The following guest contribution was written by Jacob Cohen (@jco5190), who interned in the Athlete Marketing and Client Representation at Octagon Football.
As thousands of college students and recent graduates wrap up their academic year and begin to pursue various sports internships all across the country, one thing to keep in mind is the importance of the experience you gain while learning from the best in the business at these respective agencies. These extremely valuable internships are so competitive for a reason, being that they are the “foot in the door” that many are looking for, waiting for their big break. However, that opportunity means nothing if you don’t take full advantage of it. I feel that what I’ve learned over the past 6 months while interning at Octagon Football, will enable me to take the next step in my future endeavors, and is knowledge that would be invaluable to anyone in the same position as me prior to my internship.
First and foremost, the addition of agency experience is valuable on one’s resume, but the relationships you build and the knowledge you gain from these positions are far more important than a couple lines on a piece of paper. With that being said, it is imperative to be a sponge in soaking up everything that goes on in the life of someone working in this industry. Whether it be understanding concepts that are crucial in the negotiation of players’ contracts, grasping techniques for selling clients to companies for marketing deals or even identifying the personal sacrifices it takes to succeed in this business, everything you see can be utilized in your future dealings. I learned something new almost everyday, and kept a notebook in order to maintain the knowledge that I gained. I was able to utilize this knowledge in helping to secure two large marketing deals for Octagon’s clients towards the end of my internship, using presentations built upon previous proposals that were used for other projects. The key is being able to see these things once, absorb the information and be able to put it to use the next time a relevant project arises.
When working at an a sports agency, I think it is also imperative to not only take pride in your work, but also pride in the players that your organization represents. When selling these clients for marketing deals, if you truly believe in their abilities both on and off the field, it is far easier to convince others of these talents. Part of what makes this job so great, is that your career follows the ups and downs of the clients you represent, and your interest in every move they make affects your day-to-day life. Without meeting the majority of our rookie clients, as draft day approached, my nerves were high in anticipation of seeing what round or city the guys would land in. This interest in our clients allowed me to know more about them on a personal level, which resulted in being able to find off the field opportunities that met their personalities and interests. Obviously, as an intern my relationships with the players were on a much smaller scale, but it is this interest and caring for the players that make some agencies stand above the rest. Putting the interests of the player ahead of your own is what the industry is all about.
It is also essential to not be afraid to take risks and make sure that you are utilizing all of your time while working as an intern. You have such a small amount of time to make an impression, that it is vital to find ways for your coworkers to remember you. Put together a proposal or presentation that could be used by your superiors without them asking. Not only does this show your interest in what is going on, but also is an opportunity to show your capabilities and what you would be able to bring to the agency if given an opportunity. Reach out to people in your organization to help out with anything they might need on future projects. Just because it is not in your original job description does not mean it isn’t a great opportunity to expand your horizons, meet new people and utilize your talents in anyway possible to bring value to the agency.
Finally, I would say that this business is not for everyone. The personal sacrifices that these agents make is tremendous, working at all hours of the day and night to meet each and every one of their clients’ needs. Routinely traveling across the country for recruiting visits, pre-draft events and various obligations to their current clients. The glitz and glamour that you see on TV at the NFL Draft and during the movie Jerry McGuire are not anything what the life of an agent is like. What isn’t shown is the constant grind to make sure that they’re doing everything possible to bring the most value to their clients, and to make sure that all their needs are met. Because if their needs aren’t met, there’s hundreds of other agents out there waiting to swoop up their client before you can blink. People don’t understand the tremendous financial undertaking that it takes in order to get into, and remain in this business. Usually it starts by working for free for an extended period of time, followed by the extreme expense of graduate school. Following that, it has become standard in the industry for agents to pay for their client’s training before the draft, a value that could exceed $30,000. Having done all of this, and having invested a great amount of time and effort, you still need clients to want to sign with you. This isn’t the easiest sell in the world for someone whose only experience is an internship at an agency and three years worth of law school. If all that doesn’t scare you away, this industry can bring you a career filled with extreme highs and brutal lows, but enables you to follow your passion everyday of your life.
Overall, I feel that my experience at Octagon was a tremendous one. I was able to learn from some of the best in the business and better understand the industry that I am so passionate about. Very few people get the opportunity that I did, so I suggest if you are able to work hard enough to put yourself in a position to intern at any sports agency, take full advantage of the experience. Learn as much as you can, enjoy everything that is going on around you and make a lasting impact on the agency that gave you the opportunity to come closer to your dreams.