Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.
Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.
Occupation: Professional athlete
Overview: Professional athletes play a sport for a living. They make money off of ticket sales, medals and top placements they receive in sporting events, endorsements, corporate sponsorships, grants, merchandising, book sales, and by working part-time jobs to cover the bills. While most athletes don’t reach the millionaire level of fame and fortune that star players do, many can make a living as long as they stay healthy and on top of their game.
While much of an athlete’s time is dedicated to practicing their sport, their workday might also be spent reviewing footage of past performances, analyzing an opponent’s practices, working out, adhering to a fastidious diet regime, participating in promotional activities, and attending meetings with agents, coaches, and team members. Players of certain sports can live where they want and travel to and from sporting events. Athletes who can be traded at the whim of management may need to relocate multiple times throughout their career.
Necessary Training: Professional athletes only reach their level of skill through extreme discipline and years of diligent practice. Many work with private coaches to speed up the learning curve. Most athletes begin playing their sport as a child and continue honing their abilities through high school and college. While some athletes begin their professional careers directly after high school, most are drafted out of college, so they must have the academic foundation to get into a university and succeed there as they wait for the right opportunity to arrive.
Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Basic first aid, high pain tolerance, promotion, strategic thinking, super strength, swift-footedness
POSITIVE: Ambitious, analytical, confident, cooperative, decisive, disciplined, enthusiastic, focused, inspirational, passionate, persistent, responsible, studious, talented, uninhibited
NEGATIVE: Confrontational, obsessive, perfectionist, workaholic
Sources of Friction: A nagging or career-ending injury, having a bad day when an important scout is present, negative social media interactions being resurrected and tainting one’s reputation, trusting the wrong people (a greedy agent, friends who are only interested in one’s fame or money), failing a drug test, being replaced by a younger and more talented athlete, pressure (internal and external) to perform and succeed, a crisis of confidence, being traded and having to move one’s family to a new location, falling into temptation while on the road (one night stands, drugs, etc.), an unfavorable change in management or coaching staff, a coach that plays favorites, making poor choices with one’s vast amount of money, being accused of sexual harassment or fathering someone’s child, being sexually harassed on tour, losing a key sponsor or endorsement opportunity
People They Might Interact With: Teammates, competitors, coaches, agents and managers, personal trainers, nutritionists, doctors, physical therapists, fans
How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:
- Esteem and Recognition: An athlete who is unable to deal well with the constant criticism inherent with this career may quickly find their self-esteem bottoming out.
- Love and Belonging: Athletes who have to travel a lot or move away temporarily from family members may find it hard to maintain loving and loyal romantic relationships.
- Safety and Security: Most career athletes last less than 20 years in their sport due to injury (this varies, depending on the sport). Career-ending and dangerous injuries, such as concussions and the like, can present a safety threat for professional athletes.
- Physiological Needs: Athletes have been killed while competing, so while it’s unusual, it is a possibility.
Common Work-Related Settings: Airplane, airport, archery range, black-tie event, bowling alley, fitness center, golf course, green room, gymnasium, hotel room, house party, mansion, marina, outdoor skating rink, penthouse suite, skate park, ski resort, sporting event stands
Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: Stories about athletes typically involve the underdog hero going up against the well-funded, well-connected, legacy-type antagonist. Keep this in mind and switch up your characters to bring something fresh to the page.
Also consider the sport your protagonist will pursue. Popular sports are, well, popular for story fodder, but what about the less-romanticized activities? Sports like skeet shooting, equestrian dressage, fencing, wrestling, rowing, and paralympic events can provide the same competitive and stressful environment while allowing you to cover new ground for readers.
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