In December, I wrapped up my second year of teaching Sport Agency Management at Indiana University Bloomington. It has been a true blessing to have been given the opportunity to teach driven, intelligent students, which is something I hope to continue doing for the rest of my life.
The Sport Agency Management course is intended to provide students with a greater understanding of the current issues and laws related to the sport agent profession and focuses primarily on the legal and practical way to act in the capacity of a sport agent and/or operate a sport agency. In particular, the focus of the course is on NCAA, state, and federal rules and regulations, players’ association regulations, collective bargaining agreements, client services, and various duties involved in the representation of athletes.
My Fall 2012 students’ term papers required them to solicit practicing sports agents who had not formerly been interviewed for an article on Sports Agent Blog. Students were told to interview their chosen subjects and provide a write-up based on their discussions. With permission from the interviewee and the student, I will be publishing some of the results that were submitted to me for review (and grading). The following is a submission from Kevin Schaefer, who profiled agent Chris Gittings.
Chris Gittings is the Founder and President of One West Sports Agency, which he established in April 2011. Gittings represents NFL players, most notably New England Patriots Running Back Danny Woodhead, and runs the entire agency by himself. He originally worked at Hometown Sports Management (HSM) for nearly 14 years prior to establishing One West Sports.
However, Gittings didn’t necessarily see himself ending up in the sports agency industry. “I sort of fell into the field by chance,” he said. One of Gittings colleagues at the law firm he worked at mentioned that he wanted to be a sports agent. Gittings agreed to help him out and the rest is history. He has currently been working as a sports agent for 16 years.
Gittings decided to start up One West Sports in 2011 because he needed a change. He thought starting his own agency would be a better situation for him; he has thoroughly enjoyed being on his own thus far. “It has allowed me to have much more freedom in representing clients,” Gittings said. While working at both the law firm and HSM was great, it was tough to split time between the two. “Now I just have one priority (the client), it takes a lot of stress away,” Gittings explained. And while his agency is relatively small, Gittings has no plans to expand in the near future. “My hope is to keep things small, and continue to do as much as I can for my clients.”
When asked what separates One West Sports from other sports agencies, Gittings said that with him you are getting an honest, confident agent that can produce results. He really stressed honesty. “Agents that lie win the most often; it’s hard to watch cheaters be successful,” Gittings said. “But for every five guys you lose you sign a Danny Woodhead, honesty and working hard do the job.” He also said his sports marketing skills set him apart. For example, Danny Woodhead just recently signed a two-year endorsement deal with Skechers. While Woodhead is a solid NFL player, this is a marketing deal that is much better than other running backs in his situation (Woodhead has primarily been a backup to Stevan Ridley this season). “Most agents aren’t doing sports marketing,” Gittings said.
Gittings doesn’t only provide his clients with marketing deals. Other big aspects of his agency include contract negotiation, media/public relations, Combine training, and community involvement. As far as the NFL Combine and Draft go, Gittings explains the process to the player and tells them what he needs to do to increase his status. He then prepares them for All-Star games, the Combine, and their Pro Day. However, his work doesn’t stop on Draft day; he also prepares his clients for life after the Draft. “A players’ rookie year can be tough, and my job is to be there to help them through it,” Gittings said. Throughout this time, Gittings is also constantly trying to capitalize on endorsements and help his client be seen as more than a football player. He accomplishes this through T.V. and charity appearances, along with endorsements deals. Finally, Gittings is involved in helping his clients ink their first contract. With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there isn’t much negotiation involved when dealing with rookies. However, Gittings always maintains the same strategy, “I believe that the client always comes first,” he said. One area Gittings doesn’t help his client in is finances. “I don’t manage the players’ funds,” he said. “I think there should be a division.” Gittings does help his clients select a good financial advisor however.
As far as advice for aspiring sports agents, Gittings first brought to my attention a tweet by Darren Rovell that read, “Don’t go into the business.” Meaning that from a realistic standpoint, this is a really tough business and competition is fierce. “There are always more experienced guys behind you,” Gittings said. “Also, your spending money toward training on a player and you don’t even know if he’ll make the team.” The average NFL career is 3 years, so many agents clients don’t even make it to a second contract. However despite the tough conditions, Gittings reiterated that he loves his job. “Nothing was handed to me, I had to work for everything,” Gittings said. “But I love this business and doing what I do each day.”