Negotiating a Career in Professional Sports

Glenn Schwartzman ’80 is a partner at Shark Sports Management. He has built a decades-long career as a professional sports agent, advising clients in the NFL, NBA, and MLB. But when he was a student at George School, sports management was a little-known profession.

“There were only a handful of people around the country doing it,” he said. “My mother used to joke that I was very argumentative; I loved sports, but wasn’t going to play at the next level, so she put the concept of sports and law in my head.”

As a senior at George School, Glenn had the opportunity to “get a little taste of sports and broadcasting” by working at ABC Sports in New York City with Warner Wolf and George Michael, two iconic sports broadcasters of that era.

His love of sports blossomed at George School, where he played a variety of sports, including tennis, basketball, baseball, and soccer. But he was deeply involved in the community outside of athletics as well.

“I loved George School,” said Glenn. “I was a boarding student and really enjoyed the Quaker philosophy and participating in meeting for worship. I still do a lot of meditation, which has helped me to express myself clearly. I got involved with student government, was the vice president of my class, and wrote for the school newspaper. Getting involved is something that defined my George School experience.”

After graduation, Glenn attended Skidmore College followed by law school at George Washington University. “George School helped me learn to be comfortable being away from home, interacting with a diverse group of people, which prepared me for college and thereafter,” explained Glenn. “I had a very good advisor named Mr. Waters who helped me get on the right path and gave me very powerful advice and guidance.”

The summer after his freshman year at Skidmore, he took a bus into New York City, and just showed up at the office of future hall of famer Bob Lanier, who was an active player at the time and the head of the NBA Players Association. There he waited for over nine hours until finally Bob emerged to talk to him.

“He told me, ‘You’ve got a lot of nerve to show up at my office like this, but I like it,’” remembered Glenn. Then Glenn met with Larry Fleisher, one of the pioneers of sports agency and general counsel for the Players Association, who came out after Lanier and gave Glenn an internship right then and there. “I did some legal research relating to the first NBA salary cap.” Larry Fleisher later helped Glenn get a job at the Baseball Players Association his junior year.

Being a professional sports agent is a challenging, multi-faceted career that requires a diverse skillset to recruit, support, and advise young athletes who have the talent and dedication to chase the dream of professional sports. And while the role of an agent is to be the go-between for the player and the many professional teams, he is committed to helping his athletes become successful beyond their professional sports careers as well.

“I need to make sure the player is in compliance with their contract terms and gets the best possible contract, but I also want to ensure that their off-the-field skills are developed so that they have some depth and network for their post-playing careers,” he said.

“I love when I can work with someone who has talent but may not be a superstar and get them the best deal possible. While it is exciting to negotiate the big deals and endorsements, working with the players to help set them up with generational wealth and make sure that they are set for life is what is most fulfilling,” he said.

Agents are an essential part of the professional sports world, but often are glamorized by Hollywood. “It is great when things go well, but it is not as glamorous as the movies make it out to be,” Glenn explained. “It is amazing when your players make it to a championship game or the Super Bowl, and you are there to celebrate the achievement with them, but it is the long-term relationships I have formed with my clients that I love. One of my clients, Marcus Pollard, who was a pro-bowl tight end for the Colts, and played with Peyton Manning, now works for the Jaguars and his son is a starter on the University of Michigan football team. It is nice to see their families develop and to build great relationships.”

Glenn’s experience, talent, and work ethic enable him to negotiate successful client outcomes in challenging situations. “I have a client who was in the NFL for two years and was cut by three different teams,” he said. “I kept him employed every week until he was signed and rewarded with a $5 million deal. An inexperienced agent might have written him off after being cut several times with different teams. I knew he was good, just unlucky.”

He founded Shark Sports Management about four and a half years ago with a few partners including Daymond John, who is best known as a television personality on the show Shark Tank. The firm has seen tremendous growth since its inception.

Clients are often his best referral sources because he’ll typically work with them for ten, fifteen, or even twenty years. One current client is Jae Crowder, who plays for the Phoenix Suns. Glenn represented his dad, Corey, who played for the Utah Jazz. When it came time for his son to find an agent, Corey reached out to Glenn.

“You never know where the relationships will go,” says Glenn. “I build good relationships by doing the right thing and thus become a trusted advisor.”

The industry, like many others, has evolved with technology and cultural shifts. “Last July when the NCAA opened up the possibility for collegiate level players to market their name, image, and likeness (NIL), it became like the wild west,” he said.

This change requires expertise in branding, marketing, and endorsement deals. Daymond happens to be one of the best branders in the field. “Each player is a brand, and it’s all about social media, driving their brand, and getting influencer deals,” Glenn explained. “Contracts put them in the league, but the marketing and off-the-field compensation can often surpass contract compensation.”

His advice to students who are interested in pursuing a career in professional athletics is simple: enjoy being a student-athlete. “Clients that I have had—even guys who did not go on to play professionally—always say that playing at the collegiate level was the best experience. Turning pro, he says, requires “a perfect storm of ability, health, interest, timing, and luck.”

“We are recruiting a player now who chose to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19. He went back to Clemson University to play because he loves college so much and wanted to compete for a National Championship one more time. The experience of being a student-athlete and forming those bonds made in college is valuable whether or not it translates into a professional career.”

For students who are interested in a career as a sports agent, Glenn said, “My best advice is to build strong relationships. Study and learn analytics since teams and brands are seeking that skillset to make huge decisions. It’s a challenging business, but I love it.”