Don’t feel like people have to be the next Jerry Maguire to have a successful career as a sports agent. While agents certainly won’t be yelling “Show me the money!” in their office, they will be negotiating some pretty hefty deals that could make or break an athlete’s career. Agents help them wade through contracts that decide what teams they’ll play for, where they’ll relocate to, and even any sponsorships and endorsements they might receive. Agents have to have a shrewd grasp on the business of sports and be up to date on the deals other players are receiving, as well. It doesn’t benefit their client if they don’t know what kinds of contracts other athletes of similar abilities are getting. Agents interact with other agents, athletes, high profile coaches, and team owners as they navigate the field and try to score their client with the best deal available to them.
The saying goes “You don’t get paid until your athlete gets paid” because the job is commission based. The average salary is about $110,000 annually but can well exceed $500,000 a year depending on how high up the clients are.
The average starting salary is around $56,000 annually.
Sports agents are sort of a jack of all trades for their clients. They’re advisors, mentors, friends, and even their lawyer. A professional athlete has a limited timeframe for their career, and it’s their agent’s responsibility to get the most bang for their buck, so to speak. They need to find the best contract deals, salary, and terms to advance their client’s career as far as it can go and help them remain solvent even when they’re retired at a relatively young age.
Obviously the most important skill required of a successful sports agent is to have excellent negotiation skills. The athletes require an agent who can swiftly negotiate a heavy duty deal to get them on the field as soon as possible. The ability to promote a client is also crucial. The athlete is dependent on their agent to advertise them to various teams or endorsement deals and to sell their athlete to a variety of teams to squeeze the best deal out of whoever wants them the most.
Degree and Education Requirements
The first step to take in becoming a sports agent is to get a relevant college degree. Most high profile sports agents begin their career by getting a bachelor’s degree in sports management. This degree path combines exercise sciences with business classes. It’s not unusual for colleges to require coursework in things like kinesiology, finances, and accounting. Next, it’s usually wise to progress to a graduate degree. This can be an upper level degree in sports management, but most sports agents decide to get a law degree. Having a degree in law can help make the navigation of contracts much easier. Some agents will hire out lawyers to read through contracts for them, but it makes the job much easier to not have to do that. And while it’s sometimes unorthodox, it isn’t unusual for a sports agent to also act as a lawyer for athletes who may have gotten themselves into some legal trouble.
Rewards and Challenges
Obviously, the biggest challenge in this field is finding clients. The best money comes from clients who are good enough to enter the professional leagues, but finding a client who actually gets there can be very difficult. Another challenge is difficult clients. It’s no secret that some athletes get into a lot of legal trouble, and it’s up to their agent to decide if they want to help them through the troubles or if they’re willing to work closely with someone who’s had some unethical behavior. Obviously, this behavior can void their contract, too. The rewarding part of this career are the contacts an agent makes in the field. Even when their clients are long gone, the high profile contacts they’ve made can be great for career advancements or even tickets to the World Series.
Once the college degrees are in place, the next step is getting any necessary licenses or registrations. There’s no national governing body for sports agents, so it does vary state by state. New graduates should check their state’s licensing requirements and inquire there to get the necessary documentation. Licensing will require fees and perhaps even exams. Most states require a background check to eliminate any criminals trying to swindle the very well paid athletes. The last thing the athletic world needs is sports agents who are actually con artists that end up stealing from their clients in the form of shady contracts and bum negotiations. Once all of the state’s licensing requirements are in place, the next step is deciding whether to work individually or with an established firm. Most novice agents do best working with a well known firm to build their career as it gives them an extra edge and some well-guided mentoring.
With a booming sports industry, the overall future outlook for sports agents is looking promising. More athletes are making deals outside of their teams, seeking various endorsements and sponsorships that require the guidance of an experienced sports agent with a law background. Big brands like Under Armour and Nike are always on the hunt for a high profile athlete to help advertise their brand and products. An agent is necessary to make these deals mutually beneficial to both parties. That also means that these types of businesses need sports agents who have a background working with athletes and negotiating contracts to help them nab the athletes they need for their advertising. Private law offices also love to hire sports agents to expand their clientele and hopefully wind up with clients who have some clout.
Being a sports agent can seem less like a job and more like an adventure. Not only do agents get to work with famous people, they also get the opportunities to immerse themselves in one of the biggest money making industries in the entire world. A career as a sports agent can set people up for a lifetime of contacts that can only stand to serve them well.