Have you ever wondered what it takes to break into the ultra-competitive sports agent industry?
Every year, as the deals in professional sports become more and more lucrative, the crowd of aspiring agents only continues to grow deeper. You can break into the industry several different ways.
The first and quickest way to land your first job with an agency is to bring in new clients. Unless your childhood friend is on Mel Kiper’s Big Board, the next two options are probably a bit more promising for you. Secondly, if you can get an internship with an established agency and show them that you can add value to their company, you might find yourself with a full-time job offer. Lastly, if you don’t know any players and the agencies aren’t returning your calls, you can get in through the backdoor. Pick another industry that is relevant to sports representation and go get a few years of experience. For example, work full-time in sales, financial advising, or in the legal field, and when you come back, agencies will see you as a more attractive candidate.
If you can’t bring something to the table in one of these three capacities, you can always get your agent certification and do your own thing. Unfortunately, you will need a huge outlay of capital to get started and you must be willing to accept the inherent risks that come with building your own clientele.
I will share the path of an aspiring agent, who chose the second option- interning for a major sports agency. You will get an inside peak of how he landed his current position and some of his experiences as he gets closer to becoming an agent. With that being said, because he was just recently promoted from an intern to a full-time employee, I agreed to respect his anonymity. You can find his responses to my questions below.
1) Describe your educational background—- After graduating high school in 2000, I attended the University of Texas at Austin for the summer to get some credits. In the fall, I transferred and attended the University of Arizona from 2000-2004. At the U of A, I studied regional development, which focuses on real estate, planning, and development—both locally and regionally. I also had a business minor.
2) What position do you currently hold with the agency?—- My title would be client manager. I do day-to-day client management for our 60+ athletes. In addition, I do marketing for all our guys, a little bit of public relations, and research that is typically used for contract negotiations. Nonetheless, most of my time is dedicated strictly to marketing and client management.
3) How did you land your current position?—- One word… persistence! I familiarized myself with several of the larger full service athlete agencies, and then began trying to contact as many of these agents as I could. I was fortunate enough to establish a few relationships that continued on past the initial conversation. I tried to stay in touch with as many of these guys that were willing to talk to me. After about a year or so of chit-chat and letting them know how badly I wanted to work in this field, one yielded a return! I got a call from an agent who offered me an internship opportunity, and that was that…
4) What attracted you to the business?—- Initially, it was the thought that this industry could keep me interested in my work for a long time. I have never been one of those people who can get by just being content— I’ve always wanted more that that. I want to be happy. Knowing that sports have always been a huge part of my life, I figured it would be great if I could continue in the field. Naturally, I wasn’t tall enough to be in the NBA, or fast enough for the NFL. What better way to stay connected than to try your best to get your client what you think he/she deserves. I think it’s pretty exciting when you’re fighting for something you believe in and feel strongly about.
5) Why do you want to become a sports agent?—- I like the competition of the business, and to me, it’s an interesting field. You don’t just represent anyone. You represent what YOU think is talent, which differs quite a bit from one person to the next. So, at the end of the day, when you’re fighting for that larger contract, extension, or that bonus—- you can fight with all your heart, because in your mind, that athlete you represent truly is the best choice.
6) Describe a few of the best and worst experiences you have had in your current position?-— I think the best thing has been just learning so much day to day. Whether it be related to marketing, public relations in the business, contracts, etc., it’s nice to gain that knowledge each day. I can’t substitute what I’ve learned here for anything. It’s nothing I could have read in books, but rather, something I could only learn from actual experience in the field.
Some of the other positives I think are the benefits you are afforded when you work with such high-profile athletes: no lines/covers at clubs, a lot of free gear, free meals, free clothing, cheap hotels, free cars, cheap car rentals, etc. etc. etc. But all of these things are just a small part of the business, and they come with the territory.
I look back, and many of my lunch hours here have been positive experiences too— as many of us sit down and tell stories of what has happened recently (or not so recently). Some of the stories I’ve heard, would blow you away. But, I always learn something from each one. And that is the fun part. I have had the advantage of learning through other people’s mistakes, as well as some people’s accomplishments.
On the other hand, the worst thing I’ve seen in this business would have to be when an agent I know was spoken about in the harshest of ways. He was said to have been a liar, cheater, and was accused of giving gifts to athletes. Not only did this cause the agent to lose several potential players to sign, but even worse, it questioned his integrity and tarnished his reputation in the business. The worst part about this story is that it was all completely false.
Some of the other negatives just come along with client management. A lot of today’s athletes have come from almost nothing, and have made their way to having almost everything they’ve ever wanted. When something doesn’t go the right way or the way it was supposed to go, we have to fix it. It’s not always easy, but you want your guys to be happy. This means doing as much as possible for these guys, and doing all that the right way. The point being that you always want your guys not just to be content, but to be happy about where they are and who their representation is!
7) What skills or personality traits separate the best agents from everyone else?—- That’s a tough question. I can’t answer that directly, but I liken it to dating a girl. At the end of the day, you choose a woman based on certain factors that appeal to you and she does the same with you. In the athlete-agent industry, it’s very similar. You find an athlete you like, respect, and support, and he/she chooses you based on what they like about you. If it’s a match, you got it. But, if the compatibility isn’t there, you move on.
8) When you start representing clients as an agent someday, what approach do you see yourself taking?—- I see myself taking an honest and real approach. I will never pretend to be something that I’m not, and I will never promise something I can’t come through with. With that being said, I’ve always prided myself on honesty, sincerity, and integrity. I do feel confident that people with those traits can still be successful in today’s sports world, regardless of the direction it has gone. I think that if you can prove to an athlete that you are honest, dedicated to him/her, and hard-working, in addition to establishing a ring of trust between the two of you, you can still be successful today.
9) If you could change one thing about the industry, what would you change?—–The non-warranted bashing of agents by other agents. Though, this will probably never stop. I wish that players could make a decision on who they want for representation by who they like the most, without having to take into consideration what agent x said about agent y.
10) What advice would you give to other individuals aspiring to break into this competitive industry?—- Make a decision of what you really want in life. If this is your passion, then go for it. My advice for any industry would be the same: go full speed at what you want, and don’t ever give up. Persistence does pay off.