Athletes and sports competitors gain experience by competing in high school, college, or club teams.
No formal educational credential is required for anyone to become an athlete or sports competitor. Athletes must have superior athletic talent and extensive knowledge of their sport. They usually get such knowledge through years of experience at lower levels of competition.
Although athletes and sports competitors typically have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, no formal educational credential is required for them to enter the occupation. 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. For most sports, athletes compete in high school and collegiate athletics or on club teams. 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 localities require athletes and sports competitors to be licensed or certified to practice. For example, race car drivers need to be licensed to compete in the various races. The governing body of the sport 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 can make in their careers. They often begin to compete immediately, although some 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 earn a higher salary. Others may receive endorsements from companies and brands.
Athleticism. Nearly all athletes and sports competitors must possess superior athletic ability to be able to compete successfully against opponents.
Concentration. Athletes and sports competitors must be extremely focused when competing and must block out distractions from fans and opponents. The difference between winning and losing can sometimes be a result of a momentary lapse in concentration.
Decisionmaking skills. Athletes and sports competitors often must make split-second decisions. Quarterbacks, for example, usually have only seconds to decide whether to pass the football or not.
Dedication. Athletes and sports competitors must practice regularly to develop their skills and improve or maintain their physical conditioning. It often takes years to become successful, so athletes must be dedicated to their sport.
Hand–eye coordination. In many sports, including tennis and baseball, the need to gauge and strike a fast-moving ball is highly dependent on the athlete’s hand–eye coordination.
Stamina. Endurance can benefit athletes and sports competitors, particularly those who participate in long-lasting sports competitions, such as marathons.
Teamwork. Because many athletes compete in a team sport, such as hockey or soccer, the ability to work with teammates as a cohesive unit is important for success.
Many professional athletes are also required to pass drug tests.