There have been many occasions in which I have heard a freshly nationally ranked NPC competitor declare that he or she will hit the national stage and easily snap up an IFBB Pro Card. While I applaud the competitor’s enthusiasm and drive, I cannot help but snicker to myself when I hear such a statement. Honestly, if it were that easy to earn a Pro Card, there would be Pros populating the country in droves. Alas, there are only a finite number of Pro Cards given out each year, and the competition for them is fierce.
I will often see competitors who have made such a declaration months later who are shocked that they have not yet achieved Pro status. They mention being stunned, frustrated and dejected, and often will state that they are considering leaving the sport altogether. Let me tell you something: I stepped on the national stage fourteen times before I earned my Pro Card.
There certainly were times that I was discouraged, and there were moments during which I had pondered the possibility of walking away from the sport. Yet I kept getting back on the stage, improving my game each time and proving to myself that I was strong enough to overcome the roadblocks that kept Pro status at bay. Thankfully, all of my dedication and stubbornness finally paid off, but it was a long and arduous journey.
I think it is very important to bear in mind how competitive national NPC bodybuilding contests are. There are over 100 national qualifying NPC local contests across the nation each year, with some events in large metropolitan areas bringing in more than 100 competitors in each of the most popular divisions (Men’s Physique, Figure and Bikini). Since only the top five competitors in these divisions are given national qualification, such contests can be brutally competitive.
These nationally qualified competitors then hit the national stage, usually competing against an average of thirty other competitors (there were a record 72 competitors in one Men’s Physique class in 2011) who are considered the best in the nation. So what makes you think you can easily snap up a Pro Card? You may prove me wrong, but it is foolish to boast that you will easily get one from your first foray into a national NPC contest.
By no means am I trying to discourage anyone from competing. What I hope to do is to encourage competitors to be realistic yet unrelenting in their pursuit of personal excellence as they reach for Pro status. It is always a good idea to talk to the judges after a contest to obtain valuable feedback. It is also important to look at your contest photos, especially the comparison photos. If there are changes which need to be made, make them before you hit the stage again. Most importantly, do not get discouraged. Good things come to those who persevere!