Today’s advice for young agents is actually a bit tweaked from how I budgeted things this week. Originally, I was going to caution young attorneys to have a budget, but I broadened things after I spoke to the subject of today’s newsletter for new agents, Buffalo, N.Y.-based Shane Costa.

Shane had an extraordinarily successful first year in the business. First off, though he’s a totally independent and has no affiliations with a big firm, he had a player drafted this year (49ers OT Ian Silberman, 6/190), which is a phenomenal achievement. What’s equally impressive, however, is that he has four active NFL clients in his first year in the business. There are only four first-year agents with that many clients in the league, and all of them are with established firms.

Anyway, during our conversation today (get the whole interview and our entire series here), he made a statement that goes perfectly with today’s topic, and I think it’s one reason he had such success this year.

“There’s lots of uncertainty and ups and downs but you have to build a plan for the player and execute the plan,” Shane said, “and the biggest thing is, if you have a plan and you stick to it and you work hard, no matter the uncertainty, it’s going to work out, and you’ll do the best for your client, no matter the situation.”

This is essentially what another agent, Huntington, W.Va.-based David Rich of Rich Sports Management, said in a blog post I did last fall. “You can’t tell a player he won’t be drafted,” he wrote then. “Ever. Even if you know he won’t be. You have to say that if he follows the plan and works his tail off, there’s no limit to what he can do.”

Of course, you can’t tell them to follow the plan unless you have a plan. So, do a lot of thinking about exactly how much money you can afford to spend on a player’s training. What kind of housing you are willing to provide. Will you rent him a car? Will you provide interview training? What if he kills his pro day? What if he’s terrible at his pro day? What if he gets a lowball UDFA offer after the draft, but it’s from the perfect team for him? What do you say to his parents if he’s not getting a lot of Internet love two weeks before the draft? What if NFL teams aren’t calling during that same time frame? Is the CFL/AFL an option if he goes undrafted and unsigned? I could come up with a hundred more questions. And as you climb the ladder, the questions don’t go away. They just change, and perhaps get a little harder.

If you don’t have a plan, you are far more likely to panic. Negative things impact you more when you see others experiencing positives. You have to know where the first-down marker is and how you are going to get there. You can’t worry about the agent who got there with a 10-yard bullet pass, so to speak, if you’re a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust kind of guy.

The business is one that requires  a lot of confidence, a lot of emotion and a lot of fire. But ultimately, it’s like all others in that you have to use your head and know where you’re going, and how to get there. Don’t make the mistake of ‘winging it.’