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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    How to Make it To the Pros

    Every year, millions of people watch pro sports and think, ‘I could do that.” Some of them are little kids who dream of becoming the next big superstar. They join little league baseball, youth soccer clubs and football teams in the hopes that one day, they will be professional athletes. There are those that give up on the dream early on or realize that sports are only a hobby for them.

    Then there are those who continue on to be star players in their high school’s varsity lineup. They hope against hope for scholarships to the big Division I schools. They face rounds of scouts and compete against players across the nation looking for the same opportunities. And for those of them that make it to their dream schools, it may seem like their way to million dollar contracts is solidly paved.

    Art Young of Northwestern University’s Center for the Study of Sports in Society stated in a 1998 study that 1 in 50,000 high school athletes with ever become part of a professional team. While this statistic gives a general idea of the challenges facing prospective pros, it doesn’t show the whole picture. Each sport has its own obstacles facing anyone who wants to break out on the professional stage.

    In baseball, the minor league system provides stepping stones that prepare players for the majors. On the other hand, each level is another point at which players have to prove themselves before they can move on. In the last decade or so, that task has become even more difficult for homegrown local players as major teams look beyond US borders for future star players. One only has to look at this past summer’s World Baseball Classic where players from the best teams in baseball weren’t representing the United States team.

    On the other hand, there is the sport of soccer. This season, America’s Major League Soccer celebrates is tenth season in action. But this year also saw the national team suffer an embarrassing appearance at the World Cup. The best teams are still in Europe and American players have a difficult time competing for spots even on second tier teams in those leagues.

    Basketball provides an interesting situation completely unique to the National Basketball Association. While teams have looked to foreign players in the past few years, the annual NBA draft has taken a strange turn. While millions tune in to watch March Madness every year expecting to pick out not only the top team, but players headed for the big time, even these stars may not make it to the pros. In the last couple years, NBA teams have been leaning more towards potential than proven talent in their future stars with the signing of more players straight out of high school. This trend has reached the point where many officials in the NBA have talked about establishing an age limit for players to be drafted. The premise is that players straight out of high school may not have the emotional or physical maturity to handle being on a professional team.

    Finally, potential NFL players face their own challenges. One of the biggest hurdles to a pro career is injury, and football has the potential for hundreds of those. Everyone knows the story of the guy who was on his way to a pro career when blown knee or torn tendon put an end to the dream. Then there is the fact that there are thousands of college football teams across the country, from Division I-A to Division III. Not every team is going to have the same exposure to scouts and only Division I-A games get national coverage.

    While it’s easy to be discouraged by the odds and challenges of trying to become a professional athlete, there will always be that hope for little kids watching their favorite players on television. The point is really to have a plan to fall back on if and when the dream doesn’t pan out.

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