Sports Agent is not a new profession. Professional athletes have been represented by “promoters” for over a century. While the “promoter” or agent’s primary role is to determine a players value and find that player the best deal as far as compensation for their talent, success in the business through the years has become increasing tied to an agents ability to be “all things” — friend, life coach, investment advisor, legal advisor, concierge, etc. — to young athletes. Things that no one person is qualified to do. Based on the surge in player salaries due to unions, advertising, media and the technologies that have enable the public greater access to sports, the sports agent business has become both competitive and extremely lucrative. The agents who can convince the player they will “take care of everything” are the ones who are most successful. BUT are they really equipped to “take care of everything”? The answer is no. The problem is the false perception in professional athlete culture that you are not going anywhere if you don’t have an agent. It has become a status symbol to be represented. The vary thing that many of the most successful individual agents and large agencies take advantage of.
The truth as demonstrated by Matt Elam, Ray Allen, Ricky Williams, Alexander Ovechkin and many other well known and lesser known players is that you don’t need an agent to get a contract. Further, you don’t need an agent to determine your true value in your respective sport. Owners, GMs, coaches, etc. know what you are worth and you can negotiate a fair deal if you inform yourself as Elam did. While an agent may be extremely helpful because of his or her connections or knowledge, the reality experienced by so many athletes who rely on their agents to “take care of everything” is often plagued by tax issues, legal issues, and poor financial decisions. That said, it is not entirely fair to blame the agents for the over half of athletes who go broke. They are business people, many honest, hardworking and committed to the success of those they represent, who have chosen their respective career to make a living. But it is the athlete who must ultimately take control and responsibility for his or her success both on and off the field.
Sports agents are usually highly educated and certified as well. And while there are women in this area, for now it is still a male-dominated arena.
In a nutshell, sports agents represent professional athletes and make the $$$ deals between them and the teams that want them to play for them. These can be teams from Major League Baseball (MLB) all the way down (and by “down” we mean the financial side of things, not the talent, of course) to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
If we’re talking larger nutshells (Brazils maybe) sports agents and players have more complicated relationships than that of just one representing the other financially. An athlete’s agent can be negotiator, accountant, attorney, friend, coach or any combination of those things. A player’s agent is anyone who has the best interests of his players at heart.