By Ethan Guevin
During a TED talk in which he encouraged everyone to pursue the best in themselves, Coach John Wooden said: “Your reputation is what you are perceived to be. Your character is what you really are. And I think that character is more important than what you are perceived to be. You’d hope they would both be good, but they won’t necessarily be the same.”
With this perspective in mind, this article suggests ways you can attempt to change your reputation if you have been labeled negatively (troublemaker, lazy, “I Guy”, etc.). Does your reputation really matter? Yes. It matters because recruiters and coaches are going to take the time to find out all they can when considering players, including what coaches and teammates think about you.
The following recommendations are meant to help you better understand your reputation and take steps to change it for the better.
Where to start: When your reputation has been dealt a blow or you can’t shake a negative tag, the first thing to do is look objectively at why you have been given the bad label. Taking a hard look at yourself can be difficult to do, but it is a necessary step to determine how you got the negative reputation before you can begin to restore a more positive image. Is there any merit to the label? Why are you being categorized that way? Is there a gap between your character and reputation, or do you have some things you need to work on? You’ve got to be honest with yourself, this is your future.
Ok, there is some truth behind the reputation, what do I do? If you find that there is merit to the criticism, there is nothing wrong with admitting to mistakes you’ve made. People are very forgiving. Admitting mistakes, apologizing, and working towards not making the same errors in the future are important steps in restoring your good name.
While talking about change is important, you need to really follow through on your promises or you risk validating the claims against you. There is no better way to shake a negative reputation than to continually prove it wrong.
The sources for my bad reputation are baseless, what now? If your self-reflection assures you that your negative reputation is undeserved, you are in a difficult position. Trying too hard to leave behind the label can make you seem fake. The best thing to do is continue to do things right and work harder than ever. Eventually you will shed the tag and people will see that the claims are without merit. Speaking one-on-one with your coach can often be very helpful in clearing the air from the top. As we said above, there is no better way to shake a negative reputation than to continually prove it wrong.
If you are concerned that a college coach or recruiter isn’t talking to you, or stops talking to you because of a bad reputation, you need to be respectful about it and ask for a chance to explain yourself. Don’t whine or complain, just be honest and explain how you are turning things around.
While these steps may seem simple, the hardest and most important part is being honest with yourself. You cannot completely control your reputation, but you can control your actions and your character. Start now. You can never go wrong putting the team first, working hard, and being a good teammate.