What Would You Do...?

What would you do…? (#6)


If you are an aspiring sports agent, you constantly hear about how to break into the industry. While getting your foot in the door is the first step, what do you do after you accomplish that? There are plenty of challenges that will arise after you land your first gig and I believe this hypothetical will touch upon a few of them.

After months of cold-calling and introducing yourself to agents who act completely uninterested and emailing your resume out over and over again until your own spam filter tells you to stop, you land your first internship with a top sports agency. Of course, you’re thrilled beyond words and you feel like you’re on top of the world (as you should because breaking into the business is no easy task).

After you complete your unpaid summer internship, you receive an offer to become what amounts to a full-time unpaid intern. You are told that if you prove yourself over the next six months, you will be hired on as a full-time, paid staff person.

Similar to everybody else in the working world, you have to start at the bottom of the food chain. You have honed an incredible work ethic and undying passion for the sports representation business. You have always wanted to be a sports agent and you’re willing to do anything in your power to achieve that goal. While the offer to work full-time for free sounds almost inhumane, you shrug it off and find a second job as a bartender, which will boost your income just over the poverty line while you get your feet wet at the agency.

At the end of 6 months, you have performed well enough to be hired on as full-time paid employee. You treated everyday during your “probationary period” as if was going to be your last. Every morning you walked into the office, you felt like you had arrived for another interview. You put the pressure on yourself to perform and it paid dividends. Now you are eager to transition to your new position and actually get some respect around the office. Instead of being widely recognized for having the fastest 40 time to the coffee station, you now have the opportunity to get some sales and marketing experience. You are psyched and ready to get the ball rolling.

You begin your full-time position in the fall right before the football season starts. Perfect timing! You start off doing sponsorship calls to procure endorsement deals for clients and put some extra money in their pockets. The work is fun and you get an adrenaline rush every time you close the next deal. After nearly 3 years of working in the marketing division, the luster starts to wear off. You have learned just about everything there is to know about finding and securing sponsorship opportunities for athletes. While you enjoyed interacting with the athletes, going to parties and other functions, and just being in the game in general, the job has become monotonous and you are ready for a change. You believe that you have paid your dues and you don’t see why you can’t start training to become a sports agent.

The only problem is there is really no upward mobility. There are already enough established agents in the office and there isn’t any place for you. You aren’t sure if you want to leave, as you work for one of the top agencies. After all the hard work you have put in to establish yourself, you know if you leave, you will basically have to start all over again at another agency. You also thought about going out on your own, but you are reminded by the fact that for the last 3 years, you only made $30K a year and you have hardly any savings. The harsh reality sits in that starting your own agency isn’t a viable option. You have also thought about completely hanging it up.

You are in your mid-twenties and you want to start a family in the near future. Everybody keeps telling you that if you become an agent, you are always on the road and it’s very hard on the family life. At this point, you can stay put, go to another agency, or get out of the game.

What would you do…?

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4 replies on “What would you do…? (#6)”

This is a difficult position to be put in, but I’m sure it happens quite often. Because of the low income I have received over the past 3 years, I would consider it very hard to impossible to go out on my own and start a business and because of the 3 years already spent at a top agency, I would stick with it. This hypothecial also varies upon other factors going on in my life at the time.

The scenario you describe is one I see all the time. Unfortunately, for this scenario, I don’t really see any way out. I know one aspiring agent faced with this situation who got out of the game altogether and now works outside the biz in Denver. He’s a very talented guy, but he decided that taking crap for a living and making no money was no kind of life.

Another friend of mine got out of the biz, but kind of moved laterally. He got a sales job that gave him lots of flexibility, and now he’s working his way into the marketing field, and I think he has a good shot to fight his way back into the biz that way, though not necessarily as a member of the NFLPA.

I have another friend who left a high-profile agent and stayed in the game, moving to another high-powered agent who brought him in as a partner and not as a minion. Unfortunately, he was so bitter toward his former boss that he wound up getting into trouble, and he’s had a setback with the PA as a result of it.

If you want to get into the game and have success quickly, I recommend three things. First, have LOTS of disposable income so you can ‘play the game’ effectively with other high-end agents; it’s going to cost a lot of money. Second, do your own ‘running.’ Every year agents try to leave the recruiting to others, then find out they’ve thrown away a lot of money on people/services who were only thieves. Third, situate yourself in a ‘target-rich’ environment (i.e., probably the Southeast — Atlanta, Miami, maybe Memphis, maybe Baton Rouge).

I have three subscribers to my service who have been certified less than three years. All three have either (a) one player in the NFL, making money for them on an active (not practice) roster, or (b) will have one after the draft (in one case of an agent who’s been certified less than two years). Of course, I think part of their success was from being a subscriber to my service and never having a problem accepting my humble help/advice/tips/whatever when they needed someone to turn to. But the most important part was that they were in the right place with the right resources.

Anyway . . . that’s my two cents.

This sounds counterintuitive because it is “good business” to promote your brightest and best performing employees. But this is not the norm in the sports representation industry for several reasons…

First, working in the sports industry is a great job. In fact, it is one of the best jobs that a person can have. Therefore there is little employee turnover. In other words, people don’t want to quit their sports job. Not many people want to go from working with athletes all day to working behind a desk all day as a banker, management consultant, etc. So the middle management positions are not opening up for the entry level employees to take in the sports industry like they would in most other industries.

Second, the benefits of a “free market” (e.g., higher wages) are significantly limited in the sports industry because most employees have a “non-compete” clause in their employment contract. So entry level employees cannot accept a higher position at another sports agency because they would have to sit out (1-2 years). This is also one of the reasons why the wages are suppressed. Companies can rarely enter into a bidding war for the services of a sports agent because of the non-compete clauses.

Thirdly, it is common practice for well established sport agencies to acquire talent (e.g., tennis players, snowboarders) by purchasing small sport agencies. The well established agency then appoints the President/Founder of the small agency into a middle management position. So this method of doing business further limits the number of middle management jobs that are available to entry level employees.

But keep in mind that these examples apply mostly to established sport agencies. In other words, companies that are not going to expand much in the next several years. This really does not apply to a “start-up” sports agency. A start-up sports agency will most likely bring on additional staff if it does well and many of those positions will involve very important responsibilities. For example, it could be running a new office or starting a new division. And of course the owner of the start-up will most likely consider the entry level employees for advancement before they seek people outside of the organization.

forget moving to a different agency and waste another 5 years what you do is try find a average college football player at your old college and try your hardest to represent him because it is sometimes easier to represent college players at your alma mater, look at drew rosenhaus most of his clients are former miami hurricanes

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