Want the bad news? The odds are against our emerging athletes

Of more than 480 thousand National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes, less than 1.6% of all men’s/women’s basketball, football and soccer athletes transition into the professional or Olympic ranks.


In more positive news 86% of NCAA student-athletes graduate from Division 1 Universities. (Reference link)

So we know the US sport market is insanely large and ultra-competitive, but what does this mean for our emerging athletes in Australia?

Whilst I couldn’t find consistent research data to reflect exact percentages of transition rates, the University of Western Australia careers and injury prospectus of former Australian Rules Football (AFL) players states the average AFL career is less than 90 senior games with 77% of all athletes experiencing a significant injury (admitted to hospital or undergoing major surgery). (Reference link)

The 2016 landmark Collective Bargaining Agreement for professional Netball athletes will see player salaries double. Unfortunately, this still only puts an average 12-month salary at $67,500.00. (Reference link) Chump change comparatively to the $300,000 AFL player average or better yet the $6.2 million average 2016/17 National Basketball Association (NBA) players.

So, this tells us:

The window to crack professional ranks is incredibly difficult and the data provided here would support this
If you do make it your longevity is questionable, unlike the probability of severe injury
Depending on your chosen sport, your annual salary most likely won’t allow you to retire basking in the sun outside your secluded beach front mansion.
This article isn’t here to crush dreams, I sincerely respect and admire the many athletes that continually make huge sacrifices to chase their dreams. In fact, sport at all levels is a proven platform to build individuals, teams and wider-communities.

What it does bring into focus is the ability of coaches to provide an environment and experience that develops the whole person. Coaches are forever honing their craft to continue to instill the self-belief, resilience and confidence for emerging athletes to break through the glass ceiling of professional sport.

The great ones understand their responsibility is to holistically develop their players to ensure athletic habits are harnessed in other areas of life – education, work, family and the wider community.

In the corporate world, these are often labelled as ‘soft skills’ – communication, teamwork, creativity, resilience etc. and organisations invest heavily in these areas to build the capability of their people.

Recently, I was fortunate to conduct a Q & A with a former professional coach of mine, Ian Stacker. Having coached in the Australian National Basketball League for 22 years, Australian Institute of Sport Head Coach from 2013-2015 and now the current Director of Coaching at Templestowe College in Melbourne, Australia Ian’s in-depth understanding of the varying complexities of coaching and developing emerging athletes is second to none.

Hear what Ian, Lisa Alexander (Australian Netball Diamands Head Coach) and Katie Allen (2000 Olympic Hockey Gold Medalist and Australian Junior Coach) had to say about the importance for emerging athletes to practice public speaking.

Many other important areas fall into holistic athlete development, for example:

Goal setting
Digital shadow (social media awareness)
Self-reflection and self-awareness
Leadership purpose
Vision & Creativity
Emotional Intelligence
Communication
Situational leadership
Resilience
When developed over time, the transferable skills learnt through sport can set an athlete up for success in life. In fact, Forbes Magazine has published several articles and case studies on why companies should hire athletes – insert link here

Leaders of Evolution has developed a Young Leaders in Sport Program. This program is specifically designed to engage and support the holistic development of 14-18 year-old athletes in a 21st century learning environment.

For more information on our 2017 Young Leaders in Sport Program, please click here for PDF flyer or click here to the explainer video.

If you’re an athlete, coach, business owner or community leader I welcome your comments on your approach towards holistic athlete development.

Thank you for reading, please feel free to share throughout your social networks.

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Leaders of Evolution are passionate about education. We expertly design and deliver technology enhanced e-learning courses focused on leadership, social and emotional learning, career readiness and sports coaching for students, teachers, athletes, coaches and the wider community.

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Jon Shepherd

Away from his ongoing quest of learning to surf, Jon's busy overseeing marketing, sales and business development at Leaders of Evolution. His love for all sports, especially NBA & NCAA basketball ensures he is never far off a live ESPN score up-date.

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