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Lyon grad starts sports agency during pandemic

A Lyon graduate learned that perseverance is key to succeeding during a pandemic.

After graduating with a business major in December 2019, Ignacio Zuniga, of Valparaíso, Chile, began searching for a job. He was assisting the Lyon Men’s Soccer Team as a coach and with social media and graphic design, but he wanted to find a job that related to his degree. 

This search got even harder with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring.

Eventually, Zuniga decided to use the extra time spent at home to develop an idea he’d had several years ago: a sports agency that helps connect Chilean student-athletes with colleges in the United States.

“One day while at home during the pandemic, I started working on my logo,” he said. “It took a few days, but I wound up doing something really cool that looked professional.”



Zuniga continued, “I looked at that logo everyday and was like ‘I need to start this.’ I had so much time, and I decided to make it possible.”

He started working with his mom, who is an accountant in Chile, on contracts and registering his business.

Soon, 5tars Sports was launched. 

Zuniga created Instagram and Facebook pages and immediately had soccer players from Chile contacting him about how to get started.

Within about three weeks, he had six players registered with 5tars Sports.

“It was crazy. I never expected it to be this fast,” Zuniga said.

“I was expecting at least five to six months to get started.”

5tars Sports is based in Chile and helps Chilean soccer players get scholarships to play for U.S. colleges based on their abilities, academics and athletics. 

The sports agency was inspired by Zuniga’s own experiences coming to the United States as a college athlete.

“It was a huge change for me,” he said. “I came from a different country with a different culture.”

“Coming here was like living the dream. For me, it was like living in a movie.”

After going through the process himself and graduating, Zuniga wanted to help other kids back home who don’t have the same opportunities.

“I started my business because I wanted to help people like me.”

He continued, “For a lot of players back home around 19 or 20, if they don’t make it to the pros they don’t have anything.”

Zuniga got the chance because one of his former teammates had come to the United States to play soccer and helped him with the process.

“Back home, there aren’t big companies or agencies like this trying to help people do better in life and keep playing sports.”

Being able to come to the United States and earn a degree is a big deal, he said, because players get to study abroad in another country and learn a new language.

“Coming here opened my mind,” Zuniga said. “I was a captain of the soccer team and was in different societies like Mortar Board that I never thought I was capable of doing until I came here.”

The agency has started small. Zuniga and his friend co-founded the business. His mom handles the payments, contracts and the administration side of the business. 5tars Sports has one coach who goes around to tournaments as a recruiter in Valparaíso and an athletic trainer who works with the players in case they get injured.

Zuniga, who is currently living in Arkansas, handles things stateside. 

Interested players contact Zuniga, who sends them an application. He reviews their academics and athletic skills before taking them on as a client. The players then pay a fee to start working with 5tar Sports, ensuring that they will go through the whole process.

5tar Sports then starts contacting different colleges and universities. If the player gets a scholarship offer they like, then they register with that school. 5tar Sports then uses a sliding scale to determine how much the player will pay for the agency’s services based on how much they received in scholarships.

“For example, if a player gets a full ride he might pay us $1,000,” Zuniga said, “but if he gets a scholarship that pays about 70% of the cost he will pay us $700.”

While the agency is focusing on soccer players right now, he said they have talked about expanding to include tennis and golf in the future.

“For now, my goal for growing is getting more players,” Zuniga said. “In the future, I would like to have some sort of team back home where I can get all my players together so they practice and prepare together before coming here.”

He is grateful to have attended Lyon as a student athlete, crediting the College for giving him the tools to do well in life.

“Lyon is the best place to develop yourself in every single aspect: athletics, education and relationships.”

Zuniga said his business courses with faculty like Associate Professor of Business and Economics Dr. Angela Buchanan gave him the knowledge to start a business from scratch.

He is thankful for the Lyon community and how they helped him.

“I want to thank everyone at Lyon: my coaches, my professors and my host family.”.

Zuniga concluded, “Without them, it would have been even for me being away from home. They were like my family. That’s something Lyon gives to you.”