Published on December 20, 2019 by Sam Hewitt  

The Life of an Athlete

It is every young athletes dream to one day, become a professional athlete. What is not to love about it? The fame, playing a sport for a living, and the major salary that you will have. To some people, athletes have the best job possible and anyone would give up what they do to be a professional athlete if they had the chance. Professional sports have been around for a long time and the stigma behind them of being full of extremely talented has never changed. They have always been put at the top of the list when it comes to being special. But now, some people are asking how special are they? Do they really deserve the treatment that they get? This is something that I will address in this post and dive further into both sides of opinions so hopefully you too, can decide for yourself.

The Journey

The Journey to become a professional athlete is unlike any other process. Some starting as young as when they take their first steps. Most professional athletes will participate in a sport their entire life up to becoming a pro athlete. Working every day on the skills necessary for the game, they will put in hours of sweat, tears, and pure dedication. With all of this hard work the numbers are absolutely astounding with the amount of people that will actually make it to seeing themselves on the big stage one day. According to the NCAA, only 1.7 percent of college football players will make it to the professional level and only 0.8 percent of high school players will make it pro. These numbers are a loud statement to show how hard it is to get to the highest level possible.

A Day in The Life

Once a player at either the high school or college level of a sport has decided that he wants to go professional, the amount of levels that he has to go through is numerous. Take a baseball player for example… first, he will start out in various levels of minor leagues going from low rookie ball, high rookie ball, short season, low A, high A, double A, triple A, and THEN Pro Ball. Once a player accomplishes making it to the highest level, he is then responsible for a long season of playing. In Major League Baseball, a single season consists of 162 games. Playing multiple games, a week can be tiring on not only your body, but also your mind, and social life. To give another example, in the NFL, a single season consists of 17 games with 1 game a week and practices. This also includes preseason games and a training camp. In order to play at the highest-level, athletes have to give up a lot more than most people realize. During the season an athlete will be lucky to be able to find time to visit his family and friends back home. When an athlete’s season comes to an end, he is able to spend that time in whatever place he wants to however, the work sure is not over. During the season an athlete will spend his time in whatever city his team is in. When the they are in the off season, they move home to continue work with trainers, rest, and more education towards the game. An athlete’s life consists of sacrifices that an everyday person is fortunate enough to not have to deal with.

The Big Two

Two of the most well-known professional sports leagues in the world are the MLB and the NBA. In an article written by Liz Mullen and Bret McCormick, they state that membership in the exclusive $100 million-dollar club has exploded. The article states that in the past three years 46 nine-figure NBA contracts, with a total value of nearly $6.5 billion, have been signed, based on exclusive SBJ research. With all this put together Mullen and McCormick stated that the two leagues together accounted for about $10 billion in playing contracts. Some people are arguing that because the NFL does not have guaranteed contracts like the MLB or NBA, that this is the cause for the increase in large salaries.

On July of 1996, agent David Faulk negotiated the first $100 million sports contracts in North American history. This was astonishing to so many people and a lot of people couldn’t believe it. Faulk talks about how when you look back at the time when pro sports were coming about players still were paid high amounts of money for the time period. Today, for the amount of hard work that is put into their jobs, $100 million dollars is a good amount. The chart below is a great representation of the number of contracts that each league has in it. The MLB and the NBA far exceed the NFL and the NHL.

Contracts Graph Visual 

Beyond the Game

A lot of people fail to recognize the amount of work that goes on outside of the sport for all professional athletes. For example, Mike Trout, making $34 million a year is one of the highest paid athletes in professional sports however, he does a lot of outside work. He has done a lot of work with Subway, and various apparel brands. Players can make a lot of money from having endorsements and doing a lot of outside work besides what is done on the field. A lot of their fame comes from doing things outside of the team. Another example like this is with Stephen Curry. He is one of the highest paid players in the NBA and he has recently partnered with State Farm. Players make a LOT of money by doing these extra endorsement activities and it is a great way for them to gain fame as well.

The chart below represents all of the contracts that each league has signed, over $100 million since 2016. There is a clear trend that can be seen from the results.

Graph visual since 2016 

What To think?

When addressing the debate about the salaries of athletes, many different opinions can be made logical. Fred Bowen who is Washington post and sports writer states that professional athletes can make almost 700 times what a law enforcement officer makes in a year. Most people would say that this is ridiculous, and it should not be that way. However, when you look into the amount of time it takes for a professional athlete to get to wear they are and establish a name, the amount of money makes sense. Becoming a professional athlete is one of the hardest things to do in the world and if done, the reward of a large salary should be given!