Switching from amateur to professional sport


For millions of young athletes around the world who are committed to standing out in their chosen field, entering a professional or elite academy or institution is the first step towards this goal. But this is not a guaranteed launch pad for success, as many other factors and realities come into play. Those with great talent and potential enter elite academies, but with it comes challenges. and obstacles, both physical and psychological.

READ| It’s good for athletes to have proactive parents

What are the challenges?

The first is the ability to thrive in a new environment – to cope with cultural situations and conflicts. Being grounded in their previous routines and patterns, it requires a change in the thinking processes of athletes and forces them to make adjustments.

For example, attending an academy full time while concentrating on studying can be very difficult. You have to deal with being away from family and friends, dealing with commuting times for training, cultivating new circles or groups of friends, and so on.

The mode and method of training can be completely different from what athletes are used to. In the previous setup, he or she may have been at the top of the natural selection process. But in the new, they may need a chance to prove themselves, as the peer group may be more talented or experienced, and they have to be mentally strong to cope with it.

For an amateur athlete progressing to elite levels, the sources of pressure can be numerous and are both intrinsic and extrinsic in nature.

READ| Avoid plagiarism when you work out

Intrinsic factors

  • Mental and physical preparation
  • Coach comments
  • Have enough playing time with the elite team
  • Performance assessment by competence

Extrinsic factors

  • Personal development of an individual
  • Face the teammates
  • Attitude of teammates towards the individual
  • How others see you from the outside

The professionals on the team – coaches, psychologists, management – can help ease the transition to elite levels.

READ| COVID-19: How to get back to sport amid the coronavirus

What does it take to thrive in elite sport?

Now that we’ve identified the factors that help athletes reach the top, what are they that allow them to thrive at the highest level?

  • The passion for playing the game is the crux of the matter
  • Have the right set of goals and focus
  • Take control of the situation
  • Highly motivated to accomplish the desired task with excellence
  • Overall skills improvement
  • Know the areas for improvement
  • Unique concentration
  • Perseverance to overcome all obstacles
  • Optimistic in approach
  • Learn and adapt quickly both mentally and physically
  • Self-motivation at the highest level
  • Open-mindedness to new learning
  • Progressive spirit towards upward mobility
  • Use mental imagery techniques
  • Positive attitude to deal with stress and anxiety
  • Commitment to individual and team goals
  • Team player in all aspects if in a team sport
  • Set clear goals on various parameters – from physical to mental to skills
  • Adapt to all situations
  • Sense of belonging to the group or team
  • Ability to motivate yourself in various situations

Do you have it in you?

“When and where am I going to play in the next game? Is a question most athletes face in their playing years.

Luck can happen suddenly and it can be difficult to adjust to the factors at first. The main difference that amateur athletes face when they level up is how quickly the game is and the intensity and duration are more important. Amateur sports are always fast-paced and very competitive in the age groups, but the higher levels have their own different and difficult challenges.

READ| Coronavirus Lockdown: Former Team India Coach May Be Your Fitness Coach

Elite players are paid very well and to maintain their intensity and skill they train harder, play smarter and lead their lives very professionally in order to keep their place on the team. They need to be bigger, stronger, fitter and well prepared for any situation.

Nothing can be taken for granted, from training to diet. With an effective time management system in place, a lot can be accomplished. To deal with it, hiring professionals such as skill trainers, strength and conditioning trainers, physiotherapists, sports nutritionists, mental conditioning specialists and recovery specialists can bring a paradigm shift in overall development and professionalism.

It takes a lot of sacrifice to become a successful elite athlete, and life can get hectic. Dealing with external pressures such as the media, fan expectations, and being a public figure can be daunting and nerve-racking. What professionals do off the pitch may hold the key to what they do on the pitch. But the passion for the game can mitigate all other factors.


Sara R. Cicero