If you’ve been following along this series, you’ve been exposed to a wide variety of information about the life of a sports agent. From how agents make money to contract details and everything in between. But if there is one sentence which proves to be the most valuable to take away from the entire series, I recommend you read the following sentence several times over:
The key to being a successful sports agent is representing great clients.
Seems simple right? Well… that’s when recruiting comes into play.
This might be a new concept for some people, so please brace yourself for what I’m about to tell you:
When you’re first starting out as an agent, clients don’t come to you. You have to go to them!
Weird, I know…
If you ask 10 different agents how they recruit, you will most likely get 10 different answers. Some agents focus on NBA Draft prospects, some focus on players with international citizenship, and some go for the under the radar, “diamonds in the rough.” In certain years an agency might even identify a single position they need to fill based on their current roster of clients.
When you’re talking about an internationally based agent, a common strategy is to identify young players with high upside. The business model differences between international youth basketball versus youth basketball in the states are as drastically different as night and day. But that’s a story for another time (think Luka Doncic’s story – he left Slovenia and headed to Real Madrid when he was 13). To make a long story short, if you represent a young player with lots of potential, you can get paid well if the player gets bought out by a bigger club or get an opportunity in the NBA.
Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter who you are or how you recruit. One of my favorite parts about this industry is that there is no formula for success. And all it takes is one client to completely change your life (and their life) forever.
Here are some categories that I use when forming my recruiting list:
Who are they? What is their background? Siblings? Parental status and career?
What kind of student are they? Do they get their work done on time? Grades? Outside academic interests?
What type of character do they have? Vocal leader? Relationships with teammates, teachers, coaches?
4. BASKETBALL SKILLS
Duh. They need to be good! What position do they play? What is their best skill? How is their IQ? Upside?
5. WHO'S IN THE CREW?
Who do they surround themself with? Who helps make decisions?
There are plenty of other questions I ask during this process. Some important topics that are not listed above include medical reports, hidden red flags, etc. But those 5 categories are simply what I start with. Then I can dig deeper once they pass the basic criteria.
It's imperative to do a thorough job with due diligence when recruiting. Especially when you’re sending someone overseas! The last thing you want is having one of your clients do something to negatively affect you or your agency’s reputation.
As you could tell from the amount of non-basketball categories that I analyze, characteristics outside of putting the ball in the basket play a huge role. I don’t care if you score 38 points per game. Or if you have the school record for most 3 point shots made. Apologies in advance for the language but, no one wants to deal with an ass hole.
Ok now you have started to put together a list of recruiting targets based on your strategy. So the next step is to figure out how to sign them! That usually starts with analyzing the risk versus the reward. Similar to differentiating recruiting strategies, almost every agent will probably have different levels of risk they are willing to take on:
How much will it cost to sign that player (including both time and financial investment)?
Who will you be competing against to sign them?
How and when do you contact the player?
Do they have a family member or friend running the recruiting show?
Are you allowed to approach them? Will their coaches support you?
How much of an upside does that player have?
Those are just some of the questions to ponder which will hold you over until the next lesson...
If you missed the previous parts of this series, check out the links below:
Part One: So You Wanna Be An Agent?
Part Two: How Do Agents Make Money?
Part Three: Sports Agency Business Model
Part Four: Contracts 101
Part Five: Agent Certification Process