Professional Sportsperson

Kaiwhakataetae Ngaio

Alternative titles for this job

Professional sportspeople take part in competitive national and international sports such as rugby, football, cricket, netball, golf, tennis and horse racing.

Pay

Pay for professional sportspeople varies depending on the sport, the individual's ability, and their performance.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a professional sportsperson are poor due to strong competition for limited vacancies.

Pay

Pay for professional sportspeople varies depending on the sport, and their performance and abilities.

  • Most paid sportspeople are semi-professional, earning some money from sport, and having a second job to make a living.
  • Semi-professional and some Olympic sportspeople based in New Zealand earn varying amounts – from the minimum wage to $60,000 a year or more.
  • Top-level sportspeople in internationally popular sports, such as golf or rugby, may earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, winnings or additional advertising contracts.

Many sportspeople employ managers to get them extra income from:

  • appearance fees
  • contracts
  • performance bonuses
  • sponsorship deals and performance grants.

Source: careers.govt.nz research, 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Professional sportspeople may do some or all of the following:

  • follow a training programme to develop fitness and strength
  • practise the skills, drills and teamwork of their sport
  • decide on competitive plans and strategies with coaches
  • compete in national or international events
  • consult with health professionals
  • maintain their equipment
  • work with sponsors
  • public speaking.

Skills and knowledge

Professional sportspeople need to have knowledge of:

  • the rules, techniques, skills and tactics of their sport
  • nutrition and exercise requirements
  • injury prevention
  • how to care for equipment such as racquets, shoes, bikes or boats.

Knowledge of sports psychology may also be useful.

Working conditions

Professional sportspeople:

  • work irregular hours, including early mornings, evenings or weekends
  • train and compete in indoor or outdoor facilities such as gymnasiums, sports centres, rugby fields and tennis courts
  • may be required to travel to get to sports grounds and venues.

What's the job really like?

Meikayla Moore

Meikayla Moore

Professional Footballer

Impressing the home crowd

Meikayla scored her first international goal for the Football Ferns against Japan in front of a Wellington home crowd in June last year. The goal levelled the score to one all.

“I couldn’t have played it any better if I'd wanted to. It was surreal.”

Lifelong passion for football

Meikayla started playing football when she was four years old after her parents enrolled her in a local club.

Now she plays in Germany for MSV Duisburg in the top league of German women’s football. She’ll play for New Zealand in the Football Ferns in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and also played in the 2015 world cup.

Good to have a back-up plan

Meikayla is studying health science at Massey University. She wants to continue playing football after graduating, and work in the health sector after her football career.

Leadership opportunities

Meikayla has also captained New Zealand’s under-20 women’s football team.

"It was quite special for me because I want to take on leadership roles in the future."

No regrets

There were times in Meikayla’s career when she was hesitant about travelling overseas to play, but she hasn't regretted those experiences.

“If you know what you really want to do with your life do everything you can to achieve it.”

Entry requirements

To become a professional sportsperson you need a high level of skill and experience in your chosen sport.

Many sports have junior or development squads or leagues. If you perform well at the junior level you can qualify for representative teams and gain competition experience. If you continue to perform well you may be offered professional opportunities.

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a professional sportsperson. However, physical education, biology, science and English to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.

Additional requirements for specialist roles:

Jockey

To become a licenced jockey you must complete the National Certificate in Equine (Level 4).

Harness Driver

To become a harness driver you need to work as a trainee for up to four years. This training leads to the National Certificate in Equine - Harness Racing (Level 4).

Personal requirements

Professional sportspeople need to be:

  • competitive and motivated
  • observant and alert
  • disciplined and willing to work hard
  • able to remain calm and perform well under pressure
  • good at communicating with others
  • able to accept feedback and criticism
  • able to work well in a team.

“As a kid, football was all I ever wanted to do.”

Photo: Meikayla Moore

Meikayla Moore

Professional Footballer

Useful experience

Useful experience for professional sportspeople includes:

  • participation in junior, school or amateur sports events
  • any outdoor recreation work or experience dealing with the public
  • any other experience in their chosen sport or field.

Physical requirements

Professional sportspeople need to have excellent fitness and health.

Registration

Professional sportspeople must register with their sport's national organisation to represent their country internationally.

Find out more about training

Harness Racing NZ
(03) 964 1200 - webmaster@hrnz.co.nz - www.hrnz.co.nz
High Performance Sport New Zealand
(09) 477 5420 - info@hpsnz.org.nz - www.hpsnz.org.nz
Primary Industry Training Organisation
(04) 801 9616 - info@primaryito.ac.nz - www.primaryito.ac.nz
Professional Golfers Association of NZ (PGA)
(09) 488 6617 - www.pga.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Limited opportunities for most professional sportspeople

Overall, opportunities for professional sportspeople are limited because:

  • few professional sports leagues exist in New Zealand
  • government funding is limited
  • competition for positions is extremely high.

Therefore, most paid sportspeople are semi-professional, earning some money from sport and working a second job to make a living.

Best chances for jockeys and team sports players 

The roles of jockey and trackwork rider appear on Immigration New Zealand's regional skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled professional sportspeople from overseas to work in New Zealand.

Team sports with professional leagues offer the most full-time, paid opportunities for professional sportspeople.

Professional sportsperson career may be short

Professional sportspeople usually have a limited amount of time in their career. For example, the average career in rugby lasts about five years due to the physical nature of the sport. Careers in less physically intensive sports, such as golf and horse racing, usually last longer.

Types of employers varied

Professional sportspeople can be:

  • employed by professional sports teams or leagues
  • self-employed, and earn a living from a combination of competition prize money, scholarships and sponsorship or advertising.

Sports that employ significant numbers of professional sportspeople in teams or leagues include:

  • cricket
  • football
  • netball
  • rugby.

Sportspeople who participate in Olympic sports are also more likely to be semi-professional, as some of these sports receive targeted funding from government.

Sources

  • High Performance Sport New Zealand website, accessed May 2019, (www.hpsnz.org.nz).
  • Immigration New Zealand, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
  • New Zealand Institute of Sport website, accessed May 2019, (www.nzis.co.nz).
  • Sport New Zealand website, accessed May 2019, (www.sportnz.co.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Professional sportspeople follow a variety of paths when they retire from professional sport. Many go on to unrelated work, though others stay in the sports and recreation industry working as coaches, sports managers, administrators or commentators.

Professional sportspeople usually specialise in a particular sport such as netball, rugby, rugby league, tennis or cricket. Other specialisations include:

Footballer
Footballers play as part of a team in football competitions or tournaments.

Golfer
Golfers compete for money and prizes in golf tournaments. They may also act as a resident professional in golf schools and clubs.

Harness Driver
Harness drivers drive a horse from a sulky (a light cart), which is towed behind the horse in harness races.

Jockey
Jockeys ride racehorses at race meetings, trial meetings, jump outs and for track work.

Footballer Meikayla Moore playing for MSV Duisburg

Professional footballers can play for international teams

Last updated 12 September 2019