Can Your Child Become a Professional Athlete?

Being a professional athlete is one of the most glamorised careers. As a parent, are you willing to support your child’s passion? Francesca chats to Platinum Stars FC goalkeeper, Steven Hoffman, on growing up, going pro and staying humble.

Since the day he was born, Steven Hoffman began training for his future career as a professional soccer player.

Becoming a Superstar

His earliest memory is at age one, diving on his couch as his father tossed the ball towards him. At age two, training sessions moved to the green carpet in the garden and by four years old, he had joined all the other eager little boys lining up to train. Now, at 24, he’s all grown up, Steven is a goalkeeper for Platinum Stars FC. He has been playing for the club for the past year and 7 months.

Steven’s parents have been a huge support in encouraging his dream of becoming a professional athlete. That being said, this may not be such an easy task for all parents.

Parenting like a Pro

Parents, you might be asking yourself the question: can your child really become a professional athlete/sportsman? The sports industry is certainly one of the most competitive fields. Apart from dealing with the competition, your child’s athletic skills need to constantly be on point. Being physically fit and healthy is a must.  One thing is for sure: the sports industry is tough.

As parents, it’s always safer to keep your little darlings from anything that could possibly taint them in any way. But what if your child is the next Neymar or has Serena Williams’ kickass backhand. Talent speaks and passion is loud. This sound should allow your child to, at least, attempt to achieve their medal-filled dreams. The importance of an opportunity is huge.

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First Things First

Becoming a professional athlete is competitive. We cannot emphasise this point enough. Most of the time, an aspiring athlete will need to take part in a trial or try out to be part of a team. As a parent, it is important to be mindful of this. Steven shares some insight on South African soccer leagues,

“The PSL (Premier Soccer League) in South Africa is really competitive. We have some of the most skilful players in the world in the league. The National First Division (NFD), the Vodacom league (2nd division) and the Castle league (3rd division) are all competitive too. I have played in all four. They are all competitive in their own unique way and are four different styles of eye-catching football. With regards to trials, the best make it and hard work and dedication are evident in the field. Sometimes it’s just not your day and you don’t get selected. Teams sometimes have open trials at the beginning of their respective league seasons but the majority of the time, players who have done well in their clubs and have impressed the scouts, get invited.”

If your child is interested in playing a specific sport professionally, it’s advisable to get them into a reputable club so that they are able to train and compete while still in school. This will help prepare them for potentially furthering this career path.

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Let’s be real

School and getting an education is still important. Parents, we hear you. There are certain concerns that come with supporting your child in the pursuit of a sports career. Let’s take a look at some of the key issues:

1.  School just gets in the way.

As your child realises that their potential sporting career is getting attention, they need to be aware that school is still super cool. We all know that Fluffy did not eat their English speech. It’s great that your child puts in extra hours at rugby or soccer practise but it’s vital that they remember the importance of school. Putting in just as much effort with their schoolwork is critical to them leaving school with good results.

In the same way, participating in a university sporting team may not necessarily prioritise academics, however, it’s still useful to have the option of pursuing a different path. Growing up, Steven’s family were all very supportive of his dreams to become a professional soccer player but his mother kept reminding him to always put his schoolwork first.

2. They grow up so Quickly

Pursuing a sports career choice requires your child to grow up faster than what they would usually.  Steven says,

‘I moved out of the house when I was 17 and went to WITS’.

There are many experiences that come with this career choice that can ask a lot of your child. This includes living away from home and frequent travelling which pushes your child to become independent. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a tough thing when your child is fresh out of school. You could be giving your child the opportunity to grow in independence and know how to take care of themselves from a young age.

3.  The Money Struggle

‘Being money savvy is also a big challenge, as sportsmen get thrown into big money at a very age’,

says the young goalie.

Having someone like a parent or a guardian to guide their finances, so that they’re saving and not just blowing their dough, is so valuable.    

4. And their Morals go out the Window…

It’s possible to get consumed by the lifestyle that comes with being a professional athlete.

‘It’s very easy to get sucked into a life of alcoholism and partying’

says Steven

It will help if your child focuses on why they wanted this dream in the first place.  Having family and friends to continuously ground them is also important. If your child has a solid foundation, they won’t be easily caught up in the loose-living lifestyle.

5. But the stress of it all…

You are probably thinking that there are many other off-the-field challenges that could negatively affect your child. Maintaining a balanced diet is one challenge while having a fitness plan and being wary of the media that may cross your path are other valid concerns. Relationships often change if a person is put in the spotlight. For example, your child could find that all of a sudden people start befriending them. This could be for their image or money. Some relationships can get complicated like the ones your child has with their coach and teammates. Home is where the heart is and if your child knows that they have strong, real relationships with their family, this should not become a major cause for concern.

Steven’s advice to any aspiring, young athlete is to believe in their talent, focus on their goal and strive to achieve it while remaining humble.

‘People will break you down but you need to have a very strong heart and a very strong mind. Get a degree behind your name, sport is a very short career and sometimes things happen and you can’t play or compete anymore’,

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EduConnect 2cents

Like any career path, this one comes with many hurdles. As a parent, it’s wonderful to support your child in their passions but also really important to look out for them in this challenging yet exciting time.