The role and compensation of a sports agent is often misunderstood by the public. A sports agent’s job is to market the athlete or the products associated with that athlete to promote the athletes career. The agent works to negotiate contracts that are in the best interest of the athlete. What we don’t see is the incredible amount of personal sacrifice it takes to acquire and manage each client.
A sports agent is available 24/7/365 for his clients. Hundreds of phone calls with players, their families, physicians, and sponsors. Countless meetings with team owners, managers, and coaches. NFL sports agents in particular spend an enormous amount of time negotiating contracts, including player injury provisions and public relations presence. Networking is a huge part of a sports agent’s daily life – it never stops.
And it’s not all about schmoozing the client. An agent must possess extraordinary communication and negotiation skills as well as the energy to work long hours at the bargaining table. A sports agent must keep abreast of sports trends.
People often question the obscene amount of money that sports agents command but it’s no different than any other workers union. An agent takes care of a player so they’re not taken advantage of. An agent educates and sometimes that involves telling a client what they need to hear verses what they want to hear. An agent works practically around the clock to get the best possible deal for his client.
Agents give their lives to keep clients informed and prepared. Often, the agent’s family suffers from the simple fact that they’re rarely at home or are constantly interrupted due to client conversations and demands.
William Johnson of Pro Start Sports International informed me that his entire family sacrifices for his career as a sports agent. As a family who’s been involved with pro sports for many years, they understand what it takes to be successful in this field and that integrity tops the list. William considers his clients as extended family members and is often on the phone in the wee hours of the night, discussing playing time during games, team dynamics and other player concerns. William stated that he makes a strong, proactive attempt at keeping a healthy family/work balance.
Many people get the idea, especially from movies like Jerry Maguire, that sports agents are slimy, used car salesmen types who lurk in the shadows, waiting for an unsuspecting, gullible athlete to sign on the dotted line. They do exist but the signposts are large and bold for the most part. The ‘Bob Sugars’ talk of short-term, ‘let’s get you signed and I’ll make you a star’ rhetoric. There’s no mention of long-term plans and post-football life. They are ego-driven and are often in the news. Unscrupulous agents can ruin an athlete’s career before it even starts.
This causes people to believe they are the ‘norm’ in the sports agent world but it’s not so.
All pro football sports agents have to be certified by the NFL Players Association. Teams that deal with agents who are not certified are subject to fines.
I recently caught up with Jack Bechta. He’s a seasoned and well-respected sports agent, representing 15 active NFL clients, some of which are the highest paid in the league. I asked Jack what first motivated him to become a sports agent. “I wanted to stay close to football and use my skill set acquired from my business background to help young athletes achieve their goals and dreams, and make sure they’re never taken advantage of.”
Both Jack and William stressed the main objective of a sports agent is to protect a player from negative outside forces, empower them to make good, informed decisions, and encourage them to surround themselves with high quality professionals. Each weighed in on some important tips that young athletes should look for when searching for an agent:
- Jack – the agent should have the big picture in mind and be able to guide the player in a long-term plan as well as an exit plan.
- William – integrity is an essential ingredient in a good sports agent. Make sure they’re certified; don’t be afraid to ask for credentials.
- Jack – the nuts and bolts beyond the sport should be in the agent’s conversation: insurance, life skills, pr, and preparing for the future.
- William – ask how many active clients the agent has and how they are working for their clients. Call current and former clients. Research your agent.
A sports agent’s ultimate dream is to have clients who value and appreciate him for what he brings to the table. He desires an athlete who thinks in the future, not just in the present. He craves the excitement of pursuing athletes loaded with potential. He thrives on athletes who are willing to listen and learn how to develop their potential on and off the field. That’s a sports agent’s job.