Aug. 27, 2015

Professional Athlete: Is It Really Worth It?

By Marc Platt

Being a professional athlete can be the ultimate high for a young impressionable athlete, who is willing to subject him/her to great adversity with just the hopes of a chance to compete at the highest level.

If that young adult is lucky, they will enter the professional sports workforce and thrive for at least a few years.

NFL players certainly have a realistic expectation of a 3.5-year career, MLB players make it for an average of 5.6 years, NBA 4.8 and NHL is 5.5 years. So athletes around 28-years-old with a long life ahead of them are out of work. Their dreams of glory on the field, or ice are over.

There have been a lot of news features, television stories and magazine features on this subject in the past.

Maybe it is important for young athletes to take heed of these facts before pursuing careers that are likely to end prematurely.

A few years back, I gave advice to my young 10-year-old nephew who wanted to play tackle football and expressed an interest in polaying high school football in a few years. This kid is a football-loving geek who studies all of the statistics starting at 5:30 in the morning when he gets up.

My other brothe (his uncle) has an awesome career job with Major League Baseball (MLBAM) and I pointed out to the young would-be athlete that he too could have a long and fruitful career in sports BEHIND the camera, or as a statistician, analyst, scout, or executive.

It wasn't hard to make my case, but he still wasn't completely convinced. 

Who could blame him? We live in a culture that glorifies, exploits and celebrates the gladiators who entertain us and give their blood, sweat and tears trying to hang on in a sport that is constantly turning over.

Football players are bigger, faster and stronger than they ever were. This contributes to damaging injuries that are much more dangerous than in past decades. When a 350-pound linebacker can run 4.4 and hit a 200-pound running back or wide receiver in full stride, we see many more concussions and ligament tears than 10/20/30 years ago.

This convinced the young man that the future as a high school, college and NFL star doesn't look very appetizing at all by THOSE standards. He is now on a course to become an executive.

I highly recommend talking to young people about their aspirations in life. Give them the wisdom of reality before they do something for the wrong reasons that can injure them in a way that will impact their future.

I wanted to write this piece without drudging up the recent evidence of NFL former players who have committed suicide, arrests and "Going-Broke" stories that the media covers on a regular basis. This needs to be a generic breakdown of the reality of the "Field of Dreams" that children are enamored by.

There are a million stories of heart break when it comes to athletes and their short careers. This should be a hopeful time in their lives and you can always point out that there are many ways to make a living in sports than getting your head bashed in by a gladiator who is a trained killer on the field.