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An Agents Guide To Athletes

Sports Agent CartoonIn roughly four months, Bob Ruxin and I will be releasing a new book: An Athlete’s Guide to Agents, 5th Edition.  The book will cover everything from NCAA rules and regulations to turning pro early…and it even discusses the agent selection process.  That process is not a one-way street.  The principal is the athlete, who has control over his agent; however, the agent also has to agree to represent the athlete.

Athletes are often asked, “What influenced you to pick the particular agent/agency you chose for contractual and/or marketing representation,” but a question that is rarely asked of an agent is, “Why did you choose to recruit that particular player to be your client?”  Some agents, especially those first starting on their own, do not have the luxury of being picky.  But once an agent has a firm client-base, he is not going to go after twenty players in all fifty states.

So how does Mr. Somewhat Established Agent decide who to spend his time and money on?  At the end of the day, if the potential client is not going to make the agent any money, then he is most likely not worth the agent’s time.  I say most likely, because sometimes an agent may think about taking a player because of his referrals.

Let’s say a player is sub-par and has no shot at a long-term professional career, but he went to the strongest high school in his state for the sport that he played and retains a strong connection to the coaches and talented players who will one day go pro.  That may be a guy you invest in because of the benefits he may bring to the table on referrals.

For the most part, though, an agent is only going to focus on recruiting the studs: The guys who are going to get the big bonuses and the strong multi-year contracts.  That said, many agents will tell you that it is tough to recruit based on talent, alone.  At my company, I will not take in a client, no matter how amazing he is at his sport, if he lacks character.  You may be thinking to yourself that I am full of shit.  But I tell you no lie.  I am not about to invest five figures in a guy that I do not 100% believe in.  That same guy can take my money and run.  And it happens a lot in this business.

In judging character, I look for many attributes:

1) Care for one’s family,

2) Hard work ethic on-and-off the field,

3) A non-acceptance of mediocrity,

4) An openness to experiment with new ideas and technologies,

5) If there is a support system in place, that the athlete understands who has his best interests in mind and who is just there for a piece of the pie.

There are many more things that I search to figure out, but this is just a small sample for you to take a look at.

For all the criticism that was thrown at Mike Vick after he was convicted of dog-fighting charges, his agent, Joel Segal of BEST, stuck by his side.  Was it because Mike Vick is an exceptionally talented athlete?  That is part of the answer.  But my opinion is that Segal sees something in Vick that many of us are not able to figure out from all of the media spin: That Vick’s character has changed and he is a new man.

We will be able to judge if this is the case, but I doubt that Segal and BEST would put their names on the line if they did not believe in Vick as a person outside of football.  On the other end, current UFL Commissioner, Michael Huyghue, dropped Adam “Pacman” Jones as a client after his run in with the law.  Commissions on Pacman’s contracts obviously were not worth dealing with the whole package.

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3 Responses to An Agents Guide To Athletes

  1. the fig August 28, 2009 at 7:54 am #

    I will not represent anyone unless they meet my stringent requirements; one must truly know their client to adequately be committed to their needsW!

  2. Elaine DeBassige D'Amato September 2, 2009 at 11:41 pm #

    I liked the list you have put together, especially the comment on support systems. Unfortunately, I have worked and met with many athletes (amateur to pros) whose support system is more toxic than helpful. Athletes get isolated from the general public and don’t get very clear help on how to interview for their inner circles. If more athletes had stronger networks and understood how to filter who was in their inner circles, many issues could be averted.

  3. Bob Rylko September 8, 2009 at 6:23 am #

    The player’s “inner circle” has proven to be a very accurate barometer for many of the more successful agents with whom I’ve worked over the years. If you have a talented player, with a group of down-to-earth advisors, then you’ve got a chance to make money and have some fun. If that player, regardless of how talented, has surrounded himself with characters who tend to focus on superficial issues (e.g… fancy cars, women, etc.) then it’s not worth your time, effort, and the possible negative reflection on your agency.

    One classic story I’ll never forget from a very high quality, successful agent. He had deep connections to a certain university and represented several NFL players who had attended that school. When he pulled up to the house where his targeted player was living, he noted a number of very expensive cars — in the driveway of a house that looked as though it might collapse at any minute. He didn’t even bother going inside. The player turned out to be a first-round draft choice, but was out of the league (and almost broke) within three years.

    Agents just looking for a paycheck usually don’t last very long in the profession. Clients should be looked upon as long-term investments and/or people with whom you’d like to build personal relationships.

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