CHANGING ROOM CHAT: Catherine Sanders, Managing Director at Sportmode Management
Catherine, can you tell us a little bit about you and your background in sport?
I’m the Managing Director of Sportmode Management, a Sports Management Agency with its prime focus on tennis and with links also in golf. I was formerly an International Project Manager within Telecoms. After my extended maternity leave I didn’t want to return to Telecoms or travelling. By chance I fell into helping a friend with sponsorship who was a GB Top Ten athlete at the time. I took a Sports Management Master’s Degree to cement the transfer of my PM skills within the sports industry then worked for a small London based Agency before setting up Sportmode Management.
What makes players come to you – as opposed to the bigger, more established talent agencies?
It depends on what stage in their career they are at. For many, they have heard from another player how I have helped them. For some, they have decided to part-company with their former Agent for whatever reason. Sportmode & its vast network is willing and able to help any tennis pro, GBR or international, from juniors, to current Tour players (Top 1000), to Top 100s, to those planning to retire from the Tour. The biggest encouragement I ever had was from the MD at a top Agency who told me that what I do and how I do it is exactly what she does there! I was always under the illusion that the top Agencies had a database of athletes and a database of companies wanting to sponsor, and matching the two should be easy…
Who are you currently representing – and are there any sports that you’d like to get into?
Sportmode represents a wide range of players, some of them signed exclusively with Sportmode and others not – for the latter, I collaborate either directly with the athlete or with them and their support team (including their Agent if they have one). I choose not to publicise widely the players signed with Sportmode. My daughter is a County golfer and England Golf Ambassador and intent on going pro, so through her my golf network is growing, and networking is paramount. Skills-wise it would not be a huge leap representing a golfer after a tennis pro.
What’s the biggest challenge that you face in your role?
The feast and famine nature of earning revenues. With a large part of my income commission-based, there are some weeks/months that are largely preparatory with of course deferred financial returns. But I am super organised so I simply plan and schedule it all in. Biggest tip – never count those chickens! Plus this challenge is hugely outweighed by the flexibility afforded me – working mostly from home, with hours to suit me and my family.
What’s your focus over the next 12 months?
Signing another Top 100 male (discussions already underway). In 2018 I focused on a goal of signing three Top 100 females. My aim is a small portfolio of Top 100 athletes plus a number more with 100-300 rankings, allowing Sportmode time to focus also on helping yet further players with specific requests, for example finding them an exhibition match or a foreign league team.
With tennis, people automatically think about Wimbledon. What do you do in the ‘so-called’ off-season?
There is always the next event or season or goal to prepare for, and networking is constant.
What’s the best part about your job?
I communicate with players and people all over the world, often in their native tongue (I’m a linguist, translator & interpreter, with a Degree in German & Spanish, and I speak French and Italian too) and I particularly enjoy finally meeting them in person at an event.
If you could represent one tennis player (past or present) who would it be and why?
I am absolutely delighted with the players whom I have hand-picked to represent already, but Becker and Graf are amongst my all-time favourite players. I would like to have been instrumental in their journey from junior stars, to world champions, to post Tour careers – the whole gamut, with all the challenges and achievements they had along the way.
Interview conducted and written by Joe Tyler – Junior Account Manager at Henman Communications.
Sportmode Management: http://sportmode.management/
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