They say it takes years to build a reputation and seconds to ruin it.
While no one incident put a black mark beside the Westshore Rebels’ name, their standing in the community had taken a beating in recent years.
Players exhibiting bad off-field behaviour or a sense of entitlement, combined with an inability by those in charge to rein in such egos and set the tone for the team, left the 2014 Rebels board with a lot of work to do.
This year the organization made it a priority to earn the support of the community.
While a winning record might have made it easier for some fans to support the team, in retrospect it didn’t matter that the Rebels went 2-8 and missed the playoffs for a second straight season. This was a turnaround year in more ways than one.
Having started the team-building process late, the Rebels executive chose to stock the roster mostly with local players, character guys. While that approach gave way to the need to bring in some out-of-towners to keep the team competitive, the idea was to field a team fans could associate with: essentially they’d be watching young men they knew personally.
Club president Elise Pastro helped set the tone for involvement in the community when she and a group of players dressed in Rebels reds attended our Black Press Best of the City honours breakfast. Throughout the season, players connected with younger counterparts on minor football teams and volunteered at various events as a way to give back to the community that has supported the Rebels since they moved to the West Shore in 2009.
A change in attitude was established early on by head coach Andrew Axhorn, who may not have been the team’s first choice for the job – and may not be back next year – but brought enthusiasm, discipline and class to a challenging situation.
It’s common in sports for teams to be judged by their record alone. Building quality individuals, as the Westshore Rebels are helping to do, is a much harder action to measure, but can have a far longer-term result.