It’s the lifestyle many children dream of but is this a viable career option? Yes, there are excellent programs to develop junior players. But it’s still a harsh reality that only a small percentage of young hopefuls will one day have the privilege of wearing the colours their heroes currently do during national or international games.
For many it can feel like a gamble to pursue this dream of becoming a professional athlete. So, what difficult odds did today’s superstars beat?
The Odds in Gambling
What makes a bet a viable option for an experienced gambler? Of course, there are players who do it for fun and take chances simply to experience the adrenaline rush. But then there are those that invest time and effort into planning each bet, number & play.
When you’re playing roulette the calculations to determine odds are complicated, but the betting options and their odds or probabilities can be captured in an easy to understand RTP (Return to Player) table. For experts it’s common knowledge that you won’t place your chips on a ‘top line’ bet. Why? Because the odds are very much stacked against you.
Playing any other line gives you a better chance of walking away with some winnings.
Now there’s a question: Aren’t most youngsters placing their chips on a top line bet when they aim to make a living out of sports? Shouldn’t they be doing something else with their lives?
The Odds of Going Pro in Sports
So how many people actually make it?
Here are some scary statistics. If you want to play professional basketball in America you need to beat these odds:
- Only 3% of high school players will feature in college games
- 1% of the college players eventually end up in professional teams
Because only 75 individuals get drafted to professional soccer teams in a country such as America your chances of making it all the way is 1 in 5 768.
According to Forbes if you count together the four biggest American sports leagues’ athletes you’ll only reach 5 000. This includes professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey players. If you make this your goal to earn a living it’s a very risky bet to take if you don’t have a back-up plan.
And here’s one more interesting fact: You won’t easily find an athlete on Forbes’ lists of wealthiest people. So, if money is the reason you’re pursuing this dream you may want to change your goal to something with better odds and pay-outs.
What Determines Young Athletes’ Futures?
What makes it so difficult to make it to the top?
For a start you need genes that predispose you to impressive physical capacities relevant to your chosen sport.
Here’s some good news at least. Many professional athletes took part in various sports in their high school years so if you’re not sure what to focus on yet, you’re in good company. The important thing is that you naturally excel at sports and have the talent for the game you love.
If you want to win the jackpot quite a few factors need to line up for you:
- Mental capacity to deal with competition and the high demands placed on young athletes
- Access to training to develop skills
- Financial support to pay for training, equipment and resources
You can see some of the factors are entirely out of your control.
But now you can make the mistake of thinking that when enough relevant factors count in your favour you’ll make it all the way. Unfortunately, not even this is a sure bet.
Clear proof that you can’t control the forces at play can be seen in the recent under 18 intakes. There’s always a limited number of places to fill in the young Reds squad. Logically you would think those fortunate enough to make the cut will be locals. After all news about their talent can quickly reach scouts’ ears and they can easily be seen in action. For three of them—Mengi, Neville and Haygarth—this seems to be true.
But this year’s intake includes two young hopefuls from far away:
- Ondrej Mastny from the Czech Republic
- Anthony Elanga from Sweden
Obviously, these boys had to overcome greater odds than the rest to realize their Man Utd dreams. Who knows who will make it all the way?
And here’s another factor you don’t have control over: The coach.
The moment a new coach arrives everyone waits in anticipation for the first few decisions:
- Which players will be on the field
- Which tactics will be used
This just happened with Neil Ryan taking over the reins in the under 18 squad.
A player has no control over who becomes the next coach. Each coach has a unique perspective of the game. You can be the one person’s favourite while your particular skills simply don’t fit with the next coach’s tactics.
There’s no question the squad will experience a time of adjustment, assessing each other and drawing up a new plan for the future. It’s almost like bringing a new deck of cards into play so card counters lose all control of the game.
So What’s the Plan?
Why is this such a necessary topic to discuss? Because it’s not only young people who have these dreams. Studies show that parents aren’t only supportive of these plans but often fuel the dreams. Up to 40% of American parents in lower income areas view professional sports as their children’s tickets to fortune and fame.
Possibly the question parents should ask themselves—and their hopeful children—is not “How do we make sure this child is a successful sportsman?” but rather “How do we make sure this child is successful in life?”
When you add additional milestones to the journey the odds quickly turn in the child’s favour, not necessarily to make it on the field but definitely in life in general. Think of how an education and social skills can affect someone’s future.
This is why it’s encouraging to see that a program such as the NFL only recruits players that have been finished with school for three years. This means players are more mature and can cope with the demands. The NFL also prefers players to play college football which means players most likely walk away with degrees that can benefit them later in life. After all, it only takes one injury to bring a sports career to an end. What do you do then?
Even though you can’t predict the specific outcome there is more chance of experiencing success stories when you prepare for any eventuality. In the game of life it’s best to ensure you can garner an income even though it may not be playing for Man Utd.