When I was in my freshman year of high school, I was bullied.
A group of people whom I considered friends decided one day, out of the blue, to do what they could to make my life miserable. Rumors were spread about me. I was called an alcoholic, even though I’d never touched alcohol. I was called “clown lips” because I have full lips, berated on how weird it was that I didn’t believe in Christ (I was one of the few Jews in a predominately Irish Catholic town), and I was generally made to feel less than. A band geek, I’d retreat to the practice rooms of the band wing and taught myself how to play my favorite songs on piano.
My sister, three years older than me, was and still is my savior. Now, she is my best friend and my confidante. But back then, in 2005, we had the typical teenage sister relationship: We fought all the time. However, when the bullies came out of the woodwork my freshman year, Ally was there with her friends, surrounding me in the hallways, calling the bullies names and inviting me to eat lunch with her friends at their cool senior table when no one else would. Ally and her friends were kind when they didn’t have to be.
What does this have to do with working in sports? Everything.
If you work in sports, you’ve heard what I’m about to say a thousand times. Working in sports is all about who you know. Yeah, you have to know your stuff and you need to have a little bit of “right place, right time” magic. But your reputation, and your connections, are key.
I think I have a handle on my reputation in the industry. I’m known as the person that smiles a lot, will go above and beyond, and cares deeply for her coaches and her teams. I’m not the best writer, the top graphic artist, the prime statistician. But I’m that person you want to bring on road trips so you don’t have to talk to that person you hate because I’ll talk to them for you. I’ll treat them with kindness and probably get more information anyway. Kindness, and a smile, go a long way.
Bottom line: Always be kind. Are your words and actions lining up with the picture you want to paint of yourself? Decide how you want to be remembered and work backwards to live that truth every day. Be cognizant of how every single thing you do affects your reputation. You never know what battle someone is fighting, and you never know how you will have an impact.