When we see athletes performing at a high level, we are dazzled by their ability to produce spectacular moves and go to the limit of their physical condition. Like artists on a stage, professional athletes are the real owners of the show, and they spark in the hearts of children and young people the desire to make a living from sports as well. But what many don't see is the hard work demanded by a lifetime of dedication to sports. Do you know what it takes to become a professional athlete?
On National Professional Athlete Day, we seek to answer this question for those who wish to dedicate their lives to sports.
The first contact with the sport is highly important for those who intend to become professionals. Usually, this contact occurs between the ages of 7 and 12, the period in which they identify with some sport at school, which can be soccer, volleyball, judo, swimming, among others.
For more competitive sports, starting early is a differential, as is the case with soccer and swimming. The earlier you start practicing, the more comprehensive and extensive your education in body, movement and tactics can be.
The support of an expert coach is key. The guidance of this professional should include daily training and the techniques of your sport. In addition, physical practice is important for the body to adapt to the new routine. For this reason, enrolling in clubs, gyms, or schools for the chosen sport is highly important.
When the athlete decides to become a sport specialist, there needs to be a commitment of body and mind. Since an athlete's career depends on his or her body being physically well, special care must be taken. Sportspeople must have several hours of rest, avoid unhealthy drinks and foods, and refrain from habits such as smoking.
The mindset factor is also increasingly important in sports. This is the case of the US gymnast Simone Biles who, in the Tokyo Olympic Games, gave up her favorite competition due to stress and pressure. Medicine and sports psychology have advanced a lot and there are good professionals to provide psychological assistance for athletes.
It is never easy to deal with failures, but they will be an excellent starting point for seeking improvement. Constant self-assessment is key to becoming a professional athlete, because you have to understand that you are constantly dealing with changes in your body, mind, and the sport itself, and you need to adapt to them.
Clubs, teams, leagues or gyms are the gateway to start competing and gain visibility in a sport. By competing in different championships, experience is gained, gradually evolving until the athlete's full potential is reached. It is also possible to apply for grants from institutions and NGOs.
Want to play women's soccer? Check out a list of official soccer schools for women.
The financial income of athletes depends on different factors. The first, of course, is the sport. High-visibility sports deserve higher salaries, because they attract larger sums of money. The second factor is the athlete's ranking. The major leagues pay more because they generate more revenue from sales and sponsorships. The third is the awards, which are bigger according to the position in the competitions. And the fourth is sponsorship and image use.
Although professional soccer players have made big money, this is not the reality for all sports - not even within soccer. The majority of athletes in this sport (55%) receives a monthly salary of R$1,212, the Brazilian minimum wage. Another 33% earn up to R$5,000, and only 12% earn more than that.
When compared to women's soccer, the difference is also huge. According to information from the General Register of Employment and Unemployment (Cadastro Geral de Empregados e Desempregados - Caged), women's salaries are, on average, R$2,556.34. Men's salaries reach R$ 5,577.53. In other words, men earn 118% more. Female players' salaries in the A Series are compatible with those of men in the B, C, and D Series of the Brazilian Championship.
The salary of an Olympic athlete, on the other hand, varies according to the sport modality and the ranking. According to the Special Secretary of Sports, linked to the Ministry of Citizenship, 80% of the 302 athletes in the Brazilian delegation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are recipients of the Athlete Grant, a federal government program that provides grants to athletes who perform well in competitions and meet other requirements.
To be eligible for the podium grant, the athlete must be among the 20 best in the world in his or her category. The maximum amount, R$15,000 per month, is paid only to those who reach the top 3. The grants cover the period of one Olympic cycle, i.e., 4 years.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics promoted the competition of 46 sports. These are:
2. 3 x 3 basketball
4. Artistic Gymnastics
5. Artistic Swimming
8. Baseball and softball
9. Beach volleyball
11. Canoe Slalom
12. Canoe Sprint
13. BMX racing
14. BMX freestyle
15. Mountain bike cycling
16. Road cycling
17. Track cycling
24. Field hockey
27. Marathon swimming
28. Modern pentathlon
29. Rhythmic Gymnastics
35. Sport Climbing
38. Table Tennis
41. Trampoline Gymnastics
44. Water Polo
Neoenergia is the first exclusive sponsor of the Brazilian women's teams and the main national championship between clubs, demonstrating the company's commitment to gender equality.
By sponsoring the Brazilian women's soccer team and Brazilian Championship, Neoenergia is in solidarity with this journey. “We believe in equity in all fields. We know a lot about power grids, and now we are drawing another invisible but equally solid network to unite all those who contribute to advancing equality in an area as impactful as sports", says Mario Ruiz Tagle, Neoenergia's CEO.
Iberdrola Group, of which Neoenergia is part, also has a long history of supporting projects that promote women's empowerment. With over 330,000 athletes supported in several countries, the company is the biggest supporter of women in European sports.