Korean female Jerry Maguire says: “Play game from your hearts”
Korean female Jerry Maguire says: “Play game from your hearts”
  • Moon Bo-ra
  • 승인 2012.09.18 09:34
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The first and only Korean female sports agent, Kim Yang-hee reveals the behind story of surviving in a sport industry. Photo by Kahng Sun-woo.
The Incheon Football Stadium was filled with shouts of victory when Incheon United beat Football Club Seoul on July 15. It was almost a miracle for Incheon United―ranked 12 out of 16 teams in the 2012 K-league, the Korean professional football league to beat Football Club Seoul―one of the top football clubs in the K-league. After the sweet victory, the winning players ran weeping to a woman sitting behind the coaching staff, the first and the only female sports agent in Korea, Kim Yang-hee.
Kim is the agent behind Orange and Dream (O&D) Management. She manages the performance and transfers of the agency’s players. Kim was a promising professional basketball player who played for Korea Exchange Bank until she injured her back in the third year of her career. As she could no longer play basketball, she sought a new career path and started her own business. She started a contents company, which succeeded. However, she still hoped to work with and help the people she knew the best―athletes.
“Although I wanted to help athletes, I could not vividly visualize what I wanted. Then, one of my employees recommended the movie ‘Jerry Maguire’,” Kim said. “Then, I thought ‘this is it.’”
“Jerry Maguire,” released in 1996, tells the story of a sports agent who is fired for expressing a moral epiphany but puts his philosophy to the test by starting his own business with only one athlete. Kim was inspired by the main character, who changes from being a successful, well-paid sports agent to one works for the players  than for the money. She decided to start a sports management business in a similar vein, investing in players rather than trying to profit from them.
“As I knew sportsmen’s weakness and agony from my own experience, I believed I could be their mentor,” Kim said.
In 1998, Kim established O&D Management. While most sports agents in Korea at that time were limited to player transferring, O&D started a total care service, treating each player’s career from amateur through professional leagues.
Because it treated business in such a different way, O&D initially had some rough times. It was made harder by the industry being so male-dominated, and Kim was treated harshly because she was neither a soccer player nor a man.
“I tried to suggest my players, but the managers and coaches never even listened, with a ‘What would a woman know?’ attitude,” Kim said.
Kim realized changing people’s prejudices against her being a female and not a soccer player was the key. She became an expert on the sport to be more credible and persuasive by recording and watching every soccer game played and analyzing each team of the K-league.
“I knocked, knocked and knocked on their doors,” Kim said. “This time, I talked to managers and pointed out their teams’ strengths and weaknesses. They doubted at first, but soon listened to me and even asked for more advice,”
As a result, she was accepted as a sports agent, managing several successful players who led the Korean national soccer team into the semi-final game of the 2002 World Cup, including Kim Tae-young, Lee Eul-yong, and goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae.
Although Kim achieved such success, she still had a tough time being the only woman in the sports industry, and male agents sometimes colluded against her.
“While I was the public enemy, building and keeping strong trust with my clients was the only way to slip by,” Kim said. 
She still experiences the bitterness of working as a woman in a male-dominated industry. At the same time, she has other advantages, such as having a woman’s intuition to notice players’ feelings, plus the ability to give sensitive care, and to emotionally empathize with her players.
“My players call me ‘Mother’,” Kim said. “Sometimes I even nag and scold them about small things, like saying, ‘You need a haircut.’”
 Having acted as a mother to her players for 14 years, Kim feels more responsible. She usually manages young players for a long time, so she tries to raise them to be not only successful soccer players but also great individuals.
To those who are afraid of challenge, Kim’s advice is to not fear failure. 
“One may fail sometimes,” Kim said. “However, if he or she is full of passion, the failure isn’t a failure anymore―it is a success itself.”

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