Juan Lopez owns his own sports agency. He is certified by the NBPA but does not have your typical agent background. He is a paralegal who has worked in both the private and public sector and has a wealth of experience in sports. What really sticks out to me about Juan is his willingness to work with basketball players who are not as highly sought after by other agencies. I receive several emails a month from players looking for representation. Usually these players are guys who do not have a realistic shot at landing a job in the NBA, but still would like some exposure. Further, these types of players have a difficult time landing an agent who will work hard for them, without a guarantee that the agent will receive financial return. Mr. Lopez is an agent who not only represents these types of players, but he treats each player as if they are an NBA superstar. Meaning, Juan takes players that no other agent wants and finds them jobs.
Sports Agent Blog reached out to Mr. Lopez to ask him some questions about his background and his agency. Visit his website at http://www.jalsportsmanagement.com.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to work in sports?
I realized I wanted to work in sports at a very young age. Any sport where I could work in if I wasn’t playing, I would. Whether it was cleaning a gym, racking up basketballs, or laying chalk own a line on a baseball diamond, I would do it. My first job in professional sports was at the age of 14, as a bat boy for my local minor league baseball team in Puerto Rico. I was in charge of getting the baseball equipment ready for the players, bringing baseballs to the umpires during the games, and retrieving foul balls.
I also wanted to broadcast games, but I was too young at the time. Once in high school, I knew I still wanted to work in sports, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. After high school, I saw an interview with one of my favorite athletes, Dave Stewart, who pitched for the Oakland Athletics. After Mr. Stewart retired, he became an agent to players. That’s when I realized that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to represent athletes.
1a. What type of internships/volunteer opportunities did you have early on in your career?
I participated in several volunteer and internship opportunities. One of my first volunteer jobs was working a golf tournament for the Miami Marlins baseball club, then known as the Florida Marlins. Working that event allowed me to meet several big league players, local political leaders, media personnel and members of the Miami Marlins organization.
While pursing my master’s degree, at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, I needed to complete over 400 internship hours with a local sports organization. I sought internships with the Miami Heat, the Miami Dolphins, the Florida Panthers and the Florida Marlins. I completed two internships with two organizations; one was for the Palm Beach Challenge, a college spring training baseball tournament. My second was for the Florida Marlins, LP. Both of these internships allowed me to work in both in amateur and professional sports and meet very important people that instructed me about working in sports.
2. You received your master’s degree from Barry University. How has your degree helped in your role as an agent?
Earning my master’s degree was the true impetus in launching my career as an agent. The curriculum at Barry teaches you everything from marketing, business law, facilities, labor relations, and ethics. The staff at Barry was very hands on. The instructors want to see you succeed and helped guide me in the direction I wanted to go in, which was to become an agent. Dr. Daniel Rosenberg, who taught ethics, was one of my true mentors while I was in the program, and I recommend anyone who is interested in obtaining an undergraduate or graduate degree in Sport Management, check our Barry University’s program.
2a. As a follow-up, is a graduate degree necessary for this type of position?
Is it necessary to become an agent, no. As long as you obtain a bachelor’s degree you can become an agent in the state of Florida. Every state has different requirements, so anyone interested in becoming an agent must check their state requirements. However, in order to represent professional athletes in the four major sports, you must become certified with the respective players unions, i.e. Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), and the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA). These organizations prefer you have a graduate degree, as you will be representing the athletes that play in these respective sports, and you must show you are educated and qualified.
3. How has being a paralegal helped you with your sports agency?
Being a paralegal has helped me tremendously with my agency. I worked as a paralegal both in the public sector for the Office of the Miami-Dade State Attorney and the private sector with different employers. Working for the State Attorney allowed to be exposed to criminal cases, where I read sensitive information and needed to prepare legal documents for assistant state attorneys presenting cases to juries. While working in the private sector, I gained more experience preparing legal documents for discovery, coordinate hearings and with other paralegals and attorneys. This experience helped me prepare to communicate with other organizations, and to collaborate with them while cases were being litigated or settled. Being a paralegal has also taught me many good business practices, such as having good communication with your clients, being responsive and never hesitating to respond to an inquiry.
4. Why do you have a passion to help athletes who are not highly sought out?
I believe that all athletes deserve an opportunity to play their respective sports at the highest level. Student-athletes who play sports in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) divisions II and III, and in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) have tremendous talent, but are rarely considered to play professional sports. In addition, most student-athletes who play in division I of NCAA athletics do not go on to play the professional level. Because of this, most athletes who are not drafted by professional teams have to find to other ways in hopes of getting an opportunity to play at the next level after college. Most of those players rely on agents to help them find opportunities like tryouts, and to play in exposure leagues in front of scouts in hopes of getting noticed. As an agent, the success of my clients is my priority, and I will work hard for them to help them achieve their professional goals.
5 What is the most difficult or challenging part about being an agent?
The most challenging part about being an agent is finding jobs for my clients. The majority of my clients are basketball players, who are looking for opportunities to play either in the NBA D-League, the NBA or overseas in Europe. I am constantly contacting teams and promoting my clients in hopes of securing tryouts for them, so they can showcase their skills to scouts and decision makers of these organizations.
6. What are you main goals for your agency and for your clients?
My main goals include growing my agency where I can help my current and future clients achieve their professional goals. As I mentioned before, the success of my clients is my priority and anything I can do to help my clients achieve their goals, is what I want to do. Also, I am looking forward to growing my agency where I offer employment to individuals looking to work for a sports agency. I believe in giving back to the community and if I can help individuals obtain employment that would not only help my agency, but also the individual or individuals in need of a job, which could potentially launch a career in sports.