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NBA Agent Kirsten Simmons Is Breaking Barriers And Embracing Adversity

Kirsten Simmons | NBA Agent | Thread Sports Management

Challenges will be thrown at anyone and it really comes down to how you handle them.

Kirsten Simmons

NBA Agent

Thread Sports Management

× The interview with Kirsten Simmons was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as the NBA Agent of the Thread Sports Management.

My role as a certified NBPA agent with Thread Sports Management has evolved over the years. I started at Thread as an intern while at the University of South Carolina handling the company’s social media and website, and as an executive assistant to the President/Lead Agent, Bernie Lee. During that time, I was able to observe his interactions with Jimmy Butler, his highest profile client. I was witness to the expectations of a player and an agent, from both a professional and personal standpoint that help to fulfill the complete agent and client relationship. The experiences gained at Thread Sports Management provided me with tremendous knowledge, insights, and ethical understanding which totally enriched the value of my internship.

Once I graduated and became certified by the NBPA, my role evolved into an agent for the company. Currently, I scout and recruit new talent, support my current clients, manage our social media, and find marketing and endorsement deals.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There is really no typical day for me; work is built into my lifestyle. Every day, season, and year is different in terms of what to expect. The way I tend to look at my work is dividing my responsibilities into two parts; supporting my current players and building for the future.

There is no 8 am to 5 pm for this job. It requires you to be available 24/7,365 days of the year.My priorityis to be available and serve clients to the best of my ability,at virtually anytime. Therefore, whenever they need me, I am there. In terms of responsibilities, every client,like every agent,is different and you need toassesseach situation.My everydayresponsibilitiesinclude:

  1. Promoting my client
  2. Checking the basketball and endorsement market to stay updated
  3. Staying in constant contact with my players
  4. Watching and evaluating my players’ performances
  5. Calling or visiting them, especially if they are struggling, hurt or something is off
  6. Keeping an eye on future players I would like to help achieve their goals
  7. Building and maintaining connections in the industry
  8. Managing the agency’s marketing, and social media presence

October to December: on top of the daily duties, I look for new endorsement deals during this time of year
My schedule is also somewhat seasonal:

  1. January to April/May: this is my main recruiting period. I work to identify players I believe would be a good match (which may involve traveling to games), get in contact with them, and arrange meetings. I also follow up on potential endorsement deals for my current clients.
  2. May to September: a major focus area here is strategy and negotiations for the upcoming season for the players with expiring deals
  3. September/October: this is when I visit the players placed on new teams
  4. October to December: on top of the daily duties, I look for new endorsement deals during this time of year

When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization.

For many Canadians like myself, sports always played a vital part in our lives. For me, I started hockey at the age of 3, played representative soccer and basketball, and competed at a high level in cheer. My involvement in sports played a fundamental part in my character development by allowing me to express who I am. Thinking back on my childhood, it has always been coaches, teammates or lessons through sports that stand out to me the most. Sports brings people together from all over the world, and it enables everyone to compete and work together towards a common goal. It was always something I had in common with my two older brothers. Times we would spend together allowed us to relate, support and help each other excel. Without sports, I would not be who I am today.

I went to the University of South Carolinaandmajored in Sport and Entertainment Management. Attending a major Division 1 sports program in the Southeastern Conference allowed to me see the rise in value of the sports industry and truly how global the market has become.

During my sophomore year,threeCanadians from my hometownof Torontowereselected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Thisdraftmade me realize Canadian basketball was on the rise. Canada – perceived to be a freezing climate where people only play hockey – was making its mark on the basketball world. My first internship was with a basketball agency in Dallas. Being able to work directly for an agent, see his everyday lifestyle, hustle, goals,andups and downs, I knew at that very moment this is what I wanted to do. When I began doing research for classes on sports agentswho arewomen it was hard to come across many stories. There were womensuch asKelli Masters that broke barriers in football, but none in basketball. Right then and there I knew I wanted to break those barriers, and I was up for the challenge.

During my last two years at South Carolina I was able to witness our men’s basketball team make it to the Final Four for the first time in school history. I gained valuable insight from some of the top professors in the industry. My final internship was with an agent, Bernie Lee, based out of Toronto, who has become a key person in getting me to where I am today. Bernie hashelped me mature tremendously in the industry; providing me with valuable real-world experience which allowed me to view the sport through the lens of an agent. Through my internships, I learned that I love being able to scout talent, build relationships with people and to foster my own and others growth. All the elements that I just noted are inherent when becoming a sports agent and are factors that make me cherish what I am doing.

How has your daily routine changed due to the pandemic?

It has changed quite a bit during the pandemic! In a regular year, I would be spending the months of March, April and May traveling a lot. Obviously for agents, a big part of our job is recruiting and signing new players to prepare for the NBA Combine, draft and the summer league. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic there are a lot of unknowns. Certain players that would typically shine and raise their draft stock in the NCAA tournament did not have the chance to this year.  So we are recruiting based on regular season play only.  Not having an NCAA tournament and workouts with teams does change the decision of a lot of players that may now decide to return to college another year. I have had to rely heavily on FaceTime, Zoom meetings, phone calls and text!

The pandemic has also impacted current players that were on contract to go overseas during the summer with the leagues being cancelled or pushed back. So, while I continue to negotiate deals for them, I also need to keep apprised of the international league schedules and their country’s travel restrictions.

However, in a positive way, I have been able to spend more time on endorsements, marketing, camps, trademarks and other ideas for my current players.  I have also been able to take a step back and truly appreciate a lot of things in life. In an industry where you are always on the go and traveling, having time to spend with family and friends is amazing. I have also taken a great appreciation for sports and having the freedom to go to games. We do not realize how much we love something until it is taken away.  I also have a greater appreciation working for the NBA. Knowing that the commissioner, Adam Silver, with his predecessor David Stern, have led the way in sports innovation, strategies, and equitable practices shows me that the league cares about the bigger picture and will do what is best to get back to normal.

I think we can all agree that it is important to remember that every person and every industry has been impacted by the pandemic, and in a time like this we need to worry about our safety, well-being and society as a whole.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your career so far?

Challenges will be thrown at anyone and it really comes down to how you handle them. The biggest challenge I believe I have faced in my career so far is that a majority of entry-level jobs are unpaid internships. Being Canadian, it has also been a struggle finding US work sponsorship.  But I have realized with the expansion of sports to a global level, that there are many shared platforms which equalize opportunities. So, as a Canadian, I do not feel limited at all!

Also, before the pandemic, I was adjusting to traveling a lot and always being on the go!  With traveling, there are a lot of sacrifices made like missing holidays or family events. But it is just one of the many sacrifices that are required to be successful in this field.

You’ve had opportunities to meet some pretty big names in the basketball world. Who was your favourite or the most memorable? Why?

That would have to be commissioner Adam Silver! Comissioner Silver has been instrumental in the development of the WNBA, NBA G League and the Basketball Africa League. He has made a significant impact not only on the league, but society as a whole. Needless to say, 2020 has been a difficult year between the death of David Stern, the unforseen passing of Kobe Bryant, and the pandemic. Commissioner Silver made the difficult decision to postpone the remainder of the NBA season and was the first league to do so. This is an example of a strong and thoughtful leader that more professional sports organizations need. He has led and raised the bar for many leaders and shown us that in a time like this it is so important to come together as a community.

What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you first decided to pursue a career in basketball?

Starting out in this field I heard over and over again that this is a competitive field, you need to make sacrifices, take advantage of internships, volunteer, be patient, and that success does not happen overnight. I do agree with all of these statements, but I wish that when I first decided to pursue a career in basketball that someone told me to enjoy the process! When we rush the process, we do not stop to enjoy how we got to where we are today. The magic is in the process – do not rush it. Through this process you will learn, grow and gain valuable insight that will be carried with you the rest of your career. It’s important to remember everyone’s journey to success is different, and it’s a part of our story that makes us who we are.

What is your favourite part about being an NBA agent?

My absolute favourite part about being an NBA Agent is growth for player and for my myself and witnessing their dreams come true. There is no better feelingthan being able to work with players and their families on reaching their goals and helping them during and after their careers. Helping them identify and achieve their goals, and knowing they are in a better position today than they were yesterday is the most rewarding part to me. When they sign that contract, they entrust that power in me. Any decision I make can impact their lives, and that trust is what drives me.

Stacey Leawood Stacey's Final Thoughts

I feel so fortunate to have been introduced to Certified NBA Agent Kirsten Simmons with Thread Sports Management. In many ways, she’s exactly what I aspire to be! Kirsten is passionate and determined, challenge-driven, and a trailblazer for people looking to pursue a career as a sports agent. I was so excited to get to learn more about Kirsten’s journey and she did not disappoint. I have full confidence that her passion not only for the game but also for helping people is going to help her achieve whatever she puts her mind to. I can’t wait to watch her make more dreams come true and for her to inspire all of our readers as she has for me.

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