(pruh-fesh-uh-nl spohrts) (n.)
The practice of playing sports for money. Professional athletes work for sports organizations or independent promoters, and they earn their living by competing in duly recognized sports events. Usually, they work their way up from the amateur ranks, where they play sports for scholarships and school recognition, community, and national or international honors. Professional athletes must maintain and enhance their natural abilities, physical attributes, and the amount of focus necessary to participate regularly in the highest levels of competition in their chosen sport. Success as a professional athlete depends largely on consistent excellence in competition.
In team sports, professional athletic careers revolve around the activities of their teams in established leagues and tournaments, where teams compete against each other for the entertainment of the public and eventual recognition as the best in the league. Such recognition can lead to the athlete’s participation in competitions that are more lucrative and offer bigger financial rewards, product endorsements and greater popularity among followers of the sport. The same concept applies to individual sports, such as martial arts, boxing, tennis and golf. A professional athlete's main responsibility is to maintain his or her competitive skills, follow his or her manager's decisions and promote the sport.
A degree is not required to become a professional athlete unless the particular athlete plans to engage in other areas of the sport where he or she may be qualified, such as sports medicine. However, athletes must demonstrate their ability to play exceptionally and pass the league's eligibility requirements before competing at the professional level. It is common for professional athletes who can no longer compete to coach, train or manage a team or young athlete.