99% of "pro" teams aren't actually professional BBQ competitors; the money isn't there to keep 'em in trucks n such. They're hobbyists; same as you. However, that doesn't mean that these guys aren't very seasoned and quite accomplished. Many are.
+1000 what the guys said above. If the money difference isn't significant for you, you'll learn MUCH more in the sanctioned "pro" area than you ever will in the backyard area. Plus, you'll get to see how your BBQ measures up to theirs.
Hance - Lake Dogs Cooking Team - MiM/MBN/GBA CBJ and comp cook
Lake Sinclair, GA (strategically about an hour from everywhere)