Going Professional as a Teen

The challenges of young student-athletes playing professionally


Photo courtesy Unsplash.com

Going pro as a teen takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

Ellie Schafer, Viking Voices Co-Editor

It takes a lot of talent, hard work and commitment to become a professional athlete. In a research experiment conducted by Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian journalist and author, found it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert or professional at anything. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to 416 days of constant exercising and routine. There is some debate about whether young student-athletes should play professionally.  

Ellie Carpenter, an Australian soccer player, played her first international match in 2016 against Vietnam at only 15 years old. Her whole team qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, making her the youngest Australian Olympian participating in those Olympics. The next year she was a starter for seven games, scored her first international goal, which was the game-winner, and appeared in all three matches at the Tournament of Nations. She was only 16.  

Carpenter left school in 10th grade to pursue soccer professionally, admitting it was a tough decision but one she stands by. She feels that life as an international footballer has become easier without the added pressure of exams because it was too hard to balance everything at school and play full-time.  

Another extraordinary young professional is Katie Ledecky, an American Olympic swimmer. Ledecky set an Olympic trials record after her freshman year of high school. Qualifying for the 2012 London games, Ledecky was the youngest member of the 2012 Olympic swimming team. She earned a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle, setting an American record at just 15 years old. In the middle of her college swimming career, she decided to go professional. She was still able to graduate from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. So far in her career, Ledecky has won a total of seven gold medals. 

Lacrosse player Evers Morris (9) knows the struggle of the balancing act between schoolwork and athletics. In addition to playing for the Vikings, she also participates in multiple off-season teams to perfect her skills.  

I think that student-athletes are already under immense pressure balancing day-to-day life. Between practice, social plans, and school, the pressure of trying to go pro at a young age would be too much to try and inflict on young student-athletes. Going pro early can result in burnout in your sport and life,” Morris said.

Amit Khatri is a professional racewalker from India. At only 18 years old, Amit became the first Indian racewalker to secure a podium finish at the World Athletics U20 Championships, clocking 42:17.94 in the Men’s 10k event.  LeBron James, Chloe Kim, Rethin Pranav, Christian Pulisic and Kanak Jha are some other athletes who went professional at surprisingly young ages. Although it worked out for these young athletes, making it as a professional is rare. There is only a 0.00075% chance it can happen – the same odds as being struck by lightning.  

Silas Crosland (9) is a cross-country runner for Spartanburg High School. He also participates in Viking Early College. He is a dedicated runner for both cross country and track; his commitment is helping him quickly rise in the rankings as he is improving his times at every meet.  

Despite his dedication to his sport, Crosland is unsure if it is a good idea for young students to leave school to become professional athletes.

“It depends on how good you are and if they like the sport they’re doing,” Crosland said.