How Can an Agent Help?
Agents, in general, have acquired a very bad name. There are, in fact, a few unethical agents out there that have given the industry this bad rap. This is why it is so important to put considerable time and thought into choosing an agent that is right for you. The agent that you choose will have a considerable amount of impact on your professional career. This relationship should be an ongoing process, not just a relationship for contract negotiations that ends when the agent receives payment. Your agent should be accessible to you when you need them and they should always keep your best interests at heart. An athlete can also look to an agent for financial advice, legal advice, etc. Most agents should have affiliates available to you in these fields that will also treat you with the same professionalism and respect that you hopefully receive from your agent.
What if an agent contacts me during my college career?
It is acceptable to speak with agents during the season, but we recommend that you don't. The NCAA rules say that there can be nothing of value exchanged and no promises made between the athlete and agent while the athlete still has eligibility. In our opinion, you have too much going on and should be focusing on you and your team’s success instead of worrying about your post collegiate career and talking with agents. There will be plenty of time for that once your college career is over. Usually your coach will be more than happy to deal with any agents that are interested in you and something can be set up at the conclusion of your season.
What should I look for in an agent and in their contract?
The qualities you should look for in an agent are, in our opinion, the same qualities you would look for in a business partner and a friend. This should be a person that you feel comfortable with, someone you can trust, and someone that will put your best interests in front of theirs. Again, accessibility is very important. Knowing that they are there when you need them gives you a great deal of added security.
In dealing with contracts and knowing what to look for, we recommend that you have someone look over your contract before you sign it whether it is your coach, your lawyer, etc. Following are a few recommendations that we think every contract should contain, as well as some general fee information.
Every contract should have a reciprocal termination clause. This means that at any time, without cause, you can terminate your agent with written notice. You would still be responsible for any back payment to them, but if you are not satisfied with their services, you should be able to terminate. This clause also holds true for the agent. If for some reason, they do not wish to represent you, with written notice they can terminate, as well.
Make sure you look for hidden fees and percentages. There should be a basic percentage fee, which is based on the amount of the contract they secure for you. Team bonuses, such as playoff incentives and signing bonuses, are usually included in the percentage. Your agent should not receive a percentage of individual "honor" incentive bonuses such as league MVP or all-star awards etc. In the WNBA, the WNBPA (players association) has a Standard Player Agent Agreement (SPAC) that every player and agent must follow. This designates that the agent can not take more than 5% of the contract. When a player goes overseas, the team pays the agent a commission (usually 10%), which is usually split with their colleague overseas. Watch out as some agents still take a commission or "marketing fee" from the athlete. There are very few circumstances in which the team doesn't pay the agent an agency fee so if your agent is taking from you and the team, it is "double dipping". Make sure this is also clear before signing a contract!
Endorsements are another story. The percentages that an agent takes for endorsements vary. This is an individual agreement between the athlete and the agent, and both parties should feel comfortable with the agreement.