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  • Ellakisha S. OKelley, Esq.

The Support Team For Success: The Athlete and Entertainer


The 'game' is changing with women being more involved in sports and entertainment on a respectable and visible level. This applies to whether she is as an athlete or entertainer, or on the business side of the industry. We have had our long history of upward battles in positioning ourselves favorably in society, and in the workforce period. Not surprisingly, sports and entertainment have been equally, if not more, challenging to position ourselves favorably in as well.

Legislation and other major movements have helped the trajectory of achievement for women entering fields and breaking cement ceiling where only men have been expected to dominate in the workplace. In sports and entertainment, it is expected that men are to dominate in certain positions too. There is no legislation for female agents, lawyers, professional athletes, team managers, owners etc...that helps them navigate in this space. However, there has been a major movement in the right direction. Slow, but major.

There still is the issue of women sports needing to improve in its support, pay structure, opportunities, respect and the list goes on, but we are far from where we used to be! We have prominent individuals and teams in various sports smashing down those barriers. We have women continually entering in positions of CEO's, Executive Directors, Presidents... check out some of the most powerful women in sports (https://www.forbes.com/pictures/fiei45hhke/no-2-michele-roberts/#e5fbd0f63ad2). The same is true for representation in the entertainment industry (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/women-entertainment-power-100-reps-846686/item/michelle-bohan-wie-2015-reps-846690).

I strongly believe women can and will continue to forge their way into male dominated space. Diversifying any arena by including women will only improve the outcome of any goals and objectives. A study that was done by Gallup showed that by adding women to a team " [i]t simply makes bottom-line business sense." (http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/166220/business-benefits-gender-diversity.aspx).

James Brown said it best: "This is a man's world / This is a man's world / But it wouldn't be nothing / Nothing without a woman or a girl ."

What does this mean to the athlete or entertainer? Add women to your support team! Aaaah haaa, I finally get to my point. Yes, yes, as an attorney and consultant to athletes and entertainers it would be very remiss of me to not share this point with you.

Not only will this help better position female athletes and entertainers by leveraging the thought process with powerful representation with a seat at the table, but it could improve the overall experience of the athlete and entertainer for male or female. For the reasons I mentioned above about diversifying; but also because I believe women can bring value to the client that a lot of times are overlooked by men.

I look back to when I was a professional athlete and my support team was nothing but men. Not by choice, but by default. I think about some of the qualities I looked for in my support team that was either non-existent or was there only on a top surface level. Additionally, in speaking to many other professional athletes and entertainers, they too agreed they value the same qualities I will mention below, but did not receive any or most of them in the way that they would have liked. But because they were operating under the impression that the man in the suit is just the way to go, they settled. So, tell me how has that worked out for their bottom-line, or mine for that matter.

Qualities looked for in a support team:

1. Relationship

Women value building a relationship. We are always looking for that deeper connection to understand the person. This is an innate characteristic that we bring into all of the contacts with human beings. Work, personal, social...they may all be on a different level, but we definitely look to build a relationship and not just a hit it and quit it.

2. Accessibility

Sometimes to our detriment, we want to make sure that we are available to those we feel need us. We carry this maternalistic (whether you want or have kids, or not) trait of I am here for you. This goes back to the relationship we yearn to build. It doesn't sit well with us feeling like someone needed us and they felt abandoned or left out to dry on our watch.

3. Honesty

We are going to speak the truth! We may preface it with a kind word or gesture, but we have this Jim Carrey~ Liar, Liar syndrome of speaking the truth. We want change, empowerment, elevation, and transformation in all that we do. The only way we were able to make progress in all areas is to speak the truth. This is a trait we carry over with everyone and anything we are involved in. When we are forced to withhold being honest, it gives us a lump in our throat and we are more than likely to eventually sever the ties.

4. Trust

This is a value that we desire to function in. Yes, once it is violated we can operate as a woman in fury, but we walk into situations (business or personal) yearning it and giving it. This is why we come into our position displaying the first three characteristics mentioned above. We value being trusted, as much as we want to trust. We try our best to keep it sacred if it is there.

5. Loyalty

We will stick with you through thick and thin. Sometimes we make excuses to ourselves to do so. But, we believe in having someone's back. We are definitely Bonnie's to many Clyde circumstances. We usually try to find the good in most situations. We have belief and hope in a person or situation when most have given up or moved on. And, if all of the other four qualities discussed above have been established, we will work hard and protect what's there.

Even though the points raised in this comment does not apply to all men or women, the qualifier majority, inarguably, is befitting. Speaking from a former athlete, attorney, consultant, and female point of view -- athletes and entertainers should always consider adding a woman in a position of power to your support team.

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