What Are the Odds of Becoming a Professional Athlete?

What Are the Odds of Becoming a Professional Athlete?
If you’re looking for details about the odds of becoming a professional athlete, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ll break things down for you by sport to help you learn what the chances are of anyone making it to the big leagues. As you’ll come to find out, the odds can vary quite a bit depending on which sport you’re talking about.

In this guide about your odds of becoming a professional athlete, we’ll cover many different aspects related to the topic. Below, you can see a preview of all the parts included in the guide. Keep scrolling below to view the entire page or click on one of the titles if you’d like to skip ahead to it first.

Odds of Becoming a Professional Athlete by Sport

To kick things off, we wanted first to showcase the odds of becoming a professional athlete broken down by sport. Check out the summaries below to see how things differ between each of them. The data contained here came from a detailed report from the NCAA.

What Are the Odds of Becoming a Pro Baseball Player?

  • High School Athletes – 487,097
  • College Athletes – 35,460
  • % of High School Athletes Playing in College – 7.28%
  • Drafted Pros – 775
  • % of College Athletes Drafted Pro – 2.19%
  • % of High School Athletes Drafted Pro – 0.16%

Baseball is only second to hockey in terms of the odds of a high school player being able to make it to play in college and the pros. Out of all high school athletes, a little more than 7% of them head on to play in college each year. Then, out of the pack of college athletes, only approximately 2% of them will be drafted into the pros. In total, it gives a high school baseball player just a 0.16% chance of ever being selected by a pro team.

Odds of Making it Pro in Baseball

What Are the Odds of Becoming a Pro Men’s Basketball Player?

  • High School Athletes – 551,373
  • College Athletes – 18,816
  • % of High School Athletes Playing in College – 3.41%
  • Drafted Pros – 52
  • % of College Athletes Drafted Pro – 0.28%
  • % of High School Athletes Drafted Pro – 0.01%

Coming in as the second-lowest odds of a college player making it into the pros is men’s basketball. In addition, it’s also the sport on this list with the lowest percentage of high school players making it to play in college. In short, basketball doesn’t provide a whole ton of opportunities for individuals to play after high school.

Odds of Making it Pro in Men's Basketball

What Are the Odds of Becoming a Pro Women’s Basketball Player?

  • High School Athletes – 412,407
  • College Athletes – 16,614
  • % of High School Athletes Playing in College – 4.03%
  • Drafted Pros – 32
  • % of College Athletes Drafted Pro – 0.19%
  • % of High School Athletes Drafted Pro – 0.01%

When it comes to the odds of going pro as a high school player, women’s basketball players have the smallest chance of it happening. While men’s basketball is nearly as bad, the women still have it worse off. In total, approximately 4% of all high school players will play in college. But, out of the same batch of high school players, only 0.01% of them will ever be drafted by a pro team.

Odds of Making it Pro in Women's Basketball

What Are the Odds of Becoming a Pro Football Player?

  • High School Athletes – 1,036,842
  • College Athletes – 73,557
  • % of High School Athletes Playing in College – 7.09%
  • Drafted Pros – 255
  • % of College Athletes Drafted Pro – 0.35%
  • % of High School Athletes Drafted Pro – 0.02%

While the odds of a high school football player are low, they are more than double the chance both men’s and women’s basketball players have. Out of the over 1,000,000 high school football players, just over 7% of them will go on to play at college. However, out of the same 1,000,000 high school athlete base, only 255 will be drafted to the pros any given year.

Odds of Making it Pro in Football

What Are the Odds of Becoming a Pro Hockey Player?

  • High School Athletes – 35,060
  • College Athletes – 4,229
  • % of High School Athletes Playing in College – 12.06%
  • Drafted Pros – 65
  • % of College Athletes Drafted Pro – 1.54%
  • % of High School Athletes Drafted Pro – 0.19%

Out of the list of sports featured on this page, men’s hockey is the one with the highest chance of a high school player getting drafted to the pros. However, the chances are still relatively slim. While about 1.5% of all high school players will make it into NCAA college play, less than 0.2% will be drafted into the pros. In total, this reflects roughly only 1 in every 520 high school players will go pro.

Odds of Making it Pro in Hockey

Ways to Increase Your Odds of Becoming a Professional Athlete

Up next, we wanted to provide you with some tips on ways you can increase your chances of becoming a professional athlete. If you’re looking to do it or someone you know is, there are excellent guidelines to follow to help increase the odds of becoming a pro.

Start Early

Kid Playing BasketballOne of the best ways to help increase your odds of becoming a professional athlete is to start as young as possible. By starting early, you’ll have more time to learn and refine your skills in the game.

Train Often

While this one should go without saying, we figured we’d include it anyway. If you want to become a professional athlete, one of the best ways to increase your odds of it occurring is to train often. In reality, you’ll want to dedicate much of your free time to training the sport you’re hoping to become a pro in.

Eat Right

Eating right is an essential component of trying to become a professional athlete. By eating well, your body will be more likely to be able to perform at its peak. Focus on lean proteins, whole wheat, and fruits and vegetables to help enhance your chances of becoming a pro.

Stay in Shape

If you’re training and playing as much as you should be, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. However, it’s worth mentioning you should stay in as good of physical shape as possible to increase your odds of becoming a professional athlete. If need be, consult with your coaches and trainers to find a training plan that’s best for your unique needs.

Mind Your School Grades

Something else you can do to help your chances of becoming a professional athlete is to keep your grades up.

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From high school to college, grades often dictate your ability to participate in team sports.

If your grades drop too low, you may lose your ability to play, thus decreasing your chances of becoming a professional athlete.

Get as Much Experience as Possible

Another way to increase your odds of becoming a professional athlete is to play as much of the sport as possible. Check out teams and clubs within your reach. Also, be on the lookout for and try to join as many tournaments and competitions for the sport as possible. In short, take every chance you can to play the sport you hope to become a professional in.

Play in College

NCAA LogoOne of the best ways to increase your chances of becoming a professional athlete is to play your sport of choice in college. Scouts for professional sports teams look for potential new players across college campuses. By playing on a college team, your chances of getting noticed by one of these professional scouts are much higher than if you didn’t.

Be Disciplined

Discipline is another excellent characteristic that will help your odds of becoming a professional athlete. With as much training and playing that’s required to make it to the pros, being disciplined can help you stick to the plan and increase your odds of becoming a pro.

Be Competitive

This one should seem obvious, but we wanted to include it anyway. If you’re looking to become a professional athlete, your odds of doing so will be increased if you’re a competitive individual. You’ll want to have a deep drive and desire to win and excel in your sport.

Deal Well With Pressure

How do you handle things when you’re under a lot of pressure? If you don’t do well when under pressure, then your odds of becoming a professional athlete are not going to be as good as someone who does. The reason for this is professional athletes are often under all kinds of high-pressure situations. For example, think about the pitcher whose pitches can either make or break his team taking home the World Series title.

Improve Your Coordination and Reflexes

With all sports, having good reflexes and coordination is a plus. If you’re hoping to increase your chances of becoming a professional athlete, you’ll want both to be as good as possible. Check out these coordination and reflex exercises to find ways you can begin to sharpen both starting immediately.

Have Good Eyesight

Finally, one other thing which can help your chances of becoming a professional athlete is to have good eyesight. According to StateUniversity.com, many sports see glasses and contact lenses as a drawback. However, even if your vision isn’t the best, you might be able to improve it thanks to procedures like Lasik.

Average Pay Per Sport

Now that you’ve seen the odds of becoming a professional athlete broken down by sport, we wanted to showcase what you might expect to earn if you’re able to make the cut. Below, we’ve added a chart showcasing the average pay per professional across a variety of different sports.

Average Pay Per Sport

As you can see, if you’re looking to make the biggest bucks, you’re best off trying to get into the NBA or MLB. However, even if you manage to make it into the NFL or NHL, you’re still doing just fine when compared to what the average person makes a year.

Moving on, we wanted to provide you with more pay details on a league level basis. Check this section over if you’d like more information about things like league minimums and average salary per team.

NBA

For the NBA, the current league minimum is around $582,000 for a rookie player. The minimum amount raises each year the player is in the league to provide them with a higher salary the longer they are in the league.

Minimum Salary of an NBA Player

In looking at the data from the chart above, you can see the NBA minimum rookie salary has steadily increased over the last nine years. Over that timeframe, the minimum league salary has increased by more than 31%.

In addition to looking at the league minimum, we also wanted to showcase the average NBA player salary by team. Check out the data below to see how the players on your favorite team fare.

NBA Annual Salary by Team

As of the latest data from Statista, you’re best off playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Golden State Warriors if you’re looking for a mega payday. By playing for one of those teams, there’s a chance you could make more than $10,000,000 per year. On the flip side, organizations like the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings pay significantly less on average, coming in around $5,000,000 per player.

NHL

Moving on, we wanted to provide you with some salary data relating to the NHL as well. Up first, check out the chart below showcasing the NHL league rookie minimum by year. As with the NBA, the NHL also raises things annually for players who have been in the league for more than one year. While the league minimum isn’t all too exciting or anywhere near the average league salary, it’s still a pretty good payday.

Minimum Salary of an NHL Player

When reviewing the data from the image above, it seems the NHL tends to increase the minimum league salary roughly every two years. Based on this, we’d expect to see an increase in the league minimum for the 2020 season. The good news for players within the NHL is that the minimum salary has increased by 30% since 2011.

If you’re wondering what teams pay their players the most, check out the chart below from Statista. In this chart, you can see the average player salary broken down by team.

Average NHL Hockey Player Salary by Team

The top two paying teams on an average per player basis within the NHL are the Los Angeles Kings and the Minnesota Wild. Both of those teams pay an average of more than $3,500,000 per player. On the low end of the league, the Toronto Maple Leafs come in just over $1,500,000 per player on average.

MLB

Next up, we’ll take a look at the same sort of data for Major League Baseball. Up first, check out the chart below, showcasing the MLB minimum salary by year since 2003.

Minimum MLB Player Salary

As the chart shows, the league minimum for the MLB rookie players has steadily risen over the last 15 years or so. Since 2003, it’s increased roughly 85%, providing players on the low end of the pay scale a substantial bump in their salary.

Next up, here’s a look from Statista on the average salary per player by team for the 2018 season.

Average MLB Player Salary by Team

Based on this data, players on the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs are the top-paying franchises offering an average of around $7,000,000 per year. At the low end of things, the Oakland Athletics come in nearly $5,000,000 under the average of the top two teams, with an average salary of just $2,000,000.

Finally, before we move onto the data for the NFL, we wanted to showcase one last chart showing the average MLB player salary from 2003 through 2019.

Average MLB Player Salray

Since 2003, the average MLB salary has risen by nearly 84%. However, as you can see from the image above, the average pay per player has slowly decreased over the last two years.

NFL

Finally, the last league we’ll look at before moving on to the next section of our guide about the odds of becoming a professional athlete in the NFL. To start, here’s a chart showing the NFL league minimum for rookie players.

Minimum Salary of an NFL Player

As with some of the other sports featured in this guide, the NFL also shows a relatively standard increase of the league minimum salary over the last nine years. Currently, rookie players must receive a minimum of $495,000 per year. Luckily, the league minimum has been increased by more than 30% over the last nine years.

To go along with that data, we also wanted you to see the average pay per player broken out by the NFL team. View the image below to see how things look across the entire portfolio of NFL teams across the country.

NFL Average Salary

One thing that’s interesting with the NFL is the spread between the average player pay per team is much tighter than the other sports we’ve featured. At the high end of things, you have the Jacksonville Jaguars around $3,300,000. However, even the lowest team, the Seattle Seahawks, came in at $2,570,000, a difference of just 22%.

Average Number of Years Athletes Stay in the Pros

Before you get too excited after seeing the average pay for professional athletes from the section above, take into consideration just how long the average player stays in the pros. Check out the chart below to see things broken out by sport.

Average Number of Years Athletes Stay in the Pros

As you can see, if you are lucky enough to be able to become a professional athlete, your odds of a long and lasting career are not too high. On the low end, players in the NFL make it just over three years as a pro on average. Your best bet for a long career comes from joining the MLB, with an expectation of just over five and a half years.

Locations Producing the Most Professional Athletes

Before we begin to wrap things up, we also wanted to include some information relating to locations around the globe that produce large amounts of professional athletes. Depending on the sport, there are some definitive hotbeds where many of the professional athletes hail from.

All Sports

Before diving in on a more granular sport level, we wanted to first begin with a chart showcasing the birth countries for four major sports. In this image from Business Insider, you can see where professional players from the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB were born.

Birth Countries of All Athletes

As you can see from the graphic above, when looking at the four major sports included, the vast majority of professional athletes (72%) come from the United States. The next closest country is Canada, representing 11% of the athletes. Behind Canada are the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Sweden. In turn, if you’re born in the United States, your chances of becoming a professional athlete in one of these four sports are much higher than if you’re born in any other country around the globe.

Since the United States is such a large portion of the population for professional athletes in these leagues, we wanted to provide you with a more detailed look on a state-level basis. Check out the image below to see which states are producing the most athletes for these leagues.

Birth States of All Athletes

Hockey

Up next, we wanted to showcase things relating to professional hockey. Specifically, the NHL. First, let’s take a look at the data regarding the world view of where NHL athletes are born in this image from Business Insider.

Birth Countries of All NHL Players

Probably not a surprise to most of you, but Canada leads the rest of the world when it comes to professional hockey players born. Behind Canada is the United States, with other strong showings from countries like Russia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.

With many of our readers coming from the United States, we once again wanted to present a state-level look at which states produce the most professional hockey players. Check out the chart below to see how your state fairs on a per capita basis.

Birth States of All NHL Players

If you live in Alaska or Minnesota, you’ve got the best chances of becoming a professional hockey player based on the historical data. Coming in third is North Dakota.

Baseball

Moving on, let’s take a look at the countries around the globe producing the most professional players in the MLB league.

Birth Countries of All MLB Players

At the front of the pack once again is the United States. Behind the US are the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. In total, more than 50 countries have produced a professional MLB player. One major thing worth noting is the entire continent of Africa has not produced a single professional baseball player as of the time Business Insider did their analysis.

As with the other sports, we also wanted to provide you with the detail on a state-level basis. Check out the image below from Business Insider to see how things look across the country.

Birth States of All MLB Players

You’ll notice even on a per capita basis, things are pretty well spread across the entire United States. However, the leading states producing professional MLB players are Florida, California, Wyoming, and Mississippi. It’s pretty amazing to see the stark difference between this image and the one for hockey with players mainly hailing from just a handful of states.

Basketball

Up next, we’ll turn our attention to basketball. To start, we’ll get a look at the different countries around the world producing the most significant number of professional basketball players in the NBA.

Birth Countries of All NBA Players

As the other sports featured in this section, the United States once again leads the way for professional basketball players. However, other countries like Canada, Germany, and France also produce a high number of professional players.

Now that you’ve seen the global view of things, let’s take a look at the different states within the United States producing the highest number of NBA players on a per capita basis.

Birth States of All NBA Players

With basketball, states like Louisiana, Indiana, Washington, and Maryland are the top producers of professional basketball players. Washington, DC also has a very high rate of producing NBA players when considering the per capita figures.

Football

Lastly, we also wanted to provide you with details relating to professional football players within the NFL. Up first, let’s take a look at the global view of countries where NFL players are born.

Birth Countries of All NFL Players

Not surprisingly, the United States leads the way once again as with the other sports. Behind the US, countries like Germany and Canada also are top producers of NFL talent. Altogether, players in the NFL have come from more than 90 countries around the world.

Up next, let’s take a look at a state-level basis once again to see which states are producing the largest number of professional football players on a per capita basis.

Birth States of All NFL Players

As with most of the other sports featured in this section, Louisiana is the front runner when it comes to producing NFL players. Behind Louisiana, states like Washington DC, South Carolina, and Hawaii also have lots of professional football players born there.

To wrap things up, it’s clear from the details included above if you’re looking to become a professional athlete in the NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB, your best chances of doing such are if you’re born within the United States. However, even if you’re not born in the US, there’s still a chance you could become a professional athlete in one of these leagues.

Frequently Asked Questions

To help close things out, we wanted to toss in some FAQs relating to the topic of becoming a professional athlete. If you’re still hunting for some answers, we hope these may be able to assist you.

  • What Do Professional Athletes Do After Retiring From Playing a Pro Sport?

    Professional athletes can pursue many different paths once they end up retiring from their sport of choice. In some cases, former pro athletes go on to become entrepreneurs, attorneys, and more.

  • Is There Any Sure Way to Guarantee I Become a Professional Athlete?

    Unfortunately, no. To become a professional athlete, you’ll need to work really hard at the sport and be extremely good at it. And, even with all of that, it still takes some luck for you to get on the radar of a professional sports team who wants you. As you can see from all of the statistics provided on this page, it’s a long shot to become a pro. However, it is still a possibility under the right circumstances.

  • What Sport Provides the Best Odds of Being Able to Go Pro?

    Based on the latest data from the NCAA provided at the top of this guide, men’s ice hockey currently offers the best chance of a high school player eventually reaching the pros. However, it’s still just roughly only 1 in every 500 players who will make it to play professional hockey.

Wrap Up

We hope we’ve been able to help you find all the details you were searching for relating to the odds of becoming a professional athlete. If you enjoyed this page and all the data provided, you’ll also like some of our other “What Are the Odds?” pages we’ve produced. Using the links below, you can check out some of the other topics, such as your odds of being attacked by a shark, winning the lottery, being on a TV game show and more.