COOPER SIGNS WITH PROACTIVE Father steps away from management role
By Phil Stephens
Kenny Cooper was an instant success with the FC Dallas team and fans when he came to the MLS last year. He signed with Proactive Sports Management to go to the 'next level.'
Photo by Phil Stephens
Kenny Cooper, forward for FC Dallas, has signed an agreement with Proactive Sports Management USA, naming the Washington D.C.-based agency as his official sports management representative.
It is a big departure for Cooper, who has always been represented by his father, Ken Cooper, Sr., a former player and NASL All Star for the Dallas Tornado. His dad noticed his talent at the age of four and nourished it along, taking it to a more serious level at age 10. Cooper Sr. negotiated his contract with Manchester United just before he went to SMU after graduating from Jesuit High School in Dallas.
He was involved in a negotiation to extend his three-year contract, with ManU executive assistant coach Jimmy Ryan (considered by many to be the senior assistant) when his son decided to take his pro career to America and specifically to FC Dallas. It was a move his father did not advise him to do, primarily because of monetary reasons.
The eldest Cooper said he could see the time coming when he would step away from acting as his son’s agent. Even though he recently negotiated a four-year contract between his son and adidas, several other things told him that now was the time. He sensed that his relationship to Kenny as his father would lessen his leverage in dealing with others about his son’s contract and future business relationships, particularly in America.
“At this point, Kenny needs to go to the next level,” Cooper Sr. said. “The club is aware of what we are doing.”
“This is a happy and sad day for myself, but it is the correct move for Kenny’s career in the MLS and U.S. National Team objectives for going forward,” Cooper Sr. said.
Lyle Yorks, who heads up Proactive USA, is excited to bring Cooper into the fold. Yorks played for Bruce Arena at University of Virginia and captained two national championship teams while there.
The determining factor to the Cooper family to go with Proactive was Yorks’ diligence and perseverance in the belief of Kenny Cooper’s career. Yorks has had his eye on Cooper for several years. The Proactive European office is in Manchester, England and he knew immediately when Cooper signed with the Red Devils.
“Kenny Cooper is a really good kid, with tremendous potential.” Yorks said. “He has all the attributes you are looking for, good size but tidy on the ball. He’s a team player but someone that always strives to push himself. The sky’s the limit for Kenny. We are really thrilled to have him on board with Proactive. We think he’s going to have a long, exciting career.”
York noted there are many positives about Kenny besides his athletic ability.
“He’s a good person who cares about his team and the community. Of course, he is talented on the field. He has a real presence about him. If you took a poll about who would be a great role model, he would probably win hands down.”
Yorks feels Cooper Jr. has handled his obligation to team and aspirations for playing with his country very well. He has had two caps with the national team since finishing the 2006 season.
Now his focus is at the club level.
“Any player in the world wants the opportunity to combine club and country—he’s handled it well. Bradley likes him and is interested in him. But obviously, his performance at the club level dictates opportunities at the national level.”
Kenny Jr. has scored four goals in this young season is tied for second in MLS scoring at this stage. The 6-3, 210-pound Cooper scored 11 goals in his first MLS season (plus three more in the Hunt Open Cup) and was named MVP of the team.
Kenny Sr. has had a strong relationship with the Hunt family (owner of FC Dallas) for many years, dating back to his playing days in the 1970’s with Hunt’s Dallas Tornado. When he negotiated his son’s return to the U.S., he dealt almost exclusively with Lamar Hunt. After Lamar’s passing last December, he has maintained that relationship. But there have some been differences of opinion.
After he felt his son met certain criteria in his first MLS season to warrant a restructuring of his contract as agreed on before he signed by the league, MLS and FC Dallas. But after accomplishing the goals the MLS and FC Dallas said that he had to do it all over again.
"No problem," his father said. "He will do that. But it became apparent that the MLS and FC Dallas changed the criteria."
He wanted to maintain the close relationship with the Hunts and he could see it was time for him to step out of the negotiating end.
He is still a personal advisor to his son and will be active in his personal training. He will be working with Proactive.
“This is an opportunity for Kenny to have the best of both worlds,” Yorks said. “Kenny Sr. and the whole family will still play a role. At this point it was a family decision, but at some stage, he will want to have a good middleman to represent him.”
Proactive represents many European-based U.S. stars such as Brad Friedel, Brian McBride, Steve Cherundolo, Marcus Hahnemann and others. The MLS list of clients includes Ante Razov, Brian Mullan, Jimmy Conrad, Claudio Reyna, Matt Reis, Alecko Eskandrian and now, Kenny Cooper, as well as many others. Arturo Alveraz, an FC Dallas teammate of Kenny’s is also under contract with Proactive.