How To Be A Great Sports Agent

from Forbes

When I started my career in sports law in 1975 by signing the first pick in the NFL Draft — Steve Bartkowski, quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons — to the largest rookie contract in football history, sports representation was in its infancy.

Most athletes represented themselves or had their fathers help them, and teams were under no obligation to interact with agents. Owners such as Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals would simply announce, “We don’t deal with agents,” and hang up the phone.

The two expansion franchises that entered the league in 1976 had purchase prices of $16.5 million. Each team received $2 million as its share of the national television contract, and the average player salary was $30,000. There has been a revolution in agentry and economics in the past 36 years. The average NFL franchise is worth a billion dollars, teams receive $130 million from national television and the average salary exceeds $2 million.

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55 Responses to How To Be A Great Sports Agent

  1. Frank Christiano February 21, 2020 at 8:17 pm #

    Sports agents have one of the most difficult jobs out of all of the jobs that are offered in the sports industry. Between all of the agents in each individual sport, it is very hard to become a wealthy and well known sports agent. After reading this article and also from what I have learned being a sports management major myself, there is certain steps that should be taken when first starting out as a sports agent in order to be a successful one. In this article by Leigh Steinberg, he talks about what exactly those steps are and how he got to be a successful sports agent.
    During the 80’s, players being represented by someone else was fairly odd as most athletes would just represent themselves. Nowadays, athletes use agents as people who take of certain things such as endorsements deals, contracts, showings for fans, etc. From what I have read in this article and of course learned is that in order to represent the best athletes who could make you the most money and a successful lifestyle, certain steps should be taken in order to achieve that. Personally, In feel as if there are a few important items that an agent should take in order to be a successful agent. Selling yourself as best as possible to the athlete or athletes you wish to represent is the first step that I would take. For example, letting the athlete know how you could represent them in ways no one else could, or informing them of how much you can do for the athlete(s) in terms of them making money is something that is important for these athletes and makes them feel more comfortable about you representing them.
    Doing some of these steps can be very hard for some young and new sports agents in the sports industry. For instance, a new sports agent trying to get his name out to athletes is going to have a lot less connections then a sports agent who has been representing players for 5 or 10 years. I find the whole concept about becoming a successful sports agent very interesting as different agents have different styles of how they represent their athletes. Its amazing to see how some of these agents become so successful and the steps that they take in order to represent the best athletes.

  2. Lucas Waraksa February 27, 2020 at 4:57 pm #

    When I was a kid and a teacher would ask we what I wanted to be when I grew up, my reply was always sports. As mentioned in the article, a job in sports is the most sought after profession. If being an athlete isn’t in the cards, a sports agent is the next best thing. Agents have personal relationships their professional athletes, and some even get famous. However, Agents also are there to make important decisions on their athletes behalf. This article reminds me of the show “Ballers” on HBO, starring the Rock. In the show, the Rock plays the role of a big time sports agent who has signed a number of high profile athletes. The show displays the money he brings in, and the fun he has along the way, but it also emphasizes what goes on behind the scenes. The Rocks character is constantly trying to set his clients up for the future, and its not always easy. Professional athletes sometimes have big egos and hard to work with. Its also just hard to tell another adult what to do with their own money.

    Leigh Steinburg stresses that the most important job of a sports agent is to prepare their client for a career after professional sports. Agents have to be the ones helping them do things that they would either not think of doing or not have the time to do. For instance, setting up charity foundations in their name, and getting them involved in the community. Steinburg argues that this helps develop spirituality in athletes. While I do think it gives an athlete something to have pride in, I think its more to keep an athlete busy and relevant. Its easier to get a job in broadcasting or marketing, when the whole world still recognizes you.

  3. Pablo G. March 17, 2020 at 2:48 pm #

    As an athlete if I ever play pro I would my agent to help me to get the best decisions possible so I can be happy. Not all players in their respective sports and not all the contracts are huge. An agent must follow the steps correctly, looking for the medium and long-term benefits of their client. Sometimes a professional athlete has a meteoric rise and then his career goes through a ‘break’. It is necessary to show to the player is that the important thing is to grow through the sport you play and not by the contract she/he signs.

    Also, agents make the mistake of believing they know more about the player than the athlete himself. An agent should always ask the athlete about how she/he feels regarding a possible agreement, in order to get an agreement that the athlete would be happy with. In addition, an agent has to be realistic in the descriptions that he gives about his client because sometimes in the long run, being honest with a coach can have a positive impact on your relationship with the team or franchise you are seeking for your client.

    Finally, the performance is a long-distance race. No transfer takes place overnight. The work can involve from a couple of months to half a year, a whole year or several seasons. Knowing the market and alerting clubs potentially interested in an athlete is vital for an agent. For example, in soccer the winter market usually demands a player profile that gives to the team an immediate performance, but it is also a great opportunity to start laying the foundations for a transfer in the summer: a team may not need a right-back in January, but it might in June.

  4. Matthew Pavlik March 19, 2020 at 6:48 pm #

    I am bookmarking this article since I am seriously considering going down this career path. I loved everything the author had to say and I could not help but relate it to the NFL’s newly approved CBA. Shannon Sharpe, NFL legend and one of the greatest Tight Ends of all time who has become a respected and famous sports personality, went on Instagram to display his disgust with the agreement and I feel that this agent would feel the same. After all, the average NFL player has a 3 year lifespan and most do not make above the league minimum, previously $500k but now $600k. In the deal, they agreed to play an extra game yet could not get rid of the franchise tag (which forces players to play another year with their team on a 1 year contract), there is no fully guaranteed money (the only sport without it, basically if a player gets hurt or cut they are “out of luck”), and there are no extended medical benefits — Sharpe argues that this was so players could do less padded practices and “smoke some weed”. If the agents representing these players were not afraid of a year lockdown where they would not get paid, I bet that they would consult these players in their (the players’) best interests.

    If I were an agent, I see myself being much more like this man than the Rich Paul’s of the world. I would need to have a close relationship with my client while keeping them in the forefront; I want my money, but they need theirs more considering most are not going to be able to play more than 5 years and turn that into a career after sports. Once the cleats are hung up, the jersey in the closet, and the fans gone, the person who was the athlete needs to have security in their life to establish themselves for their next chapter. If I had the choice between helping my athletes earn $12 million instead of $8 million or helping them mold themselves as a popular role model who everyone loves, choosing the latter would be easier than initialing my name on that contract because a lot of these people are short sighted, and that is okay; there job is to be short sighted and take it day by day. However, my potential job as an agent is to focus on the next moves — they can be the rook or queen, but I need to prepare the moved after they are in check.

  5. Christopher McGowan April 30, 2020 at 8:54 pm #

    I would love to be a sports agent one day and represent professional athletes, I have even heard a few professional agents speak at my county college, so I will take any tips I can get on how to become good sports agent, with that being said when I saw this article from Leigh Steinberg I was drawn to it right away, Leigh started his carrier in 1975 when he signed Steve Bartkowski who was a rookie quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, at the time there were not many sports agents as most player would represent themselves with help from family if anything, as some team owners didn’t even want to deal with agents at the time, the average salary for an NFL player at the time was about $30,000 dollars which really was pretty good for the time, but as we look over 40 years later the average salary for a player today is over $2 million dollars and as the league has grown it also has changed a lot and now it is almost required to have in the NFL today, Steinberg explains in this article just how cut throat the sports agent market field is today as thousands of agents try and sign rookies that are entering a professional sport. I did not realize that all professional sport leagues require agents to pass a background check and sign an ethical code I was very interested in this as I had no idea agents had to do that but it makes perfect sense. Steinberg begins to explain how a new agent in the field can break through and stand out above the other agents, Steinberg sets the tone by telling us to forget everything we know about sports agents as most of the stereotypes are not true, he then goes on to explain what lessons and advice he gives to all his clients, he believes all athletes should be role models which i completely agree with, athletes should be active members of the community. One major point that I liked was about how agents have a rsesponsablitly to help players grow and the sports that they play, Steinberg feels agents need to work behind the scenes and put the interests of there clients over themselves. One point I feel Steinberg didnt really touch on how important adapting to change can be as a sports agent, the world of sports is always changing as this like rule changes and new CBA agreements agents need to be on there heels in order to keep up with the league.

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