Peyton Manning didn’t become Peyton Manning (the italicized version) without a certain someone (and we don’t mean his mother). And LeBron James, love him or hate him (you know, depending on your geographical location—lakeside or seaside) didn’t become LeBron James without a certain someone either.
This certain someone—a sports agent—is someone with a lot of energy, a tendency toward talkativeness, an eye for raw, long-term talent, and the gifts of persuasion, gab, and tenacity. And all of these things need to be going full speed ahead….at all times and at the same time. It takes a lot of gumption and hard work (not to mention that tenacity—sometimes known as heart) to make a real living as a sports agent. It’s competitive, it’s not a 9-5 desk job, and you’re going to be dealing with egos, egos, and more egos.
Sports agents are usually highly educated and certified as well. And while there are women in this area, for now it is still a male-dominated arena. That doesn’t mean that you—Catherine, Consuelo, or Annika—can’t do what Heather MacKenzie has accomplished, but again, right now it’s still a guys’ thing. But if you want to change that, you go girl! (We hope you do.)
Now let’s get to what these highly energized, educated, competitive people do: In a nutshell, sports agents represent professional athletes (or those trying to go professional) and make the $$$ deals between them and the teams that want them to play for them. These can be teams from Major League Baseball (MLB) all the way down (and by “down” we mean the financial side of things, not the talent, of course) to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
If we’re talking larger nutshells (brazils, maybe) sports agents and players have more…complicated relationships than that of just one representing the other financially. An athlete’s agent can be negotiator, accountant, attorney, friend, coach, or any combination of those things. A player’s agent is anyone who has the best interests of his players at heart. (And his own, of course; that goes without saying.)
As a sports agent, you work the contract negotiations between a player and the various teams that want him or her. You’re also in competition with other agents: Who’ll get the player the best deal? Who’s willing to take less of a cut? Who’s got more experience, more inside contacts, more knowledge? Who’s more convincing to the athlete’s family? All that comes into play.
Dealing with contracts means you’ve got to know the legalese, the math involved, the history of the salaries of this particular sport, and the business acumen to deal with the various people involved. And, of course, you’ve got to have the personality that can juggle all of it and not self-implode.
Are you getting the idea that this job takes a LOT of energy and focus? Uh, yeah...to say the least. You’ve got to be someone who can stay on top of your game (well, all your games) at all times. That means preparation, education, knowledge in a lot of different areas—and not just sports, either. (We’ll cover what you need to do to be prepared in the Qualifications section.
You may end up representing 15 different athletes in one sport who are all in one league, say, the National Football League (NFL), or you may have even more athletes who represent various professional sports in various leagues—say the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and even the MMA. (Be nice to that last one; anything goes with those guys, apparently.) And in this era of information overload, you may be in on five conference calls, a Skype call, and have a dozen text messages coming in…all at once. At 11pm. At your daughter’s wedding reception. When everyone is starting to realize that the shellfish-themed wedding might not have been the best idea….
You get the picture: long hours, any hours, and sometimes—only sometimes—a wickedly good payoff. But sometimes not. Remember what Seneca said (the Roman philosopher, not the apple juice company): “Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet.“ (He also purportedly said, “It is pleasant at times to play the madman.” Point being: Choose your athletes wisely.)