Professional athletes compete in sports and athletic events. They train on a regular basis and exercise with professional coaches and trainers. Building up the necessary skills needs natural talent as well as planning and endurance to get through the needed training programmes.
The duties of a professional athlete include, but are not limited to:
- Performing on the field or court in accordance with the rules of the sport, including scoring points or setting up goals
- Maintaining physical fitness through exercise, conditioning, and diet
- Participating in community outreach programs to promote their team or organization’s mission
- Participating in practices, training sessions, and team meetings with teammates to improve performance or teamwork
- Following a specific pre-season schedule of workouts and drills to prepare for the season
- Training with coaches to develop skills and improve performance
- Participating in press conferences and interviews to promote themselves and their team
- Participating in charity events and other public appearances sponsored by their team or league
- Participating in media interviews and public speaking engagements to promote their team or league
The following job titles also refer to professional athlete:
pole vault athlete
professional sports player
long jump athlete
aviation sport athlete
professional handball player
long distance runner
middle distance runner
professional rugby player
race car driver
professional baseball player
professional soccer player
professional basketball player
snow sports athlete
professional volleyball player
track and field athlete
professional football player
high jump athlete
long distance athlete
professional surfer athlete
professional hockey player
middle distance athlete
Professional athletes who participate in outdoor competitions may be exposed to weather conditions of the season in which they play their sport. In addition, many athletes must travel to sporting events. Such travel may include long bus rides or plane trips, and, in some cases, international travel.
Injuries and Illnesses
Professional athletes have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Many of these workers wear gloves, helmets, pads, and other protective gear to guard against injury, depending on their discipline. And although fatalities are uncommon, professional athletes experience one of the highest rates of occupational fatalities of all occupations.
Professional athletes may work irregular schedules, including evenings, weekends, and holidays; part-time work is also common. During the sports season, they typically work more than 40 hours per week for several months as they practice, train, travel, and compete.
Although no formal educational credential is typically required to enter the occupation, most professional athletes 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.
Professional 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.
Some sports and states require professional athletes 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.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Professional athlete is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Professional athlete career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to professional athlete.
Long term prospects
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, 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.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of professional athlete.
- Participate in sport events: Participate in sport events or competitions according to established rules and regulations to apply technical, physical and mental abilities.
- Implement relevant tactical skills to perform at the highest level in sport: Identify the tactical demands of your sport and work with the coaching and supporting team (e.g. coaches, physiotherapist, nutritionist, psychologist) to implement an adapted programme to achieve the targeted highest level performance.
- Adapt lifestyle to perform at the highest level in sport: Plan and manage effectively sporting commitments (e.g. time for training, competition) versus leisure time to create the conditions to perform as a player/athlete at the highest sport level.
- Implement relevant technical skills to perform at the highest level in sport: Identify the technical demands and work with coaching/supporting team (e.g. coaches, physiotherapist, nutritionist, psychologist) to implement an adapted programme to achieve the targeted highest level performance.
- Develop strong attitudes in sports: Identify and understand the emotional demands, the necessary attitudes and mental skills and work with supporting team (including for example coaches, physiotherapist, nutritionist, psychologist) to implement an adapted programme to achieve the targeted highest level performance.
- Manage sporting career: Consider all career routes and identify short, medium and long term goals for the career. Review and update the career plan.
- Apply sport games rules: Develop and sustain the ability to apply rules, within the spirit of the sport activity and competition, and in a professional and respectful manner.
- Assess performance in sport events: Assess performance following sport events and competitions, identify strengths and weaknesses, provide feedback to the coaching and supporting team, and make suggestions or adjustments to improve future performance.
- Work to develop physical ability to perform at the highest level in sport: Identify the necessary level of fitness, understand the nutritional strategy and work with coaching/supporting team (e.g. coaches, physiotherapist, nutritionist, psychologist) to implement an adapted medical, physical and nutritional programme to achieve the targeted highest level performance.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of professional athlete. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Communicate with media: Communicate professionally and present a positive image while exchanging with media or potential sponsors.
- Manage personal finances: Identify personal financial objectives and set up a strategy to match this target in seeking support and advice when necessary.
- Set up effective working relationships with other sports players: Set up and sustain effective working relationships with other players and athletes from the same team.
ISCO group and title
3421 – Athletes and sports players
- Professional athlete – ESCO
- Athletes and Sports Competitors : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Professional Athlete Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
- Featured image: Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU