What are the Odds of Becoming a Professional Athlete?

Being a professional athlete is likely a dream for many people. But what are the odds of becoming a professional athlete? Is it feasible?  Are you living on luck, or do you truly have a shot at competing on the big stage someday? How likely is it actually for you to be drafted into Major League Baseball or the National Basketball Association? Let’s take a look at the odds of becoming a professional athlete.

The odds of becoming a professional football player are miniscule, and it’s even harder to make it to the NFL when you’re competing against players who have been training since they were middle schoolers. In numbers, only the top 8% of the top 1% of the top 1% high school players become professionals. [2]

According to NCAA, here is the breakdown of becoming a pro from high school to college and then to major leagues [1]:

Sport

# of High School Players

% of players that will play in college

% of college players drafted by:

The Odds of Becoming Pros (Approx.)

Baseball

482,629

6.9%

8.6% (MLB)

1 in 659

Men’s Basketball

541,054

3.4%

1.2% (NBA)

1 in 11,771

Women’s Basketball

433,344

3.8%

0.9% (WNBA)

1 in 13,015

Football

1,093,234

6.5%

1.6% (NFL)

1 in 4,233

Men’s Ice Hockey

35,393

11.2%

6.8% (NHL)

1 in 598

Men’s Soccer

417,419

5.7%

1.4% (MLS)

1 in 5,768

From this table, let’s just focus on baseball. There are 482,629 high school baseball players in the United States, and 6.9% of those players (or 33,301) will play in college. Now, the odds of them being drafted by MLB is even more dramatic: only 8.6% of the 33,301 college-level baseball players.

Moreover, the odds of a high school football player being drafted by the NFL are approximately 1 in 1,282. Because there are 50 to 60 players on an NFL team and a typical high school football season lasts 10 weeks (excluding playoffs), the average player has a 50 percent chance of never even bumping into (playing with or against) a future pro during an entire season.

Appreciating the rarity and difficulty of succeeding as a professional athlete is important. The challenges these would-be professionals face are impossible to ignore, whether in the area of finances and career stability or athletic development and competition.

Not everyone can be LeBron James or Tom Brady, but that doesn’t have to be a deterrent preventing people from following their passion and trying something new.

References

  1. http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/probability-competing-beyond-high-school
  2. https://leagueside.com/chances-of-going-pro
  3. https://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/07/here-are-your-odds-of-becoming-a-professional-athlete-theyre-not-good
  4. https://pressboltnews.com/odds-of-becoming-professional-athlete/93740/
  5. https://www.bestuscasinos.org/blog/odds-of-becoming-a-professional-athlete/