Sports agents who take any and every athlete who contacts them on their website will not last very long in this industry. Representing athletes is much like playing the stock market; you have to make a rather large initial investment in order to have a chance to make any significant profit.
You could load up with a bunch of penny stocks that are high risk, do not cost much. One or two of those athletes break through and you could be generating a solid profit. On the other hand, you could invest big money into a guy with proven skill and high ratings from scouts. Unfortunately, the main difference between stocks and athletes is that stocks are not going to leave you mid-investment. An athlete can.
A big decision for agents, especially in the offseason, is figuring out a list of players to recruit. There are people who are high up on the list because of talent and factors that lead the agent to believe that he would be an easier guy to recruit, whether it be due to proximity, relationships with current clients, etc. There are also “reaches”, guys agents would like to represent, but will cost a lot of time and money to get in front of, and most likely will not go with you.
On to some of my methods of research.
1. Scouting services:
Some services are free and some you have to pay for. In basketball, one of my favorite services is DraftExpress.com. A site developed by a fellow Gator grad, Jonathan Givony, DraftExpress provides up to date scouting reports on a variety of talented basketball players and hits up almost every showcase on the planet. In baseball, my pick is Perfect Game Crosschecker (pgcrosschecker.com). They provide thorough rankings of future draft classes, break it down state-by-state, hit up the major showcases, and provide detailed information for top prospects. Want to know a prospect’s parents names? They have you covered. BaseballAmerica’s Prospect Plus program is also strong, but it stops covering players once they graduate from high school. In football, I am a fan of the old NFLDraftScout.com. Since it was acquired by CBS Sports, I have been looking for a suitable alternative. While it is not strictly a scouting service, I enjoy Neil Stratton’s InsideTheLeague.com, which highlights player movement, which agencies are going after which players, and provides draft expectancy for the next class of players, by school.
Scouting services are the 2nd best option to actually talking to scouts. This is something hard for new agents to do, because their rolodex may be thin in this area. Over time, and as an agent picks up more players within various organizations, these contacts develop. Hold them near and dear. In baseball, the scouts not only tell the organizations who to draft, but are also often in charge of presenting the offer sheet.
Want to know a kid’s character? You are not going to find that out through a scouting service. Nothing beats meeting the player and his family in person, but sometimes money and time get in the way. Also, Facebook can be a way to weed out some guys on your list so that you do not have to waste the time of traveling to visit them in the first place. Check the player’s interests, see what types of videos and pictures he is posting. Are his status updates worrying you? Only take players who will allow you to sleep well at night. Facebook helps.
4. In-Person meeting:
If a player passes the Facebook test and you talk with him and his family over the phone and through email, it is very important to meet them in person. Living in an area where you base most of your recruiting is important so that you are able to save on the valuable areas of time and money. I dress differently depending on the setting of the meeting. If I am going to an athlete’s game, I won’t wear a suit and tie. I’ll dress comfortable, especially since it is usually 90+ degrees in the state of Florida. A Dynasty t-shirt and jeans work. If I am visiting a player at his home, a button down with slacks is more appropriate. Impress the player and his family, but don’t scare them off, either.
5. Use your current clients:
Your current clients are invaluable sources of information. Many of them have either played with the guy you are recruiting or have heard things from others who have played with them. In fact, you may not even know that one of your clients knows the guy personally, and would be happy to put in a phone call to him to supply praise for your agency.
6. Use other guys you are recruiting:
Perhaps you have already decided that you will recruit another player at the same school. Talk to him and ask him what he thinks of this other guy you are thinking about recruiting. It may lead to a package deal, or you may realize that you want to only stick with the first guy since their personalities don’t mesh. The original player may say that in no way will he sign with an agency that his teammate signs with. This is important information to garner.
7. Talk to the player’s coach:
This will accomplish two things: 1) The coach may know the player more than the player’s own family. He knows the player’s work ethic, potential of growth, and personality on and off the field. 2) Building a relationship with the coach will help you recruit more of his players down the line. Additionally, if you do a good job with his players, the coach may ask you to represent him!
8. Use intuition:
When it comes down to making a decision on if you want to spend your time and money to recruit a player and then a lot more time and money to actually represent him, you have to take everything that you have learned in the points above and then really make a decision that is best for you and your company. Sometimes, you need to ignore some of the negative statements you read or hear because you truly believe in the athlete. Intuition is probably the most valuable component of this list.