So, You Wanna Be An Agent?
You can probably imagine how many calls, emails, txts and DMs that I get from players who want to become pros. If you're unsure of that answer, it is hundreds per month. Trust me, that is not a pat on the back saying how good of an agent I am, that is simply a byproduct of how many people have the dream of becoming a pro.
But I bet you'd be surprised at how many people ask me how they can become an agent as well.
Contrary to popular belief, my life is not like Jerry Maguire’s life -- although many of his struggles in the movie are definitely relatable! An agent's life is not full of VIP parties, court-side seats and demanding multi year million dollar extensions. I'd say the more recently produced HBO show, "Ballers," has a bit closer similarity to the life of player agents; but of course there are still many parts that exaggerate the "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."
Generally speaking, I hope we can all agree that most movies and tv shows falsely represent what real life is like. So over the next few months I will be sharing my experiences in an attempt to pull back the curtain and give you a glimpse of what the life of an agent is really like!
Let's begin here - if you want to become an agent, I'd kindly advise you to reconsider.
Didn't expect that one coming did you?
I would be doing you a disservice if I tried to convince you that being an agent is an all around awesome job. Most perks of being an agent don't necessarily become realized until you've "made it." And until you have multiple high level clients (NBA players or six figure salary players overseas), it's unbelievably difficult to be sustainable. And even when you do have those clients, the tough part is keeping them! But we'll dig into that shark infested water later on.
Similar to the way that I'm telling you to reconsider being an agent, many people told me the same thing.
I was told it's a cut throat world and if I didn't have a direct relationship to a NBA prospect I wouldn't make it.
I was told it was nearly impossible to work directly with clubs overseas if you're an American agent.
I was told without paying players under the table I would have no chance in signing them.
Well, if you're anything like me, when someone tells you not to do something, it makes you want to do it more.
So for those who still think being an agent is the path for you, all the power to ya!
And I'm rooting for you! But you can't say I didn't warn you.
Instead of trying to convince you not to become an agent, I want to share with you everything I know about this world.
I want to give you an all-inclusive inside look at what agents really do. And then you can decide for yourself.
I'm going dive into how I became an agent, what you need to do to get certified, the barriers of entry, how I landed my first client, the business model of agencies, my personal recruiting strategy, how agents make money, which countries are easier to deal with, the misconceptions about taxes, managing clients, contract negotiations and much more.
I've learned a lot so far. I've spent most of my time overseas the past several years and I'm lucky enough to have experienced the basketball culture in 34 countries. From sleeping on mini busses in Armenia to having coffee with Euroleague GMs and everything in between; there will definitely be stories you won't want to miss.
But believe me there is SO much more for me to learn. And I'm going to be an open book along this adventure.
To start, let's keep things simple and go over a few basics.
What do agents really do?
There are many different roles of an agent, and not all agents fit one mold. If you ask 20 agents that questions you will most likely get 20 different answers. The day to day life of a sports agent depends on multiple factors; including but not limited to: how many clients they have, which sport, the size of agency, level of client, etc.
But from a 30,000 foot view, the primary role a player agent is to procure and negotiate contracts for our clients.
We are the connectors between players and teams. We work for players, not the other way around. Some agents also represent coaches, but for now we are going to focus on player agents.
Even though procuring and negotiating contracts is the main role, there are many other aspects of managing a players career. Some of them are handled by agents themselves, some can be managed by other departments of the agency, and many are even outsourced to third parties.
The other aspects I mentioned above can be any of the following: marketing + PR, brand partnerships, public appearances, off court needs, housing connections, tax and finance support, luxury concierge, travel coordination, and the list goes on...
NBA Agent vs. FIBA Agent:
There are two main types of agents in the basketball world. An NBPA certified agent and a FIBA certified agent.
If you are a NBPA certified agent you can legally negotiate a contract between a player and any NBA team. The NBPA (National Basketball Players Union) is the union for current professional players in the NBA. You must pass an exam given by the NBPA in order to be officially certified. I am NBPA certified.
If you are a FIBA certified agent you can legally* negotiate a contract between a player and any club who is governed by FIBA. The International Basketball Federation, typically known as FIBA, was originally founded in 1932 and is considered the world governing body for basketball. There are 213 National Basketball Federation members who are a part of FIBA (so not quite every country in the world yet). You must also pass an exam given by FIBA in order to be officially certified. I am also FIBA certified.
* You are probably wondering why I put an asterisk next to (legally) in the above paragraph. No, it was not a typo. If someone tells you that everyone plays by the rules overseas they are lying directly to your face. It's important to realize that people break rules in every industry. But in the overseas basketball world specifically, it is very often unregulated.
Don't get me wrong, there are lots of amazing people, historic and trustworthy clubs, and efficient business transactions conducted! I've met some of my very close friends through international basketball. But I told you that I'm going to be an open book, so I'm just keeping things real.
Part of the reason for things not being done by the book overseas is because it's very easy to make a quick dollar. If you know the right people, you can sign off on a deal. If a decision maker of a club wants to sign a specific player, they will do just that. No matter how they get the job done. Or who helps them!
Another part of that reason is because the industry is very unregulated. Sure there are rules in place, but there are no consequences for breaking those rules. There are conflicts of interest between the many parties governed by FIBA, and when things get sticky, sometimes there is no incentive for Federation members to regulate themselves. I've tried to learn more and personally offer suggestions to FIBA board members, but unfortunately this is not something that can be fixed overnight. There are many stakeholders involved and like any conflict, it will take a large amount of cooperation to make a change.
Alright, before we dive deeper down that rabbit hole, we'll give it a break.
I can talk for hours about many of these topics, but let's take this journey slowly.
Some people might not agree with my depiction of the agent world. But the awesome part about that is, there is no formula for success! What works for me might not work for others. And what works for others might not work for me.
We are all in the sales industry, and all it takes is one deal to change the rest of your life.
This series is going to be through the lens of Kevin Tarca. Just a regular guy with a dream. Trying to figure out this crazy game of life. Sharing his experiences with anyone who wants to listen, one day at a time.
If you like what you've been reading, and still want to learn more, check out the Sports Agent Educational Journey!
During "The Sports Agent Educational Journey" You Will:
Understand the basic framework of a day in the life of a sports agent
Comprehend the business models and strategy of sports agencies
Learn where to go and how to apply for your agent certifications
Identify where your skill sets can add value to an agency
Be given access to tools used by current sports agents
Differentiate yourself from other aspiring agents
and much more...