Some people have a knack for building structures. Others have a knack for building contacts and a network of friends.
If you are one of the latter and you also have an interest in sports, you may find a career as a sports agent to be particularly rewarding.
Sports agents represent the interest of athletes, particularly in contract negotiations. They also handle other matters including sponsorships, public relations, and financial planning, just to name a few of the issues.
While sports agents come from many different educational backgrounds, many of the top sports agents also are attorneys. Because contract negotiations are such an important aspect of the job, it is important for agents to have a legal foundation.
That said, not every sports agent has a law degree. Agents who do not have a law degree may hire lawyers to review contracts. Typically leagues or players’ associations require agents to be certified in order to represent players.
Many sports agents are graduates of sports management programs at the university level who then go on to add a law degree.
Darren Heitner, founder of sportsagentblog.com, was interviewed about his career by HuggingHaroldReynolds.com . In the interview, Heitner said an internship with Atlanta company Career Sports and Entertainment raised his interest in the sports agent career and provided valuable experience.
Currently, Heitner is attending law school but he noted in the interview that his law school does not feature a concentration in sports. He built up his name through his blog, but acknowledged in the interview that this is not the typical path.
“Attracting clients as a new entrant into any industry is a very tough task,” Heitner said. “The most common method of forming a sports agency is for someone to work for an existing agency for a while, build some credibility and clients under that agency, and then for that person to split off and create his/her own company.”
Other agents start independently. Of course a key to success is finding successful athletes to represent. Perhaps this starts with some good relationships in college, or during an internship. After landing that first client or two, it is important to do a good job, build a good reputation, and add to that network through word of mouth.
Typically the biggest responsibility for a sports agent is to negotiate a contract for the players the agent represents.
With that in mind, it is important for the sports agent to understand the market for players in the sport or sports involved. The agent needs to have an understanding of what the players are worth.
Besides negotiating the amount of money a player is to be paid, the sports agent needs to know about other important factors for the represented player. Perhaps it is important for a player to get to camp earlier—which could possibly mean sacrificing some money—in order to establish himself and be eligible for more money down the line. Perhaps a player prefers playing in a certain city. Or, perhaps a player finds a contract with lucrative bonuses to be an attractive motivator.
The agent’s job is to know the player she represents and craft the best possible deal for that player. Agents also may work with the player to develop sponsorship and advertising opportunities. Also, a high-profile player may rely on the agent, to some extent, for public relations responsibilities.
To carry out these responsibilities, the agent has to stay on top of all business developments in a sport. The agent has to be aware of other players’ contracts, team needs, the approach of teams in terms of contracts, and many other developments within a given sport. Because of this, agents have to be excellent at communication skills.
The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are 17,000 agents representing athletes and entertainers and projects these positions to grow 14% between 2006 and ’16.
There is a wide pay range for sports agents, who typically receive payment as a percentage of the contracts they negotiate. That payment is usually between 3 percent and 5 percent of the contract negotiated for the player.
Some agents charge by the hour for advice, charge a flat fee, or use a combination of payment forms.
Agents annually make anywhere from $50,000 up to $1-million or more.