Jeff Chilcoat, President of Sterling Sports Management, LLC, founded the Columbus, OH-based company in 1997 out of the law firm Campbell, Hornbeck, Chilcoat & Veatch, LLC. Sterling Sports has grown to include three divisions: football, baseball, and golf, and has football clients such as John Henderson and Peerless Price. Jeff prides himself on being an ethical agent and caring for his clients in the best possible manner.
Richard Kimsey: Can you give me a bio and the career path you took to get where you are today?
Jeff Chilcoat: My bio is located on our website at www.sterlingsm.com. Following my undergraduate studies at Ohio State, I owned and ran a small service company for a couple years. I then sold that company so I could pay to go to law school. During law school, I clerked for a judge and worked for a company that did OSHA compliance. Following law school, I joined a firm where I practiced in the area of general business, but they allowed me to develop a sports practice which happened fairly quickly and I was able to solely concentrate on sports shortly thereafter which I have done for the past decade.
Richard: Why did you want to become a sports agent and why did you found Sterling Sports?
Jeff: I was not talented enough to play at the professional level but I still wanted to be around the game so while I was in law school, I took a class on professional sports law and decided that would be a great way to stay around the game.
I founded Sterling Sports because I thought there was a better way to represent athletes. I wanted a company where ethics and hard work were meaningful and the athlete would still receive personalized attention. I saw a disconnect in the industry where ethics seemed to be thrown out the window and my desire was to be different and base our company on a faith based model.
Richard: Why is the company named Sterling Sports?
Jeff: Sterling Sports connoted class and value to me so it seemed perfect. We want to do our jobs in a classy manner and add value to our clients in order to benefit their career and their lives.
Richard: What is a typical day for you, if there is one?
Jeff: Most days differ dramatically from one to another. I do a lot of sales work in the form of selling a client to a team or contacting corporations to work with our clients from an endorsement standpoint. I sure hope my day includes a negotiation since that is the way that we get paid.
Richard: How did the existing firm of Campbell, Hornbeck, Chilcoat & Veatch LLC, help when establishing Sterling Sports?
Jeff: CHCV has been great in allowing Sterling to spin off and be a separate entity while providing a great deal of support and expertise. CHCV is a full service law firm so our clients have access that most sports agencies are unable to give to their clients. Our clients have access to real estate, estate planning, tax planning, not for profit and general business attorneys among other things.
Richard: Who was your first client and how did you come to work together?
Jeff: My first clients were Kevin Jones, a mini tour golfer, and Jeremy Beutler, a football player. Both were referred by folks who trusted that I would work hard to create opportunities for both and I am proud of the way that I ran with those two. Kevin had as much attention as any mini tour golfer in history and Jeremy had the opportunity to play in the NFL, NFL Europe and the AFL for about 10 years.
Richard: How did your different divisions end up opening (football, baseball, and golf)?
Jeff: I opened up the golf and football divisions and have added quality people in both agencies to help provide a high level of service to our clients. Our baseball agency was different. About 2 ½ years ago, I met a baseball agent named Joe Speed and felt like he embodied qualities that I respected and were key to doing a great job in our business. Joe fit in great and is a valuable member of our team. He is loved by his clients as he works as hard as anyone to give our clients every benefit that he possibly can and he does it with integrity, intelligence and does not sacrifice from an ethical standpoint. Joe is driven by his faith and his clients see something different in him.
Richard: What plans do you have for continuing to grow Sterling Sports?
Jeff: I have been blessed to associate with great people and one of those people is JS Kang. Just like Joe and myself, JS desires to be God’s man and make an impact with his clients beyond just a business standpoint.
JS has been instrumental in the growth of our golf division and I anticipate JS continuing to think outside the box and create new opportunities for our clients both domestically and abroad. I would be doing JS and our company a disservice to give out the ideas on this website but needless to say, I believe that we will continually be ahead of the game on adding value for corporations as they look for more benefits when associating with athletes.
Richard: What do you think sets Sterling Sports apart from other agencies?
Jeff: First and foremost, we are not breaking the rules and being honest with our clients. It sounds simple, but it is lacking in the business. The sports representation is filled with snakes and it is easier to get swindled than it is to find a forthright agent. Secondly, we work as hard as anyone for our clients and we are always accessible. I preach that we are to respond to calls immediately and if I felt that someone did not do so, they would not last long with us. Lastly, we are continually praised by corporations for going to extra mile to provide a high level of service when working with our clients and adding value to the branding and public exposure.
Richard: Does being an alum of The Ohio State University and being based in Columbus help with recruiting Buckeyes?
Jeff: Remarkably, I do not think so. Often times, athletes have the mistaken perception that they need an agent from Los Angeles or New York so I think we start at a disadvantage. Once they realize that we have the same level of sophistication, we can even the playing field but we usually start at a disadvantage.
Richard: Which degree would you say is better for a sports agent, a JD or MBA, and why?
Jeff: I am biased, but I would say a JD. A law degree teaches you how to think and it involves problem solving. Being an agent requires problem solving and specific knowledge from a contractual standpoint. We have a person in our office with an MBA and I think that he would agree with me.
Richard: What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry?
Jeff: Network with as many people as you can in the industry and try to get an internship with a team. Read everything you can about the industry and try to learn from other people’s mistakes.
Richard: Do you offer internships and how would someone apply?
Jeff: We do offer internships on a quarterly basis. They are unpaid and we sift through resumes to determine who the best candidates are. We take 4 interns per year and have about 200 applicants.