I am always reminded of how quickly people can go from being courteous to cantankerous, especially in the sports world. Not just as a professional working in the sports communications world I might add, but as a dad coaching in Little League baseball.
Whether media coaching professional athletes or volunteer coaching young children in the sport of their choice, sooner or later, someone is going to do something that is going to offend someone (or many). It is inevitable. Usually it involves the loss of one’s temper followed by negative words and actions.
And tempers and tantrums alike flared the last few weeks.
Tantrum: Florida Marlins’ shortstop, Hanley Ramirez
Florida Marlins’ shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, decided during a game he was going to jog (not run people, jog!) after he booted a misplayed baseball into the outfield. He then proceeded to mouth off to and about his manager, Fredi Gonazalez, and initially refused to apologize for his actions.
Hanley got benched. Millions in salary and all, Mr. Ramirez found himself riding the pine and would continue doing so until he made amends with his manager.
Temper: Jason Williams of the Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic’s Jason Williams (aka White Chocolate) dropped a series of “F” bombs in front of a slew of reporters trying to interview teammate Matt Barnes. Wow.
Nothing from Williams yet, but this definitely doesn’t help his image.
Tantrum and Tirade: Unnamed youth softball coach
The hours we spend outside of work coaching our kids are truly rewarding. However, some coaches are clearly living vicariously through their kids and it shows. Watching parents stand by in shock as opposing coaches battled it out over several semi-questionable calls made by parent-volunteer umpires is ridiculous. All to the bewilderment of two dozen plus seven and eight year-olds trying to understand why the very adults that teach them the importance of good sportsmanship exhibit the exact opposite behavior before their impressionable eyes. This is never a good look.
Damage to the images of the coaches and confused children along with vocalized frustration, anger, and resentment from the parents who entrust them with their kids.
Although clearly different in scale, all of these instances require the same first step – apologizing to those who have been offended, hurt or just plain put off, by your actions. And it begins with “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” for my behavior.
Clearly, the road to “Reputation Rehab” through “Reputation Repair” involves a sound strategic communications approach, solid planning, and well thought out execution. But it can’t begin – and it won’t go anywhere – until the first step is taken.
So just how powerful is an apology?
The real question asked here should be, “Can you afford not to apologize?” In today’s social media environment, you no longer have the option to not apologize and expect no consequences. It is no secret that athletes are building their profiles through increased online presence, allowing fans to connect with them via numerous social networking platforms, and identifying ways to strategically (well, in some – clearly not all – cases) enhance their personal brand presence in a media environment that redefines “next level marketing” on a daily basis.
You can’t hide behind the “image” or perception you’ve created (or had created for you) any longer and not engage your fan base. There are too many ways your authenticity or fraudulent behavior will be discovered.
Here are 5 reasons why simply saying, “I’m sorry” gets you on the road to repair faster and more effectively:
1. It exemplifies growth and maturity. The road to reconciliation and forgiveness begins with the sincere apology. You are a better person for it, thus a better role model, teammate, coach, pillar of the community, parent, co-worker, etc.
2. It shows you’re human. As an athlete, you have been blessed with talent that far exceeds the average human being, especially the majority of ‘weekend warriors’ out there. You are often looked at as flawless and superhuman, but you are a mere mortal like everyone else. When you screw up, saying you’re sorry goes a long way and makes you “real” in the eyes of others.
3. It allows you to show contrition. Don’t be sorry for getting caught. Be sorry for what you did and talk about what you’re going to do to make it right. We all see through a lack of sincerity and your credibility will suffer.
4. It shows you care and have respect for others. This clears the path for relationship and/or reputation redemption and it makes the other party feel like they actually matter. Not everyone cares why you did what you did; they just want you to acknowledge how your behavior impacted them.
5. It helps prevent long-term reputation damage. If you are in the select group that chooses to view the issuing of an apology as a sign of weakness, you are a fool. Don’t believe me? Then let’s look at the stark contrast between Major League Baseball players, Andy Petitte and Jason Giambi. Both admitted they used performance enhancement drugs, owned it, apologized to their fans, families, media, and friends. Then, they went back to playing baseball.
Compare that to the vehement denials of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. End result? Petitte and Giambi’s reputations recovered. Bonds and Clemens? You know how that’s working out for them – it’s not.
Two simple words, but when used sincerely, they are two words that can change the outcome of a situation gone awry for the better.