The world of sports is founded on competitiveness—brawling, defending, and winning. Things can get dirty on the field, but that’s something the athletes handle themselves. As a sports agent, you handle the dirt beyond the court. Leave the winning to your athletes because you have your own game to play.
What Are My Responsibilities as a Sports Agent?
Aside from looking dapper in suits and raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars, your primary job is to sign players. As a sport’s representative, your job is to make sure your clients are earning what they’re worth.
Out in the playing field, they determine their value by delivering amazing scores and winning games. You determine their value by estimating just how much their skill is worth.
A player’s value is also adjusted according to demands: the more teams and clubs pining for this one athlete, the higher his market value is.
Let’s talk deals. An integral part of signing a player (or letting one go) is understanding the terms and conditions that go with it. Deals are made in contracts and are usually eligible for a year that has to be renewed annually.
Now, these contracts are really declarations regarding finances. How much will a team pay for this one player? How many months is this athlete playing with the team?
These contracts are with obligations and benefits which are ignored to a larger extent. Most players (and even agents) are so focused on the paychecks that they forget other rights they are entitled to or possible restrictions they should be aware of.
But deals aren’t solely driven by finances. At the end of the day, good players want to play. Players don’t become better by sitting on a bench for an entire season; players hone their potential out there when they play. Your job, then, is to make sure that you land playing opportunities for your client.
Know who you are representing and what he or she wants. Your client’s goals are your goals: where in the world does this client want to play? What does your client want to experience? You’re there to provide counsel and ask the right questions, steering your players into realizing what they want for themselves.
Who Can Become a Top Sports Agent?
Anyone who has thought of becoming a sports agent has probably second guessed their educational background. Most people would think that only those who have had experience playing the game could properly represent athletes or that only those with sports management degrees could pass off as agents.
It’s a common sentiment to feel like you haven’t learned enough from school, especially when you’re coming from an entirely different field. Plus, top agents typically have either a master’s degree or a law degree.
It’s easy to see why most people would feel the need to get one out of pressure and out of misinterpreting the significance of these degrees in sports management.
Take for example the top sports agent in history, Scott Boras, who was a practicing lawyer before he realized his true calling was sports management. Here are some quick facts about him:
- Boras has made over $117 million in commissions alone
- He has over $2.3 billion active player contracts
- He didn’t begin with a sports management degree
- Nor did he begin his career as an agent
- Boras practiced law for a firm defending pharma companies
- He now owns Boras Corporation, the world’s leading baseball-only sports agency
It’s easy to attribute Boras’ success to his law degree. How else could he have negotiated his way through $117 million? One word: experience.
Do I Need a Masters or Law Degree?
If there’s anything we can learn from Boras’ story, it’s that his years spent in law school have aided him to become the most powerful sports agent in history. Only it must be realized that law school wasn’t his one-way ticket to stardom.
Let’s face it: not everyone can go to law school. It’s likelier for people to take an alternative path to sports management instead of spending another 4 years cooped up in school. Taking another one to two years doing an MA seems like the better choice? Not so much.
Here’s what most people don’t want to tell you: graduate studies are not a pre-requisite to a successful career in sports management. Sure, it helps. But what has helped them isn’t the law degree, exactly, but the working experience they gained from it.
Graduate Studies and Law School
Graduate studies and law school are avenues and not so much the one-way ticket to fame that they appear to be. In the undergraduate level, your colleagues are fellow undergrads who most probably haven’t had time to practice in their fields. It’s all theory and notes, not so much practical application.
What grad studies and law school give you are real-life situations with compelling consequences. You get involved in ongoing case studies where your judgment could mean the difference between a man behind bars and a man set free.
You are involved in a thorough study of human behavior and how certain variables can influence outcomes.
These two scenarios simulate the necessary skills when met with pressure of meeting athletes, deciding if they’re worth it, and working hard to make their dreams happen—all these take agile decision-making, resoluteness, and determination.
More than experience, you get the privilege of time. Time to understand how and why people respond to certain things; to get into a natural state of mind of appraisal right off the bat. Grad studies and law schools are trial and error cases where you realize the right and wrong way of doing things.
In your bigger goal that is sports management, that’s really all you need: practice. The reason why the greatest agents take these extra years is because they want to practice how to make negotiations, to know the difference between a buy and a bust.
An MA or a law degree can and will help you climb the ranks, but aren’t the only definitive ways to do so.