Want to be like Drew

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 sportsagentblog.com 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

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  • LW

    “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.”

    Just trying to clarify here, you don’t believe that law degrees seperate good agents from bad agents. However, the correlation between the top agents and law degrees in the 3 major sports is obvious. Specifically relating to basketball, there are three top agents, the Goodwin brothers, Duffy, and Bartelstein (who holds an MBA) that don’t hold law degrees. Babby, Rose, Falk, Tellem, Fegan all do. Of course, this is only a small sample of the top agents, but wouldn’t one agree that a law degree gives an edge to any perspective agent. Through the honing of negotiation tactics, contracts and other legal sides to the representation business.

    While I agree that hard work seperates the good from the bad, the majority of “bad” agents don’t hold a graduate degree. A law degree is a signal to any perspective athlete one might represent, a signal that the agent is serious and (hopefully) better prepared than a perspective agent without a law degree.

    Of course, all things are not equal and this isn’t to say you can’t succeed in the industry without a law degree. However, it does give you an edge. Using this edge to your advantage is the most important part though.

    I believe a law degree does play a part in the success of an agent, but only if the agent knows how to use the law degree to his advantage. The piece of paper will do nothing, but selling the law degree, gaining the knowledge from the degree and using it through player representation will create an edge.

  • “Just trying to clarify here, you don’t believe that law degrees seperate good agents from bad agents. However, the correlation between the top agents and law degrees in the 3 major sports is obvious. Specifically relating to basketball, there are three top agents, the Goodwin brothers, Duffy, and Bartelstein (who holds an MBA) that don’t hold law degrees. Babby, Rose, Falk, Tellem, Fegan all do. Of course, this is only a small sample of the top agents, but wouldn’t one agree that a law degree gives an edge to any perspective agent. Through the honing of negotiation tactics, contracts and other legal sides to the representation business.”

    First of all, let me point out that I am Darren Heitner responding, not Darren Gill (the author of the post). I agree that the skills learned in law school should help in the day-to-day business of most Sports Agents and that having a J.D. may look impressive to potential clients. However, the point that you bring up about basketball agents with law degrees having more success may just be a correlation in your small sample. That being said, I plan on obtaining a J.D., and I personally believe that it will enable me to have more success in the industry.

  • LW

    It’s a small sample merely because as you get into the lower ranking agents, with 0 to 1 athletes you tend to find less and less have law degrees (or graduate degrees). I believe there’s a similar correlation for NFL agents, however I haven’t paid enough attention and gathered the stats. I feel that a law degree really helps improve all that Darren Gill mentioned. Hard work and having a strong work ethic certainly go hand in hand with a law degree.

    It was a good post none the less.

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