Growing up in the 80’s most kids were at the local park singing the hit jingle made famous by Gatorade “Want to be like Mike”. Every child who ever picked up a glove, bat, stick, or ball of any sort had dreams of hitting the winning homerun or scoring the winning goal. I was no different.

Today, a host of young athletes are singing a different tune. The days of wanting to ‘be like Mike” are gone. Enter the “want to be like Drew” generation. Be honest, did we ever think the day would come where specific agents would become part of our vernacular? That agents would star in TV commercials? Be more identifiable than some players they represent?

When Leigh Steinberg became the first “super agent” in the 90’s people inside the business knew who he was, but nobody outside of professional sports really did. Today, youngsters at parks around America not only dream of catching the winning touchdown, they are also wondering how much more money their agent will get them on their next contract.

Many people are of the opinion that agents (mainly due to this phenomenon) are on their way to ruining sports. Salaries are escalating and the agent business is full of people that don’t belong. I want to focus on the second part of that statement.

The agent business, because of the “be like Drew” phenomenon, has become highly attractive over the past few years. Couple high profile sports and high income potential and you’re bound to have an influx of eager and ready-to-please agents. It is estimated that there are 1600 registered NFL agents vying for just over 1400 NFL players. And, over 60% of registered NFL agents do not have a single client.

The business of athlete representation doesn’t sound so attractive now, does it?!

The answer = yes. Why?

Simply because there is a reason why 60% of those agents don’t have a single client and a reason why 40% of them do! In my humble opinion, 60% of those agents are doing something wrong. What separates the good agents from the bad ones? In my opinion, there is really one secret: Hard Work.

Man, that sounds really cheesy doesn’t it? You’d be expecting me to say something like negotiation techniques, industry contacts, access to athletes, or perhaps even law degree. Certainly, they all play a part in the success of an agent (minus the law degree), but hard work really does stand out from the rest.

A client of mine once started using the phrase when signing autographs “hard work pays off”. So simple, so trite…yet, so true. I came to the conclusion that hard work was the separating factor between success and failure when I started looking at how many of the top agents got their start in the representation business. It didn’t excite me to hear that a particular agent had 50 clients and an office that backed on the beach in California. It excited me to hear about how he chased down his first client and built his business from that point on. In 95% of the cases you’ll find that the agent convinced his first clients that he would work harder than anybody else.

Now, I must add to my comment about hard work for a minute. Hard work is of the utmost importance, but you’ve got to back it up with something. I’ve seen far too many agents who try to sign players on a hope and a dream. They got their certification and they think that they are ready for the big time. Print up some business cards and start signing players. Right? That’s mistake #1.

You see, the problem with wanting to become an agent is that there is no formal training. There are two ways to learn the business.

  1. Intern for a reputable sports agency
  2. Learn the business by doing your homework and building your own skill set

With the advent of “be like Drew”, most are now opting for option #2. That’s exactly how I did it. I did have a chance to learn from an established NHLPA certified agent when doing some hockey work earlier in my career (at age 18), but moved on to representing clients in the CFL by taking time to learn to agent business.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of resources available to learn about becoming an agent. No doubt that is one of them. The internet has become a great tool for learning and it has facilitated the education of many young agents.

My honest option as to why many agents don’t succeed? They aren’t ready for the business. They are full of zest and can taste the opportunity – but, lack the knowledge and training (don’t forget the hard work) to succeed.

That’s all for today. Off to outwork the other agents!

-Darren Gill