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A rookie is a person new to an occupation, profession, or hobby. In sports, a rookie is a professional athlete in their first season (or year).

In contrast with a veteran who has experience, a rookie is typically considered needing more training and learning, though they may bring a new outside expertise to a job.


The Oxford English Dictionary states that the origins are uncertain, but that perhaps it is a corruption of the word recruit. The earliest example in the OED is from Rudyard Kipling's Barrack-Room Ballads (published 1892): "So 'ark an' 'eed, you rookies, which is always grumblin' sore", referring to rookies in the sense of raw recruits to the British Army.[1] At least during the beginning of the 20th century, in the British Army the term "rookie" was typically used in place of "recruit" as exemplified in Trenching at Gallipoli by John Gallishaw (New York Century Co.: 1916) and in The Amateur Army by Patrick MacGill (London, Herbert Jenkins: 1915). Perhaps the expression is derived from "rook", whereby a "rookie" would be someone who is cheated or defrauded.

Sports culture

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In some sports there are traditions in which rookies must do things, or tricks are played on them. Examples in baseball include players having to dress up in very strange costumes, or getting hit in the face with a cream pie; a traditional rookie's "hazing" procedure in American football involves taping players to a goalpost and dousing them with ice water, Gatorade, and other substances.[2][3]

In Major League Baseball, the MLB has cracked down on hazing by enacting an Anti-Hazing and Anti-Bullying Policy which prohibits players from dressing up as the opposite sex, or wearing offensive costumes based on race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, and gender identify.[4]

American football

In the National Football League a rookie is any player who is in their first season in the NFL, having never signed a contract with an NFL team before.[5] The NFL awards the best rookie with the Associated Press NFL Rookie of the Year Award, as voted upon the Associated Press. In the NFL, rookies have special contract rules which limit how much a team can pay them as well as limiting the length of the contract, as per stipulations laid out in the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement.[6][7]

Auto racing

Cole Whitt's car with yellow rookie stripes
Cole Whitt's car with yellow rookie stripes

NASCAR and INDYCAR rookies are denoted by a yellow stripe on sections of the car as prescribed in the respective rule books. In NASCAR, the rookie stripe is located on the tail panel of the race car.[8]


The following rules are for rookie status in a national series:


The following rules are for rookie status in the NTT IndyCar Series:


To qualify as a rookie in Major League Baseball (MLB), a player must not have exceeded 130 at bats or fifty innings pitched in the majors, and also fewer than 45 days on the active rosters of major league clubs (excluding time on the disabled list or any time after rosters are expanded on September 1) in their previous seasons.[9] Major League Baseball awards the best rookie with the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award, as voted upon by the Baseball Writers' Association of America and first bestowed in 1947. Since 2001, MLB also issues the Major League Baseball Rookie of the Month Award.


In the National Basketball Association, a rookie is any player who has never played a game in the NBA until that year and the past 1 years. The NBA awards the best rookie with the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, as voted upon by a selected panel of United States and Canadian sportswriters and broadcasters. In the NBA, rookies have special contract rules which limit how much a team can pay them as well as limiting the length of the contract.[10]

Ice hockey

To qualify as a rookie in the National Hockey League, a player must not have played in more than 25 NHL games in any preceding seasons, nor in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons. Any player at least 26 years of age (by September 15 of that season) is not considered a rookie.


In Major League Soccer, a rookie is a player who has had no prior professional experience.[11][12] MLS awards the best rookie with the MLS Rookie of the Year Award.

See also


  1. ^ John Simpson and Edmund Weiner (editors): Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, Clarendon Press, 1989, ISBN 0-19-861186-2.
  2. ^ Martinez, Jose (August 8, 2013). "The Most Humiliating NFL Rookie Hazings". Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  3. ^ Birdsong, Nick (August 12, 2015). "Ronald Darby taped to goal post, doused with water in Bills' rookie hazing ritual". Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  4. ^ Justice, Richard (December 13, 2016). "Anti-hazing, anti-bullying policy appropriate". Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  5. ^ "NFL–NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement 2020" (PDF). NFLPA. March 5, 2020. p. 3. Retrieved May 23, 2020. Rookie" means a person who has never before signed a Player Contract with an NFL Club. The first Player Contract signed by such person is a "Rookie Contract.
  6. ^ Davis, Nate (July 25, 2011). "NFL, players announce new 10-year labor agreement". USAToday. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  7. ^ Lariviere, David (July 4, 2012). "NFL Rookie Contracts Show Owners Were The Winners In CBA". Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  8. ^ "2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year". Jayski's Silly Season Site. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  9. ^ "MLB Miscellany: Rules, regulations and statistics". Major League Baseball. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  10. ^ Jessop, Alicia (June 28, 2012). "The Structure of NBA Rookie Contracts". Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  11. ^ "Finalists revealed for 2017 MLS year-end awards". October 31, 2017. Retrieved January 20, 2018. For this award, "rookie" is defined as a player without previous professional experience who made his MLS debut in 2017
  12. ^ Mahoney, Ridge (October 18, 2017). "MLS Awards: Gressel holds sway in Rookie of the Year race". Retrieved January 20, 2018. Many of the top young players new to the league, such as Jefferson Savarino of Real Salt Lake, are not eligible due to professional experience prior to their arrival in MLS.