Germany-based agency Scorers 1st’s CEO and FIBA/NBA agent, Gerrit Kersten-Thiele, has built his agency from the ground up over the course of the last ten years. Kersten-Thiele’s passion and dedication to both the agency and the players he works with have drawn many people, including current employees, to his agency. Recently, I chatted with Kersten-Thiele to provide a better understanding to Sports Agent Blog readers about how the business of basketball is approached from the other side of the pond, with the desire to establish a stronger presence in the U.S. market.
Darren Heitner: Your agency represents both coaches and players. How does the representation of each type of entity differ with regards to your day-to-day tasks?
Gerrit Kersten-Thiele: Our focus has always been and continues to be about investing in the relationships we’ve built within our agency and around the game. That goes for both players and coaches we represent. We recently got into the representation of coaches and to be honest, it’s really not that different compared to representing players. Ambitious coaches and ambitious players have similar goals and we want to help our clients achieve those goals and maximize their potential regardless if they are on the floor or running a team. In regards to the day-to-day tasks, it’s like any other successful relationship or marriage: it comes down to open communication — being available and always having an ear to the ground to see what’s happening in the different markets and to let people know about what and how your clients are doing, but this goes for players and coaches.
Darren Heitner: Take us back to 2003 when you started your agency. How did you sign your first client? What was your pitch?
Gerrit Kersten-Thiele: When I started out as an agent I began working with some local young talents from my hometown in Goettingen (Germany). We also had a pretty nice website (for that time), so I was quickly approached by players from other countries who were looking for representation. My plan has always been that our agency believes in helping players establish a long career compared to just quick financial gain with no real longevity, career opportunities and long-term plan in mind. Having said that, we simply don’t rely on players coming to us anymore for representation. We are more proactive and know what we want in a client. We scout and recruit specific players to ensure we are the right fit for one another. But at the end of the day, building those long-term relationships and helping our clients have long careers is still what Scorers 1st stands for.
Darren Heitner: Do you often work with agents based in the United States? Explain the relationship and the methodology regarding the receipt and split of agent fees in such situations.
Gerrit Kersten-Thiele: Partnering with American-based agencies is something we’ve occasionally done in the past, but only very selectively as we have our own dedicated Scorers 1st representatives both on the West Coast and East Coast as well. What really matters to us is finding the right fit for our own clients first. Sometimes particular teams want to go work directly with us. In those cases, we can facilitate a deal between that team and a player who may be represented by another agency.
Darren Heitner: Are there any American-based agents you have worked with more than others? How did those relationships develop?
Gerrit Kersten-Thiele: As I mentioned before, we’ve been open in the past to working with American-based agents. It really depends on the situation and willingness to work together to do what is best for the client. That is the priority. We’ve been fortunate to partner with agencies here and there — not only in the U.S., but around the world. Thankfully, we’ve built some amazing relationships and contacts through that process.
Darren Heitner: How difficult is it for you to recruit American-based players considering you are based in Europe? Do you employ individuals on the ground in the United States?
Gerrit Kersten-Thiele: That is a good question. There have been obstacles at times, but we’ve managed to overcome those problems over the last 3-4 years by building a solid foundation in the U.S. when it comes to representation. We are much more selective now with whom we scout and recruit and represent. With that said, we are also in a bigger pond — or smaller pond depending on how you look at it — in regards to the competition in our business when it comes to the players we are recruiting to Scorers 1st. Knowing we have hard working reps on the West Coast and East Coast, that certainly changes how we are perceived as an agency founded overseas. In the past, many people thought we couldn’t be the right fit as their representation because we were based in Europe. I’m pretty sure I know where those thoughts are coming from, but there is no truth to that. If you are honest, reliable and hard working it doesn’t matter where you live or where you are from and that goes for playing in the NBA or overseas. It’s all about working hard, being honest and reliable and keeping the lines of communication open. That is something I believe strongly in and the foundation Scorers 1st was built upon.
Darren Heitner: Has the development of social media affected your business in any way?
Gerrit Kersten-Thiele: We have just recently added a Director of Public Relations in Wendell Maxey and this is directly connected with us seeing the need in our business to add to our press related work and social media needs. There is a lot of value in social media for our clients — both on and off of the floor — and we want to make sure we are ahead of the game in that regard. These days social media isn’t only used to get information across, it’s also a tool for direct communication with teams, coaches, and players and we recognize its benefits when it’s used in a professional manner.
Darren Heitner: I noticed that you are both FIBA and NBPA certified. Have you ever had any players in the NBA and/or D-League? Any plans to make a greater effort to have clients in either league in the future?
Gerrit Kersten-Thiele: We have had players with D-League teams in the past and our goal is to have NBA players represented by Scorers 1st in the future. That is a major focus moving forward and the direction we are heading toward. With our international approach, trustworthy reps in the U.S., ability to market our players, the hard work and dedication we apply toward the agency and those we represent on a daily basis, we know that we are qualified to help a player find success at the highest level. That may be in the NBA and/or internationally.
Darren Heitner: What advice do you have for individuals who seek to become basketball agents?
Gerrit Kersten-Thiele: This is a tough one to answer, because you don’t want to be too negative about your own profession. I would just ask people to really give it some thought before they enter this business. What you see in the movies has nothing to do with what this job is about and what it means. You are responsible for a lot of things when representing players and coaches that extends beyond placing them in a job. Your clients are not the only ones affected by your work as an agent, but their families as well. And that is something we always take into consideration. So keep in mind that, it’s not only about knowing someone who is a good basketball player.
There is a lot more that goes into this business and if you are ready to really take on that responsibility, you might have a chance to be a good agent and take care of your potential clients in an honest manner. If you are just looking for some quick cash you might make it here, but like with the career of a player — if you do it the wrong way, it will not last.