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Serving Her Calling in a Male-Dominated Field

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Author, "High-Impact Life";

Founder and CEO of KMM Sports, a full-service sports management agency;

Represented more pro athletes than any other woman in the industry;

Bleacher Report named her one of the 25 most influential women in sports worldwide;

First woman to represent a top five NFL draft pick in 2010;

Attorney; Adjunct professor, Oklahoma City University and Oklahoma Christian University;

Miss Oklahoma, 1997; Former national and world champion baton twirler

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BECOMING A FEMALE SPORTS AGENT

“As a little girl, my earliest memories always involved football.  In my home state of Oklahoma, football is king.”  Kelli Masters’ love for sports never waned as she grew up. Years later, as a successful civil-litigation attorney, she met Josh Heupel, a young man who’d had a short stint in the NFL, and needed her help to set up a non-profit.

As Kelli walked Josh and his parents though the many documents, applications, policies, and bylaws for his organization, his mom looked at her one day and said, “Where were you in the beginning? If you’d been an agent, we would have signed with you in a heartbeat.” Kelli started to think about her experience as a contract negotiator, her passions – law, helping people, and football - and “everything clicked.” 

She decided she wanted to become a sports agent. Though it is a male-dominated career, and she knew nothing about recruiting players, she filled out the agent application, passed the exam, and became a certified sports agent …with no clients.

Though she endured stares, glares, and whispers (“What is she doing here?”), Kelli believed she was called by God to be an agent, and persevered. The obstacles were daunting. One time, a highly–successful agent condescendingly told her why she would never make it as an agent -- in front of reporters, no less. She told him why he was wrong and that he’d deal with her one day.

It took years, but Kelli studied recruiting, and built a network of coaches, managers, and advisors from whom she learned what she needed to know. Still, the challenges continued. Some potential clients told her to her face that they’d rather work with a less-qualified male agent than a woman. Others, in whom she’d invested tremendous time, money and her heart, later told her by text message, they were “going another direction.”  

In 2006, Kelli almost skipped a Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet, but changed her mind at the last minute. There she made a point of meeting 18-year-old high school football standout Gerald McCoy and his parents. She kept up with the McCoys through Gerald’s college years at Oklahoma University, and was thrilled to get a call from his dad when it was time to interview agents. They chose Kelli, and on NFL Draft Day 2010, sitting in Radio City Music Hall where the atmosphere was electric, Gerald was the third player chosen and became a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. And Kelli became the first woman in history to represent a top-five draft pick! 

THE DEEPER GOALS  

Kelli Masters Management (KMM), has grown greatly since those early, difficult years. They’ve represented 85 athletes in the NFL, MLB, and the Olympics, and Kelli has gone toe-to-toe with some of the best negotiators in the business. Despite her success, she’s never been motivated by money, power, or influence. “Truth be told,” she reveals, “it’s the part of the job nobody ever asks about that gives me the most joy. What I am most passionate about is helping my clients discover their God-given potential and putting them on the path to becoming everything He made them to be – not just in football but in life.”  

Another goal of Kelli’s is to go the extra mile for every client. One way she did that for Gerald McCoy was helping him through an MRI, a requirement for all draft hopefuls. Gerald is claustrophobic, as well as a large man, and panicked to the point of tears every time he got in the closed machine. Kelli called around the city to 
find an available, open-sided MRI machine, then sat in the room with Gerald, stroking his head, singing to him, and telling jokes to take his mind off his tight surroundings. It took four hours to get 20 mins of motionless scanning time. “I can assure you there is not a male agent in this industry who would have rubbed his frightened clients’ forehead and sung to him for four hours …” she quips. “I got into it to shepherd and to mentor - not to wheel and deal.”

Kelli’s greatest goal is sharing her faith in God, which began when she was 23 years old. She’ll never forget feeling like she’d reached the end of her rope. “I was a straight-A student, valedictorian of my class, a world- champion baton twirler, and a beauty contest winner. But despite everything I had achieved, I didn’t feel any real sense of accomplishment. Somehow, it all just rang hollow.” Her perfectionism had taken a heavy toll on her; she was depressed and discouraged.

Kelli was also engaged to a young man, but wasn’t confident about the relationship. In terms of religion, her family had always gone to church, but she says she didn’t really understand what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus. One Sunday at church, the pastor asked people to come forward who wanted to commit their lives to Christ, which she did. That afternoon, she kneeled down in her apartment, tears in her eyes, and poured out her heart to God. “In that moment, God became real to me,” she says. Kelli was finally able to accept His love and let go of trying to be perfect. She shares her beliefs with her clients; some of whom she’s led to faith in Christ. Others, who aren’t believers, still call and ask her to pray for them. 
     
A SENSE OF CALLING 

Before her third year of law school, Kelli had taken a year off to perform her duties as Miss Oklahoma 1997. When she returned, she found that her classmates had snapped up all the paid, law firm internships. The best job she could find was selling makeup at the Estee Lauder counter in the local mall. She wasn’t using her journalism degree, law school education, or even the skills she’d acquired as Miss Oklahoma, which made it seem like a colossal waste of time.

Once she got over the disappointment, she decided to give it her best. Turns out, the job taught her valuable lessons about negotiation, listening, and people skills that she still uses today. “With God, nothing is wasted,” she says. That includes failures. “The way you respond to these “missteps” can mean the difference between fulfilling your calling and abandoning it.”   

“Passions are for your benefit,” Kelli says. “A calling turns those passions outward to benefit others.” Kelli’s seen young men work extremely hard, achieve their dreams, and later seek to benefit others. She’s also seen athletes walk away from such opportunities because the path was harder than they expected.  “God gives us each special gifts and callings, tailor-made for us. Will there be sacrifices involved?  More than likely, yes. But remember, it’s not just about you. You have the potential to impact countless others, some of whom you may never even meet.”  
 

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