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Things I’ve Learned: Sports agent Tom Yaps on representing some of freeskiing’s top names

Things I’ve Learned: Sports agent Tom Yaps on representing some of freeskiing’s top names

Since joining Evolution Marketing and Management in 2005, Tom Yaps has been immersed in the ski industry. As an agent, his athlete clients include names like Tom Wallisch, Tanner Hall, Mike Riddle, Maddie Bowman, Maggie Voisin, Nick Martini, Willie Borm, Colby Stevenson and Andy Patridge. As part of our Things I’ve Learned series, we thought we’d pick Yaps’ mind for a bit of insight into the world of ski agents.

Yaps says:

The hardest part about being an agent for some of the best freeskiers in the world is going through injuries with them. It’s an absolutely brutal part of this industry. When Tanner [Hall] went down in Stevens Pass, when [Tom] Wallisch tore his ACL before the Olympics, Nick Martini over and over; I could go on and list basically all of my athletes. These people put in so much hard work and dedication, and seeing them not achieve goals due to injury is just the absolute worst.

The most rewarding thing about being an agent for some of the best freeskiers in the world is the relationships I have with my clients. I know it sounds cliché, but these guys are like brothers (and sisters) to me. And now, seeing Evolution athletes have a true family atmosphere between each other is amazing. At events, I will take three or four different athletes out together for dinner, and they all root for one another and help one another, give advice to the younger guys, or compare notes on surgery. All of that makes me incredibly proud.

Pro skier Tom Wallisch with agent Tom Yaps

Yaps with Tom Wallisch and Wally’s girlfriend, Steph Osborne. Photo by Shay Williams.

My life during the 2014 Winter Olympics was crazy. I was there for 18 days, and we were lucky enough to have three athletes podium—Mike Riddle, Maddie Bowman and Kaitlyn Farrington—so there were constant trips back and forth between the mountain and coastal region for media tours and whatnot. On top of that, Maggie hurt her ankle the day of the Opening Ceremony, so that was a huge issue as well. But, when I look back, I mostly just remember the fun. Skiing in Russia, eating at the Modus restaurant every day with folks from Oakley, GoPro, USSA, other agents, athletes or FREESKIER Mag. It was all just so much fun. It was great giving Matt Margetts his first beer in like three months during women’s halfpipe too. He really needed that!

Doing my job at an event as big as the Olympics was incredibly hectic. We had five athletes there, competing in all different events. All of those athletes also had their families there, so you are helping to coordinate with them, and making sure they had proper venue access and credentials. Plus, we were still finalizing a few last minute deals [while in Sochi], literally signing contracts the day before an event. And on top of that, we were in Russia, where no one was exactly certain how to get around, although it got much easier the longer you were there.

When Kaitlyn Farrington won, it was mayhem, but in the best possible way. [Following her win] I had to get her to the press conference, get her to drug testing, coordinate her media tour with NBC and the US Snowboarding press officer. Then, I worked with my partner Josh Schwartz, who was back in the US setting up her US media tour, to make snap decisions on which late night show to do (each one wants exclusivity). [On top of that] I tried to make sure she got time to celebrate and enjoy the moment (we definitely did that), make sure her parents could come and watch her do Today Show and E! and all the “fun” interviews. All of that happens within about 24 hours. And amazingly, we got to do it all over again with Mike Riddle and Maddie Bowman. Additionally, you still have your other clients back in North America. It’s a whirlwind. But it’s really, really fun.

People don’t realize that agents are not the enemy. There are still some brands and companies that are threatened by an athlete having an agent. Nine times out of ten we will make the brands’ lives easier. We can answer questions faster, help schedule shoots and act as a buffer if things ever get acrimonious.

…I was in the ER with Maggie, I was with Maddie when she decided she had to have surgery. These are not easy decisions. I think sometimes people get immune, and just think, ‘oh, it’s an ACL,’…

Finding endorsement deals for athletes is fun. I get a rush when I am able to find a non-endemic company to come in and partner with one of my clients. That’s the fun part for me: seeing them in that TV commercial or print campaign where you wouldn’t normally see a skier.

Landing a non-endemic endorsement is the goal for all of our athletes. To get a company who doesn’t traditionally spend in the ski space to come onboard is a win all-around, especially if you do it right, and they stay in the sport. Ideally they spend on films and events as well as the athletes. It’s a win for the whole industry.

Something strange that often frustrates me is when people spell athletes’ names wrong. One of my all-time pet peeves. It’s W-a-l-l-i-s-c-h. Also, put your contact info in your email signature, especially if you work in public relations.

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