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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54 Responses to How To Be A Great Sports Agent

  1. Bryan Deleon October 13, 2017 at 2:17 am #

    I became a Sport Management major for one reason; I wanted to become an professional Sports Agent. I put that dream away when I kept on hearing that I would have to go to law school to be able to become a Sport Agent. My interest in becoming an Sports Agent came from my admiration for sports and wanting to be apart of the professional sports world. This article by Leigh Steinberg explains how to be “A Great Sports Agent”. Leigh Steinberg starts off this article by saying he started his career in sports law by signing an NFL 1st round draft pick to the largest rookie contract in history at the time (1975). That caught my eye and I expected the rest of the article to be about how he was only interested in money and big contracts. He goes on to say that teams back in the day hated lawyers and wouldn’t even speak with them, most players used to represent themselves. He recognizes how agents are stereotyped as money hungry selfish people. He explains how if you want to get in the sport agents field, you have to forget the stereotypical sport agent. Your responsibility as an agent is to take care of your clients financially short-term and long-term, family, where they live, their profile, endorsements, as well as their career in their league (team, winning, coaches,etc.). Making athletes role models and helpful to their community (past and present) is what it’s all about.
    Leigh Steinberg is the type of agent I would look up to if I ever choose to pursue a career as an sport agent. Athletes that take pride in being philanthropists usually are successful after they retire. And that all starts with how their representatives (agents) advise them. Some agents are all about money, money, money; they only worry about the percentage they get from their athletes contracts and endorsements. Those are the agents that aren’t reliable and barely communicate with their clients. Those agents have people working under them and communicate with their clients through their employees, not personally. Now a days you see more and more athletes represent themselves or have a family member/friends represent them. Athletes are caring less about how big of a contract their agents get them; they care more about reliability. Athletic careers only have an average of 2-4 years, you need reliable people representing you in case of a career ending injury. Agents are supposed to be trusted like friends and athletes shouldn’t have any doubts about their agent. One of the best NFL Agents presently, Drew Rosenhaus, is a great agent because he knows how to balance the business of sports with the reality of sports. He cares for his clients and their personal lives as well as their NFL careers. Not many agents these days are like that and it makes them hard to trust.

  2. Ramon R February 14, 2019 at 11:10 am #

    This article was very interesting to me because my whole life I always wanted to be connected to sports in some type of way. However, it was not until after my first year of college in which I realized that I wanted to be a sports agents. The interesting part is that I want to be able to work for top athletes but not necessarily for the money. I would just love the experience of working with some of the best athletes in the world. I realize that every agent will not be as popular as Leigh Steinberg but that is not even my goal. If I was to get as famous of an agent as him that would just be icing on the cake.

    I agree with the article that having sports agent has evolved. In my opinion, it has evolved in a positive way. If I was an athlete, I would hire someone that I feel I can trust and they simply make me comfortable. I would also need someone who is going to put me in the best position emotionally and financially. I realize that every agent is won’t put their client in position to be successful and they might even try to take advantage of some of their clients. That is not the sports agent I will be though. I would never want someone to take advantage of me and potentially take money out of my pocket.

    Steinberg brought up a great point in saying that “anyone can try to recruit an athlete on a college or high school campus — and many thousands of “runners” who steer athletes to agents are active throughout the country”. This made me look at the sports agency world in another way. There are thousands of athletes and they will have many different options to pick from. This made me realize that in order for me to be a great sports agent, I have to get some of these athletes to put they trust in me. I have to try and do my job better than the other thousands of agents.

  3. Louis Priolo September 18, 2019 at 9:10 am #

    As a collegiate athlete and a sports fanatic, I found it very interesting to learn about the roots of sports representation. Throughout my whole life, I have only known that every player has an agent that represents him or her and negotiates his or her contracts, trades, etc. In fact, some owners of professional sports teams, like Mike Brown did not even want to deal with agents.
    Another astonishing point in the article was the purchase prices of two NFL expansion teams in 1976; their purchase prices were $16.5 million, and the average player salary was a laughable $30,000. Compare those numbers with today’s numbers; today, the average NFL franchise is worth a billion dollars and the average player salary is over $2 million. Those are just the average numbers. Many players make way more than $2 million per year, and many franchises are worth many billions of dollars. Clearly, sports representation has come a long way as players are receiving staggering amounts of money per year.
    A final point from the article that was very new to me was the explanation of approval processes for sports agents. Every agent, regardless of the sport, must pass certifications, clear background checks, and agree to be bound by ethical standards by the players association of the respective sport. I believe this is very necessary, because it ensures that players will not be unethically treated or represented. Some rookies that come into the league are young and have not even finished their educations. These certification measures ensure that the athletes are fairly represented. It takes a great deal of discipline to be a serious sports agent.
    Sports representation has come a long way, and it has revolutionized the way business is done for athletes.

  4. Samantha Russo September 18, 2019 at 1:13 pm #

    For the longest time, my career goal was to become a sports agent. If we’re being honest, when I was signing up for Business Law last spring, the only real reason I enrolled was so I could take Sports Law next semester. I’ve always been fascinated with sports agents and how they handle their careers and other athletes. Every single off season, you hear about another record-breaking contract, like Bryce Harper’s 13-year $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.
    Back in the earlier days of baseball, sports agents weren’t really a big deal in the world of sports and had little relevance when it comes to athletes. Today, while sports agents are huge and responsible for all of the big deals that we get those notifications for during the offseason. While they are the main cause of these deals, I feel like we rarely hear about them or what they really do. Bryce Harper had a record-breaking contract for baseball and every news and sports outlet reported on it but one thing they never mentioned was the man behind the deal. Scott Boras helped close this huge contract for Harper but he’s mainly gone unseen. Mike Trout, a future Hall of Famer and the best player in baseball right now, upped Harper’s contract and signed a $430 million 12-year contract with the Angels. Craig Landis, Trout’s agent, was responsible for getting this deal.
    I feel like in today’s world, we know sports agents exist and we are aware of how much they really do but we don’t recognize the people behind it and the hard work that goes into getting these record-breaking contracts. A sports agent has the dream job for people who love all sports but they mainly go unseen by the public. They help make these insanely large contracts for their clients but rarely do we hear about the agent behind the scenes. Reading this article helps show how much hard work sports agents have to do in order to close the deals, and how many qualifications and how difficult it is to become an agent. These sports agents have a job that a lot of people would love to have and they have the opportunity to be some of the successful people in the world.

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