Find out more about being a sports professional
Sports professionals are paid to play in team sports such as football, cricket and rugby, or to compete individually in sports like boxing or horse racing.
The work involves: playing in and trying to win matches or competitions, attending regular training sessions and looking after kit and training equipment.
Apprentices in many sports may start on less than £10,000, although accommodation and subsistence may be provided.
Established professionals can earn anything from between £20,000 to £3 million a year.
Hours are variable, but sports professionals train every day - sometimes very early in the morning or late in the evening. Competitions often take place at weekends or during weekday evenings. The timing of many sports is now dictated by the media, especially television companies.
For most sports, no formal academic qualifications are required. Golf is the exception, as the Professional Golfers' Association requires players to have at least four GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) including English and Maths.
However, some GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) are always useful, as sports professionals increasingly need to understand the basics of nutrition, anatomy, biomechanics, physiology and psychology. Academic qualifications are also important in preparing for a second career. Most sports encourage individuals to carry on learning in an additional area to their sport.
Young people training and competing at amateur level before progressing to professional status need financial support. They may have to rely on family income, Lottery funding or an employer who is willing to allow them time off work to train and compete. Once their reputation is established, sportsmen/women may be able to gain sponsorship from a company.
Sports professionals need:
- exceptional talent in their sport
- self-motivation and dedication to improve their performance
- physical and psychological fitness
- good co-ordination
- a competitive nature
- a commitment to fair play
- to work well as part of a team and with coaches
- to be quick-thinking and decisive
- to cope with stress, including media pressure
- to be able to manage their finances.
All sports professionals need second careers to turn to once their sporting days are over. Some sportsmen/women move into related areas such as sports coaching, administration, management or journalism, or become officials such as referees and umpires.