REGGIE HAYES: Former South Side High School and Indiana Tech athlete Chauntiel Smith charges into male-dominated sports agent career
Fearless was the first word that came to mind when I met Chauntiel Smith.
It’s a sports trait, ingrained over the years as she excelled at South Side High School and then became an NAIA championship track-and-field athlete at Indiana Tech. The best athletes have it, this willingness to forge ahead, undeterred by the odds or outsiders’ doubts.
Smith needs that fearlessness even more now.
Two years ago, at 23, she founded Capture Sports Agency, with the goal of building a competitive agency to represent professional athletes.
This is a tough field, and even tougher for a female on male-dominated turf.
Understatement: It’s not for the timid.
“As soon as you say, ‘I’m Chauntiel Smith’ and they see you, a female, some of the conversations stagnate,” Smith said. “I’m harder than they think. I’m built for this.”
Smith began thinking about a career as an agent as early as high school after she realized her childhood goal of being a WNBA player wasn’t in the cards. She landed an internship during her senior year at Indiana Tech with the Dallas-based Mack Sports Group.
That experience reinforced her desire to pursue the career. The twist came in her decision not to pursue joining an existing agency.
“My senior year, this voice in my head said, ‘You should start your own and bring it to Fort Wayne,’ ” Smith said. “At first, it was, nah, but I had a conversation with my mom (Yvette) and she said, ‘That’s not a bad idea.’ ”
She met with then-Indiana Tech law professor andre douglas pond cummings and he helped steer her in the right direction. He also continues to serve as a contract consultant for Capture Sports Agency.
Smith also reached out to everyone she could in the field, especially through social media and specifically LinkedIn. She touched base with noted agent Leigh Steinberg and they’ve had regular correspondence, she said. Steinberg was the inspiration for the movie, “Jerry Maguire,” which, incidentally, Smith watched a few times in her youth.
Smith laments she never had the chance to connect with Fort Wayne’s most famous and respected sports agent Eugene Parker, who died in 2016. But she has touched base with Jovan Barnes, son of Roosevelt Barnes, a longtime Parker associate and close friend. Talking with Jovan, who is also a sports agent, has been very helpful, she said.
Capture Sports Agency, 2513 S. Calhoun St., represents five athletes (two in track and field and three in basketball) and the challenge is to land a high-profile client to grow the agency’s brand.
Smith recently became a certified agent for the WNBA and FIBA, as well as Korean basketball. She has plans to become certified for the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer, and eventually to obtain a law degree. Smith, who was a standout 400-meter dash and relay runner on an Indiana Tech NAIA title team, earned a degree in business administration with a concentration on sports management. She runs the day-to-day operation of her business by herself with several interns.
“The most challenging part is finding that one (high-profile) athlete,” Smith said. “A lot of athletes who are (college) juniors or seniors have already been talking to agents. People don’t really know who we are just yet, so we’re trying to build our brand and give more awareness to who we are and what we do.”
A lifelong Fort Wayne resident, Smith also works an additional job to pay the bills while spending almost all of her free time with Capture Sports. The company has an upcoming free basketball camp – You Can’t Stop Me Skills Camp with former WNBA star Tamika Catchings – on July 15 at McMillen Park.
Smith connected with Catchings while serving as a volunteer with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) when Catchings was in town to speak at the “Night of Hope” event.
“Tamika said she wants to partner with us every year and that was big,” Smith said. “We already have 85 registered for the camp. It’s been amazing.”
While there aren’t many female agents, Smith has been able to connect with Alexandra Shaw, a licensed FIBA and WNBA agent and former pro basketball player who lives in Fort Wayne. Shaw’s husband, Ty, is a member of the Purdue Fort Wayne women’s basketball staff.
Smith could bemoan the difficult road of being a female sports agent, but she prefers to believe passion and purpose will continue to drive her as she makes her business a success.
“It’s my love for sports,” Smith said. “I just love helping people. I volunteered for (Youth for Christ’s) City Life and they have this motto, ‘Live here, lead here,’ and I feel I’m called to lead here in Fort Wayne.
“I want to get my company built here. I want to bring more jobs and internships here to Fort Wayne.”
Smith’s path to make all that happen won’t be easy. Fortunately, she’s fearless.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.