Athletes and sports competitors participate in organized, officiated sports events to entertain spectators. They often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. They usually work more than 40 hours a week several months during the sports season.
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Athletes generally do the following:
Few people who dream of becoming a paid professional athlete beat the odds and make a full-time living at it. And when they do, they often have short careers with little job security. When playing a game, athletes and sports competitors must understand the game strategies while obeying the rules and regulations of the sport. The events in which athletes compete include team sports, such as baseball, softball, hockey, and soccer, and individual sports, such as golf, tennis, swimming, and skiing. The level of play varies greatly, where sometimes the best from around the world compete in events broadcast on international television.
Being an athlete involves more than competing in athletic events. Athletes spend many hours each day practicing skills and improving teamwork under the guidance of a coach or a sports instructor. They view videotapes to critique their own performances and techniques and to learn their opponents' tendencies and weaknesses so as to gain a competitive advantage. . Some athletes work regularly with strength trainers to gain muscle and stamina and to prevent injury. Many athletes push their bodies to the limit during both practice and play, so career-ending injury is always a risk; even minor injuries may put a player at risk of replacement.
Because competition at all levels is extremely intense and job security is always in question, many athletes train throughout the year to maintain excellent form and technique and peak physical condition. Very little downtime from the sport exists at the professional level.
Most athletes develop their skills by playing the sport at some level. Regardless of the level, they must have extensive knowledge of the way the sport is played, especially its rules, regulations, and strategies. They often learn by playing the sport in school or at a recreation center, with the help of instructors or coaches, or in a camp that teaches the fundamentals of the sport.
Athletes get their training in several ways. For most team sports, athletes gain experience by competing in high school and collegiate athletics or on club teams. Other athletes learn their sport by taking private or group lessons, such as in gymnastics or tennis. Some sports and localities require athletes to be licensed or certified to practice. For example, in drag racing, drivers need to graduate from approved schools to be licensed to compete in the various drag racing series. The governing body of the sport may revoke licenses and suspend players who do not meet the required performance, education, or training. In addition, athletes may have their licenses or certification suspended for inappropriate activity.
More than half of all athletes are employed in the spectator sports industry. Those who participate in competitions that are held outdoors may be exposed to all weather conditions of the season in which they play their sport. Additionally, they must travel to sporting events, which may include long bus rides or, in some cases, international air travel.
The median annual wage of athletes and sports competitors was $43,740 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount, and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $17,120, and the top 10% earned more than $166,400.