Molly Fletcher, the founder and CEO of The Molly Fletcher Company, delivered a captivating keynote address last month to attendees of the 2015 ITA Coaches Convention. Fletcher, who played college tennis at Michigan State, has been hailed as the “female Jerry Maguire” by CNN as she recruited and represented hundreds of sport’s biggest names as a sports agent.
Below is a conversation with Fletcher and ITA Director of Communications, Dan Johnson, that took place at the Naples Grande Resort during the ITA Convention. To find out more about The Molly Fletcher Company and Molly herself, visit www.MollyFletcher.com.
Question: What was the message you wanted to get across to the coaches at the 2015 ITA Coaches Convention?
Answer: Well one, I want to thank them for what they do for tennis and for kids, and the opportunity for kids to be college athletes. College tennis changed my life forever, and so I’m thankful for them and I appreciate it. Two, I want to talk about what I saw in the best athletes and coaches that I worked with; what did they do differently than everyone else, what they did better, what can we learn from them?
At the same time, as an agent I recruited a lot of athletes, probably signed about 300 over 20 years, and so, these are coaches that wake up every day trying to get kids to play for them, so what are the kinds of things that I saw work in that capacity? The message is a little bit about being your best self, as well as how do (coaches) recruit and get in front of the people that we want to connect with.
Q: If a coach signs up for one of your online courses at MollyFletcher.com, do you feel that they will be able to take those lessons and impart them on their student-athletes?
A: Absolutely. I believe we can make some change in a 40-minute Keynote Address, but change takes time. Getting better takes consistent and intentional behaviors that allow you to make a shift in your life. That was the reason behind my online courses; how do I take a platform from a Keynote, and extend it on after for the people in the room that said ‘you know, I liked what she said and I need more of that.’ Go sign up for the courses and allow them to keep driving your improvement.
Q: You were in the sports agency field for a long time. What prompted you to make the career change and head in the direction you are now?
A: When you pull back and think about why you do what you do, for me, it was really about connecting with people in a really short period of time and allowing them to capitalize on a window of time they have in their lives. Athletes do what they do for five, 10 years tops, right? These guys and gals make in two to five years what we all make in 40 years. What I loved about that space was connecting and capitalizing in a short window of time. What I realized is that speaking and coaching is so much of that. I realized that the why around why I was an agent and why around why I want to present now is the same. It’s connecting with people in a short period of time and helping people in a short window of time take that content and information and capitalize, so that they can get even better.
When you write books (Fletcher has authored three; A Winner’s Guide to Negotiating: How Conversation Deals Get Done; The Business of Being the Best and The 5 Best Tools to Find Your Dream Career) people start asking you to speak and what I began to realize, I enjoyed it a bit more than I did the 24/7 mindset of the representation space.
Q: The decision to go into the sports agency business was groundbreaking at the time you did it. What was the biggest obstacle for you when you entered that field?
A: A lot of people would think it was being a woman. You’re a woman in a male-dominated field and trying to recruit athletes that are all guys, what is that like? But I actually took those moments and shifted them into a positive. For example, I’d be the only female on (golf) range; there were no women on a PGA Tour range, there just weren’t. People would come up to my players and ask them why their wife was standing behind their bag at the Masters.
What I began to realize is there was an opportunity being different that was helpful for me, from the standpoint of guys remembered me, and others players liked, I think, that I could connect with their wives and if they were worried about something, like if their husband had been traded, they could call me and was right there beside the wife as much as I was the athlete. In a way, we shifted the industry to focusing more on the entire family and not just an athlete, and being full-service and relationship centric. Being a woman at times was challenging, but overall I think you can shift it into being an awesome thing.
Q: Were there times from your experiences as a student-athlete at Michigan State that helped you prepare for the careers that you had?
A: Being a student-athlete was a remarkable gift. I’ve never stood on the mound in a Game 7 of the World Series like John Smoltz has, but I did have to be the last girl on the court and if I won, we won the match, so there were experiences like that were I could relate to the athletes. I could relate to what it felt like to have to execute, to have to recover from adversity and evolving. In some regards, it also gave me some credibility, even though I wasn’t a professional tennis player or even close to it, it did allow me to connect with the guys.
Q: There are many examples of former college tennis players that have gone on to accomplish great things in their respective profession. What is it about tennis players that maybe grooms them to be leaders of men and women as they go into the field of business?
A: I think the data is remarkable surrounding tennis; I think the stats are 76 percent of women that played tennis are in the c-suite, so I think there’s something to it. Number one, the overall fact of being a student-athlete, where you learn discipline, sacrifice, recovery, failure and all those things. Just being a student-athlete in itself is powerful. Tennis, for me it’s an individual sport, and certainly when you’re a leader of a large organization, you’ve got to be a team-minded guy or gal, so that’s probably in some regards what college athletics teaches a tennis player.
A young kid comes up through tennis and competes as an individual and the first time they’ve ever been a part of a team was at the college level, so that’s a beautiful combination; they know how to push it and be the only guy or gal and it all lands on them, which is what it is as a business-owner or as a leader. At the end of the day, yes you’re a part of a team, but you’re the guy or gal and have to execute or else the ship doesn’t sail. The opportunity to be a student-athlete is profound, but I think tennis has a nice mix in what it gives people.
Q: Growing up, what was it about tennis that attracted you to the sport?
A: I started playing when I was 13, which is pretty late, especially today. I was playing basketball, swimming and tennis, and my freshman year of high school, I made the varsity tennis team. I thought maybe there was something there and started playing more, and just loved it. I think I loved the competitive part of it, the ability to be in control of how good I could get and I loved just practicing, standing on a baseline and knocking 50 serves in. I loved that and I’ve loved the sport certainly more than any other sport I’ve experienced.