The relationship between an athletic celebrity and sport enthusiasts is practically identical to that of a movie star and his/her fans. Playing in a competitive field of sport or as a player on a major-league team uplifts a professional athlete in the eyes of the public – some are even so renowned as to receive “godlike”–quality status and praise from their followers. Yet, no matter how talented celebrity athletes or even actors may be—no matter how elevated of a status they may achieve—they are all still human. As such, there was a time (typically in the earlier years of life and education) that every famous individual was fresh to their field, reaching for their dreams, and quite unaware as to just how renowned they would go on to become. The subtle transition from avid aficionado to elite competitor in the realm of sports prompts the enduring question: “How exactly do rising athletes become professionals?” And, by extension, “What path does a high school or college athlete take to achieve fame?”
The quest to become a professional athlete begins at an early age for most people. Lebron James, one of the most renowned NBA celebrity athletes of the day, was first introduced to basketball at 9 years of age, and has not stopped playing since. Coupled with his natural talent for the sport, James’s commitment to basketball has allowed him to become one of the most skilled professional basketball players in the United States, but anything less than that likely would have seen his career halted before it even began. For some individuals, the dedication to becoming a professional athlete begins even earlier; this was the case with NFL All-Star quarterback Tom Brady, who’s first encounter with the realm of sports came via football at the astonishing age of 4. Brady played both baseball and football actively through his childhood and high school years, and even came close to MLB via the 1995 draft. Football had decidedly taken precedent in his life, however. Brady had a college football career during his time with the University of Michigan before being drafted by the New England Patriots. 33 years after he first picked up football, he still hasn’t put it down or even set it aside for a moment. As anyone can see, for a professional athlete to be good or even great at the sport they play, it is not enough to simply be talented or opportunistic; their lives must be centered around a career in sports for decades — supposing that they first make it to the top, that is.
What if someone truly does have what it takes to become a superstar athlete? What should he/she do to improve the chances of hitting the big leagues? The answer is simple – long hours of vigorous training and stern, unwavering commitment. A blazing passion burns in everyone over something…but only those whose fire is fueled by a career in sports will make it. Beyond college sports, the method by which an individual player is selected for “the Majors” varies by career. Generally, however, the selection process consists of a draft in which teams select new players to fill empty spots on a roster. This can be difficult and quite unforgiving, considering that the stakes for getting selected to play professionally are extremely high. As is the case on Broadway in New York City, there are plenty of willing actors and performers that are desperate for a job, but only a select number of jobs to be filled, and those responsible for filling them only take the best. “You have to have what it takes,” as they say, and this statement holds true for professional sports as well. Fortunately, unions like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (the NCAA) are run by members dedicated to helping rising athletes get where they need to be. For college sports, players trying to get selected to play on major-league teams in the future will have to focus on getting attention in addition to playing superbly, lest they “blend in with the crowd.”
The commitment to becoming a superstar athlete is not more forgiving than the promise many children made to become astronauts when they grow up. Training to become a professional alone absolutely must begin at a very early age. Genetic predisposition – a person’s unique anatomy and biological history – will, sadly, keep the dream forever out of reach for some people. Likewise, talented individuals might find the path to becoming a professional athlete slightly easier – but only slightly. Only about 5.6% of baseball players and 5.8% of football players in high school will go on to play football at the college level. Then, from the college level, football athletes only have about a 2% chance of becoming professionals, and all other major sports follow this depressingly low trend; the singular exception to this is college baseball athletes, 10.5% of which have a promising chance of joining a Major-League Baseball team in the future. This is likely due to the impressively-organized MLB draft that goes out annually to recruit college talent around the United States.