By Samuel Smith
As the size of the salaries and benefits continue to increase within professional sports, there is unquestionably a necessity for athletes to have a personal representative (Agent), to negotiate their contracts. As a young professional athlete or parent of an athlete it is important to understand the big business money machine of sports. Within the sports industry the athletes are the lifeblood of the business. If there were no athletes then there would be no fan base and without the fans there is no opportunity for owners to profit from the filthy rich business of professional sports. Meanwhile for athletes, it’s very important to choose the right agent, and develop a checklist of things to consider while interviewing your right agent that will help you fulfill each goal you’re set out to accomplish. Here I set up some very important guidelines, things to look for in selecting the right agent for you.
Does your Agent Have your Best Interest?
I always encourage athletes to establish a solid relationship with any potential agent before making a decision. Throughout my years of working with players and families I have seen many agents prey on the naive and vulnerable states of young athletes and their families who often come from poverty by luring them in with gifts, money and false promises. You should always ask yourself if this Agent is ethical and sincere or are they just in it for the money? Agents should be offering to educate parents and athletes on all aspects of the business and have no problem with being completely transparent. Taking all of these things into consideration will allow for a seamless transition to conducting business and making crucial decisions. It is essential that professional athletes understand that agents work for them and not the other way around. There is an obligation for the agents to truly understand a young man or woman’s greatest hopes and dreams and most limiting apprehensions and fears. Achieving this understanding will assist in determining what goals and objectives are needed in order to insure success for the athlete. Athletes have relatively short playing careers compared to other industries and the possibility of injury is reality. Quality representation simply focuses on a holistic approach to preparing first and second career life skills that should be cultivated while in college and throughout the athletes career. Find out if the agent just wants publicity because of his bold negotiation skills or is he in it for you.
Good Agents should help guide athletes with these decisions:
- Short and Long term career and Life Goals
- Basic Economics
- Geographic Location
- Endorsements and Marketing
- Team Playing Styles
Ranking these specific areas will allow the agent to assist the athlete and maximize potential both on and off of the playing surface.
Experience and Reputation:
It is important to understand the experience and reputation the agent that you’re considering has. How long and what experiences has the agent had? You want to make sure your agent is not new to the business and has the sufficient contacts to be able to get you into the right situation. Players have the misconception that the agent will guarantee you into the NBA and possibly get you drafted NOT TRUE!! An agent will set you up with workouts, and give you the ultimate opportunity to showcase your talent to make it to the next level. Is he a Certified Agent? Extremely important make sure that your agent is Certified. There are a lot of people that pose as agents, and all they do is recruit to become the middle man, to earn compensation for their relationship with a certain player. Minimize the middle man and go directly to the source. Your prospective agent’s reputation also ties into his experience, and it’s important to consider, how he/she is thought of in the industry? Let’s face it, the basketball industry is a small circle, so don’t be afraid to ask around talk to players he currently represents, coaches and friends and see what they have to say. Two other important questions to consider, does he conduct himself in a way that reflects your values? and has he ever been disciplined?
Small Firm vs. Big Firm:
Many agents will lure players to them by selling the fact that they are one of the biggest firms with the biggest contracts and highest profile of players. In some instances this may be an advantage for some players but not all. It simply depends on the particular player and preference. Large firms may have many connections with attorneys, financial advisors, teams, coaches and marketing partners. Many times the big firms continue to recruit high profile athletes in high numbers and with that the most important aspect of the agent player relationship diminishes which is personal attention. It is very common for high profile players to get injured and when this happens often time’s players could become low priority over someone who is ready to go. There are instances where players become veterans and advisors lose touch with older clients in order to catch younger talent.
It may be true that for many athletes’ a smaller firm may suite them best. Smaller firms offer more personal attention and can be less of a distraction for athletes. These firms may offer an opportunity for players to develop as a player and a person. More often than most not all small firms can carry the same clout and present the same opportunities as some of the bigger firms. It is true that smaller agencies often carry a smaller list of clients and have a better pulse on their inventory of players. Many times they could have an enhanced opportunity on negotiating in behalf of the client because of this fact.
Quality of Clients:
An agent’s clientele speaks volumes about who he is and how he runs his business. As in other agency relationships, there is a fiduciary affiliation between agents and athletes; therefore, agents carry a responsibility to exercise the utmost care and good faith in relation to their clients. Are his clients Arrogant and Pretentious, Team Leaders, Intelligent, Down to Earth or Hard Workers?
All athletes must be aware of what’s out there. Certainly there are good agents and there are bad ones. First off there is an essential need to establish a rapport with the potential agent directly and through your family. An athlete needs to ensure himself that the agent has their best interest. It is common for agents to lure young athletes in by offering gifts, money and promises. If this is the case athletes should ask themselves one question, do I want to jeopardize my legacy or my future on false promises? Young men and women should also realize that without them (the athlete) the agent or advisor would not be successful. Instead of being enticed by outside influences athletes must focus on what is important. This means looking into the future 10-15 years from now and making an informed decision. CHOOSE WISELY