from companies and brands.
Athleticism. Athletes and sports competitors need athletic ability to compete against opponents.
Concentration. Athletes and sports competitors must focus when competing, which includes being able to block out distractions from fans and opponents.
Decision-making skills. Athletes and sports competitors often must make split-second decisions that affect the outcome of a play or the entire competition.
Dedication. Athletes and sports competitors must practice regularly to develop their skills and improve or maintain their physical conditioning.
Hand–eye coordination. Athletes and sports competitors must be able to gauge depth and distance to react and maneuver quickly during competition, such as to strike a fast-moving ball or guide a jumping horse.
Stamina. Endurance is important for helping athletes and sports competitors manage stress during events and ensure that their bodies remain in peak performance condition.
Teamwork. The ability to work toward a shared goal with others, including teammates and coaches, is essential for athletes’ and sports competitors’ success.
Professional athletes also may be required to pass drug tests.