Allison Galer makes running a sports agency look easy.
As the niece of Lon Rosen, the former agent to Magic Johnson and current executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the Los Angeles Dodgers, she got an early start in the business.
Growing up, the Los Angeles native didn't go to Lakers games just to cheer on the home team. Instead, she considered her attendance to be a professional opportunity where she could meet the movers and shakers of the business and learn about their roles. As a result, she grew her Rolodex.
Her tenacity paid off. The 28-year-old is currently licensed by the Women's National Basketball Players Association and the International Basketball Federation as a certified agent. Galer is also a licensed attorney in the state of California. She launched her sports agency, Disrupt the Game, at 22, right before attending law school at UCLA.
Six years later, her client list boasts several notable players, including Lynx guard Alexis Jones, Los Angeles Sparks guard Chelsea Gray, Connecticut Sun forward and ESPN analyst Chiney Ogwumike, Atlanta Dream forward Monique Billings and WNBA legend Lisa Leslie, among others.
Ahead of the WNBA All-Star Game, espnW caught up with Galer to discuss how she how she's navigating a male-dominated business and what it's like running her own sports agency.
When hard work pays off
My clients Elizabeth Williams, a center for the Atlanta Dream, and Chelsea Gray were named All-Stars for the first time in 2017. To receive calls from both of them to share in that celebration was incredible.
Watching former USC player Jacki Gemelos score her first basket in the WNBA was something I will never forget. I started with Jacki while she was coming back from her fifth ACL tear in a span of six years. And just a few years later, she was an established player at the highest levels overseas and made the Sky roster in 2015, an accomplishment she had been working for her entire basketball career.
A few weeks ago, Chiney Ogwumike played incredible against the Sparks, hitting the go-ahead basket to win the game for the Sun. To see Chiney work her job at ESPN, come back from two gruesome injuries and still dominate her sport is extraordinary.
To be by my clients' sides in the lows and highs of their careers makes the journey all the more incredible.
Uncle Lon's impact
My uncle is my mentor and anchor. He also happens to be someone who has accomplished nearly everything in the business of sports, and who I will always look up to professionally. I can always rely on him for support and advice, which is critical to an entrepreneur.
At 17, my uncle advised me to get to know each part of the business before jumping into it. I started interning in high school and continued interning every summer through college.
The importance of internships
In the spring of 2007, during my senior year of high school, I got a call from Michael Cooper. He was the head coach for the Sparks at the time. He asked me to help out with basketball operations. That spring and summer I attended as many practices and games as possible, building relationships with athletes, management and the coaching staff. I was soaking up as much firsthand knowledge as I could.
Throughout my undergraduate career at Brown University, where I played on the basketball team for a year, I interned for the Sparks [in various departments]. I also worked in television production at Fox Sports. These experiences helped me understand how to serve my clientele.
Starting my own agency
I launched my agency six years ago, but I didn't start there. My first job was at Raptor Accelerator, a sports and media investment fund and business development company. I primarily served in an administrative and support role. I was there for about 10 months, then I left to start my sports agency in 2012.
My agency, Disrupt the Game, wasn't named by accident. It was about coming in on the women's side of basketball, changing the narrative, and helping push my clients in different directions. My clients are multifaceted talents who, unfortunately, don't get the credit they deserve. That makes it all the more important to find opportunities that fit them and display their greatness.
Landing some of the WNBA's greatest talent
Regarding recruiting clients, it's about figuring out what is my unique value proposition. How do I separate myself from the other agents? It's also about building relationships with college coaches and parents, being honest and authentic. For better or worse, I'm honest about who I am. I'm not for everyone. I'm very hands-on with my clients. I truly care about them, both on and off the court. I make time to be where they are, supporting them at games -- including visiting clients overseas. I'm at shoots and events, wherever I can be of service and help them. Having played basketball myself, they know I understand the game. I can talk to my clients about their play and workouts. I can help them feel as confident as possible about their abilities on the court.
On pay equity for WNBA players
I'm very optimistic that it will happen sooner than later. It's not that players are demanding more money without any rationalization or explanation. It's more of a reflection of the business to get players paid more of what they deserve.
How the Lakers legacy translates to the Sparks
Magic Johnson helped form the ownership group that took over the Sparks in 2014, and two seasons later they won a championship. That's no coincidence. Magic comes with a winning mentality, which is what the city of L.A.'s sports teams are about. If you're not a winner, it's hard to find your place in Los Angeles.
Hurdles of the business
One of the most challenging parts of my job is my perceived lack of experience. I chose to enter a business that does not have new entrants often. Most of the agents have been around for 15 or 20-plus years. I'm very straightforward about my age when recruiting because at the end of the day I truly believe it's a positive. I am constantly hustling for my clients, being proactive in all areas of their career. Also, no one is paying me a salary. I make what I earn via my work with my clients. If my job was easy, I don't think I would be doing it.