Leaders with Influence

Leaders with influence

“Behind every fearless player is a fearless coach who refused to let them be anything but the best they can be.”

As a coach, we are leaders with influence. We are guides, mentors, inspiration leaders, motivators, energizers, supporters, trusting figures, teachers, and cheerleaders. We are role models that they look up to and learn from, and we are factors in their lives whether it is for one season or for multiple, we have a place in their life, and it should not be taken lightly or wasted.

I truly believe that our athletes are a gift. We are given the opportunity to teach and instruct these young athletes who have incredible talent, personalities, attitudes, work ethic, and skill sets that will not only help them become a great softball player, but a great human being. They will not just reach their highest potential on the field, but in life. It is up to us to help them see themselves with a positive mindset, and through a clear lens that helps them and guides them into seeing who they are and who they are capable of being.

It is not easy being a coach. Because we are so much more than that as I have stated above. No athlete is the same, and it is up to us to learn, understand, and create our own ways of coaching and teaching for each of them. No matter what type of athletes you have, the variety of athleticism, demeanor, and work ethic will have to be structured in creating a strong, fun, knowledgeable atmosphere where they can learn and grow. Although we may become frustrated, angry, upset, and/or disappointed, we have to remember that our reaction, our attitude, and our words affect our athletes’ attitude, perspective, energy, and emotions. We contribute to their feelings and emotions, we contribute to their perspectives and attitudes, and we contribute to their reactions and performance.

We are not just coaches who tell them what they need to do. We are leaders who are here to influence each of them in a positive, motivating, and knowledgeable atmosphere that helps them through their struggles-not coaches who put them down and expect them to use that negative energy to make them stronger. Teaching them and guiding them will be more beneficial than yelling at them. Yes, we will raise our voices because of the expectations we have for them, but we will also need to make sure we are teaching them along the way.

Our athletes have so much potential in life itself, and just being a small part of their journey is special, and I, as well as many coaches are incredibly thankful to help, support, and guide these young athletes in a positive direction that will not only influence their lives on the field, but wherever their lives may take them in the future.


-Give when they don’t have to

-Care for others

-Grow continuously

-Live authentically

-Empower others

-Manage hardship

-Serve with humility

“A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”

Written by Nikoli Sharp


Building A Team Through Leadership

Building A Team Through Leadership

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

Building a  team is not easy or simple and it is not done in “this way” or “that way”; there is no right or wrong, but there are a lot of factors, work, opportunity, knowledge, experience, and heart that goes into it every single day.


“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, and has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you can be.”

If you look up coach in the dictionary, you will come across the definition that reads:

  1. An athletic instructor or trainer; educator
  2. An experienced and trusted advisor; one who inspires knowledge, self-confidence, skill and confidence in an individual player or team.
  3. One who has a high level of self-discipline, expertise, patience, and leadership

It is so easily said and simply written, but becoming that trusted mentor is full of ups and downs with high amounts of emotions, in a very broad range; it takes time, experience, and knowledge not just from a book or videos, but from being on the field, traveling with our team, and teaching our athletes as individuals and as a whole. Becoming a great coach isn’t easy; it is a part of our life that can and should always be improved!

As a coach, we are constantly learning, constantly changing, and constantly teaching in a variety of ways depending on the personalities we have within our team. We learn that not every athlete learns or understands us in the same way, so we get creative and research different ways of instructing, teaching, and guiding our athletes. We have failures and we have accomplishments. We have good times and we have bad times. We have moments of gratitude, and we have moments of frustration. We panic, we worry, we laugh, we cry, we smile, and we stress. And although we have seasons that are hard and brooding and some that are exciting and uplifting, every single minute we get to help, guide, teach, and coach our athletes are worth it, every single time.

We are not just coaches that are easily and simply defined, but a person, mentor, guide, inspiration, motivator, mother or father figure, trustworthy confidant, and leader that goes above and beyond to help our athletes reach their highest potential not only on the field, but in life itself. Life and sports are connected, and if we can bring just an ounce of knowledge and perspective to each of our kids every day, we are making a difference.

Contagious Energy

Each team has a variety of personalities and demeanors, work ethic and behavior, and traits of being coachable and disciplined, respect is tested or it is followed, and attitudes are good, bad, or both, because let’s face it, it’s inevitable. But as coaches, we see each athlete’s role on the field and among the team. We see their weaknesses, strengths, problems, and behavior when they are given constructive criticism, tips, or instruction. And we see what each of them are capable of! Once we are able to see the potential of our athletes, it motivates and excited us into helping and creating drills, personalized practice plans, and stepping stones in order to reach their goals, reach their dreams, and overall guide them into being the best version of themselves. As each individual athlete starts to see their progress and reach new goals while seeing positive perspectives and staying motivated and inspired, that energy becomes contagious and forms a bond among the team as a whole. A bond that is strong and full of incentive, purpose, intensity, and heart.

Contagious energy can come from many things such as:

  1. Being on time
  2. Work Ethic
  3. Effort
  4. Body Language
  5. Energy
  6. Attitude
  7. Passion
  8. Being Coachable
  9. Doing Extra Work
  10. Being Prepared

Communication/Comfort Zone

Communication is crucial, but it also takes time to have a good relationship with your athletes. As a coach, communication should not be limited to softball talk, but getting to know your athlete as an individual. When we are able to understand each of them, it helps us and them in forming goals and objectives in order for them to succeed as individuals and as a whole team. We are able to encourage and inspire them, but also help them see themselves in a confident and positive way that leads to diligence, determination, and courage. They will learn how to create goals for themselves, how to look to their future with determination, and work and prepare in the present. They will communicate with questions and observations, so they can learn and grow as athletes. They will become aware of what they are capable of if they set their minds to it and put the work in for it. They will become the best version of themselves when they are not only able to communicate with their coach, but with their present and future teammates and coaches, parents, siblings, friends, peers, professors, and colleagues. Communication is just one factor that will help them open doors, grab onto opportunities, and become who they were meant to be in the highest of regards.


As coaches we need to prepare our athletes in the best way we possibly can as they start reaching higher levels within the sport. We cannot go through the motions if we want to be the best coach we can be for them, and to help them become the best version of themselves. We must evaluate and learn their weaknesses and strengths as individual athletes and as a team in order to create drills, practices, and instruction that is tethered for them. If we are doing all that we can to help them succeed by preparing each practice for their success, then we are helping them move past each obstacle they are faced with. We are helping see what they need to work on, and what they are capable of, and overall, how to get there.


Lastly, we must care. If we are coaches, coaches that want to help our athletes reach new levels and to succeed, then we are not just coaches who only strive for winning, but coaches who care about their well-being, their dreams, and who care about their future. Some coaches only care about one thing and place value on it over all else, and that is to win, but I truly believe “winning” is watching your kids grow as athletes, as a team, as young individuals, and watching them reach their dreams.

“Behind every fearless player is a fearless coach who refused to let them be anything but the best they can be.”

Written by Nikoli Sharp


Controlling/Understanding Overwhelming Emotions


Controlling/Understanding Overwhelming Emotions

 “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.”

      As coaches and parents we tend to get worked up if our athletes aren’t succeeding or meeting the expectations we have set in our heads. We care about them so much that seeing them fail hurts our hearts, and sometimes we show that in tough love or in just simply the wrong way, because let’s face it, our emotions get the best of us sometimes! We have to remember that our athletes are already full of a variety of emotions and thoughts that lead them into being disappointed, frustrated, and upset with themselves. Of course there will be situations where tough love is necessary and needed in lighting their fire to get them going when they aren’t trying, caring, or when they are even giving up. But when our athletes do care, are working hard, and trying their best, but falling short, making mistakes, and on the days where nothing seems to go right for them, we have to calm their overwhelmed and anxious emotions, not fuel them. If they are overwhelmed and overthinking, us coaches and parents choosing to fuel that won’t be helping, but making the situation worse. Choose to be the calm in the storm for them; the person they can feel safe to turn to when things go awry, and communicate with us in order to get perspective, learn, and move forward. Help them find control and a healthy outlet for their emotions so they can keep moving forward while becoming stronger each time they are faced with an obstacle.

If we can teach them to not ignore their emotions, but to accept them, use them, and/or move forward from them, while also understanding what they can and cannot control, we will be helping them improve as athletes and as young women. Understanding what they can and cannot control will be a huge help for them now and as they get older. For example:

I can control: my words, my actions, my ideas, my effort, my mistakes, my behavior, my attitude

I cannot control: other’s words, actions, ideas, feelings, mistakes, and behavior

If they understand they can only control themselves, it will be extremely beneficial not only in the game and all aspects of softball, but in life itself. The connection between life and sports is so close that our mentorship can help them in more than just the sport. We are leaders that are here to inspire and teach, and we are so lucky to have the opportunity to help shape them and guide them into being the best version of themselves; strong, courageous, smart, diligent, and determined young women.

Teaching our athletes the importance of not ignoring their emotions will make a great difference in their performance not only on the field, but within their mental game in all situations. We are here to help them reach their highest potential, and without the mental training, they will most certainly fall short. We should keep watch on the potential hints or leads that cause our athletes to feel anxious or overwhelmed, because if we can see it sooner rather than later, we can help them learn how to control their emotional situation before their nerves take over.

Signs of anxiety in sports:

-Stomach ache




-Overly emotional

-Shallow breathing

Knowing our athletes is so incredibly important, and it’s not just about knowing the way they swing, throw, or pitch, but understanding their personality, the type of listener and learner that they are, the way they take constructive criticism, and what their goals and aspirations are. The more we know and understand them, the better we will be able to coach and teach them, and the better they will learn and progress. We are capable of helping our athletes become the best they can possibly be, we just have to be willing to put the work and compassion into it.

 Let’s help our athletes in the best way we can!

Written by Nikoli Sharp


Together, Everyone Achieves More


“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.”

Teamwork isn’t easy and it is not only about the athletes on the team. There’s a vast amount of politics that goes into the sport, difference in personalities, different likes and dislikes among the team, coaches, and parents, and a great amount of bitterness that can take place when things don’t go as each individual expected.

Expectations can be harsh on you and your athletes if they aren’t realistic, respected, and understood. They can also cause scenes, tension, and frustration if not everyone is on the same page, as I’m sure you have witnessed or have gone through yourself!

If you are struggling with teamwork, you have to look into the root of the issue, the truth in the situation, and to communicate respectfully. Ask questions, be realistic, set goals that are challenging yet attainable, and communicate! It is extremely important that coaches, parents, and athletes are on the same page with the same goals. If you aren’t working together, the progressive state of your team, athletic performance, and goals will not be reached!

Start communicating, building strong relationships among the team, and start setting realistic goals and expectations that challenge your team and athletes in helping them reach their highest potential!





“Excellence is never an accident; it is the result of high intension, sincere effort, intelligent direction, skillful execution, and the vision to see the obstacles as opportunities.”

Written by Nikoli Sharp


Finding the Athlete Within

Finding the Athlete Within

Going the extra mile isn’t just about putting more practice time in; it is also about finding the athlete that they are as individuals.

Whether it is focused on their swing, throw, fielding, pitching, catching, or their mental game, each athlete is learning more about her own skills, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. They are each learning who and what inspires them, what they need to work on for themselves, how they need to prepare themselves for a game, how they react and respond in different situations, and how to challenge themselves.

It is very common to have a parent, coach, or instructor become critical, judge mental, and one sided on what is “right” and what is “wrong”…we all have opinions and perspectives, but we have to remember that even though they are our kids and athletes, they are not us. They learn differently, they practice and play differently, they think differently, and they react differently to different types of coaching and teaching styles. As coaches, instructors, and parents we should be giving our athletes the tools and knowledge they need to be diligent, honest, brave, focused, and competitive, but it is up to the athlete on how they use those tools and apply them to their own understanding, lifestyle, practice, goals, and preparation.

It is important to remember that we are MENTORS. We are motivating factors in their lives; we are their guide, and their safe confidant. It is not up to us to tell them who they are, but to help them, encourage them, teach them, and guide them in becoming strong women who find and create who they are and who they want to be as athletes and as individuals.

There is a difference between making your athlete do extra practice verses giving them positive motivation and reasoning as to WHY it is important. Their emotions and feelings during that extra practice are crucial. Attitude is everything! They either want to be there or they don’t. They either take advantage of their time, or they waste it. It is completely up to them, we just have to trust and have faith that we do all we can as mentors, coaches, parents, and instructors to inspire the ambition to grab onto new knowledge, perspectives, goals, and opportunities instead of letting them slip through their fingers.

“No one is you, and that is your super power.”

Written by Nikoli Sharp


Taking Private Lessons

Taking Private Lessons

Taking private softball lessons is crucial in the successful development of your athlete’s mechanics, fundamentals, and knowledge within the positions they are training in. Many parents who have played sports before their children believe they are capable of coaching and instructing their athlete. Parents can absolutely help their athlete succeed in a multitude of ways through extra training, practicing, and motivating factors, BUT athletes who are given instruction from outside instructors as well as the help from their parents or guardians, will benefit even more!

Benefits from instructors:

-Personalized goal setting weekly in making progress

-Knowledge behind each drill

-Breaking down each detail with explanation

-Being taught how to self-correct their faults

-Creating a personalized routine

-Honest feedback

-Connections to college/next level sources

-Different perspectives

-Positive influence

-A post college athlete with experience and knowledge for the next level

-Learning positive focus and how to take instruction respectfully from another person/coach

-Learning mental sports training

-Learning and applying what they have been taught

-Love for the game

All American instructors are motivated, determined, and passionate in helping your athletes succeed. Not only do they use their own experiences from growing up within the sport, but they also create lessons that are tailored for your athlete while making each lesson educational, fun, valuable, and inspiring! We use a vast amount of drills depending on your athletes needs within the position they are training for that range from simple and practical to creative and challenging. For example, a few things we use in our creative drills are listed below.

  • Popcorn seeds
  • Wiffle golf balls
  • Medicine Balls
  • Basketballs
  • Tennis Racket
  • Tennis balls
  • Bouncy balls
  • Frisbee

While some lessons need repetition with certain drills, as instructors, we also like to make some of them into a little competition. They can compete within the drill at hand that will help them improve in a fun way, help them focus on the important instruction and knowledge they are given and taught, so when they make a mistake or do something wrong, they are able to apply their learnings themselves while making progressive steps in order to succeed in the long run. They will be able to not only learn a new drill and reach a new goal, but they will be improving their skills in listening, application, and positively moving past an obstacle; a phase they will come into contact with multiple times throughout their athletic career.

Some commonalities among training also include basic drills, no matter what age we are instructing. Have you heard your athlete say “I’m too advanced for that drill” or parent, possibly even a coach say “They are too advanced for that drill”? As your athlete gets older and more advanced, she learns more drills and strategies to keep her improving and progressing within her offense and defense of play. BUT throughout their athletic journey their progress can become hindered when they are going through a slump. Sometimes the best way to get through the struggle and to get back on track in reaching their goals is going back to the fundamentals and basic drills they started with. No matter what level of play, basic drills have and always will be used! For example, if your athlete is struggling to get their hands through the ball and are too quick to finish their swing, going back to the basic drill of swinging off the tee with one hand or hitting through two tees for extension will be much more beneficial than trying to fix it with the repetition of a drill that does not hone in on the problem directly. We must push aside the pride or the inaccurate thought that going “back” to basic fundamentals will slow your athlete’s progress or make them worse. We have to have trust, confidence, and faith that they can get through the obstacles; it just may take more time, sacrifices, or a change in perspective to do so.

Another advantage that comes with private lessons is mental training. So many athletes have incredible skills, potential, and abilities within the sport, but a common setback is their mental game. Mental training is a tool that we use in order to help our athletes find confidence, understanding of their weaknesses and strengths, how to look for a positive perspective in all situations, controlling their emotions, using their emotions in a healthy and useful way in their sport, visualization, creating goals, and overall getting to the root of any struggles or obstacles your athlete may be facing while helping them prepare for future performances.

Private lessons are so incredibly exciting, progressive, and full of diligence and inspiration. As instructors, we put 110% into your athlete’s goals and dreams in order to help them be the best version of themselves in all aspects of the sport and in being a person. Private lessons have so much more information, passion, knowledge, effort, and useful tools within them that not everyone realizes. Make a change and take a chance in helping your athlete find her potential, create goals, and set sail towards her dreams.

Written by Nikoli Sharp


Coaching with a Purpose

Coaching with a Purpose

All too often we see and hear coaches talk about the importance of winning, and winning only. While winning does have an important part in the sport itself, there’s also many other factors that hold great value. There is a difference between coaching to win verses coaching for success. Winning holds the reputation of success, but success isn’t always found or created through winning. Success is created through challenges, hard work, ambition, inspiration, and determination. While winning can definitely heighten and play a role in exploiting these factors, it is determined and derived from the purpose behind the coaching.

Coaching with a purpose tends to get lost in the societal value of winning. The purpose is to teach your athletes, to coach them through their weaknesses, and to create a positive environment that is filled with goal setting, diligence, and motivation. As a coach, we should be focusing on what needs to be taught, learned, and focused on each practice! Many coaches do the same drills whether it is fielding or hitting, every single practice. And while they are helpful in getting a vast amount of reps in, are they fulfilling a purpose? Are they focusing on specific fundamentals, mechanics, or any weaknesses your athletes are struggling with? If we constantly and consistently go through a step by step routine that is the exact same every practice, how are you helping your athletes prepare in getting to the next level?

Switch up your practice plans! Yes, do basic drills to warm them up, but add in challenging, competitive, fun drills that will help them become stronger in the different aspects your team and/or athletes are struggling with. If your team is struggling with the same problems on the field or in the batter’s box during games and practices, it is time to make a change. It is time to build a practice plan that has a PURPOSE behind it.

Get creative! Research! Ask questions! We all want these young athletes to be happy, confident, and to reach a high level of play where they are able to apply their incredible skills they have been working on for many hours on and off the field. Start looking into coaching with a purpose! A purpose to help your athletes prepare and become stronger, more confident, and motivated individuals.

Written by Nikoli Sharp




“Stand up for what is right, even if you stand alone.”

Bullying is unfortunately and devastatingly common. No matter how many times we say it is wrong, hurtful, disappointing, and disrespectful and so forth, we still have bullies.

In softball we see bullies on the field, in the dugout, between games, at practices, and even among the parents. We hear negative words, witness harsh expressions, and disrespectful behavior. We have coaches, athletes, and parents who stand by idle who turn a blind eye, and we have some that speak up against it. We hear parents or athletes say it is because they are “competitive” and don’t truly mean those harsh and critical comments. But that is not an excuse, and you should not allow it to be. Whether they mean it or not, it is being said. Those words are still being directed toward an athlete, coach, and/or parent and it still causes problems emotionally and environmentally.  There is no excuse for bullying. NONE.

Does your team have a bully or bullies? Do you stand by and let it happen, or do you stand up for yourself and/or whoever is being bullied?

Watching it happen is just as bad as being the bully itself.

Don’t be the person that hurts another because you are jealous.

Don’t be the person that puts others down so you look or feel better about yourself.

Don’t be the person that watches in the background while others get hurt.

As a coach, parent, or athlete it is important to remember to look at yourself  in the mirror and understand who you are and who you want to be. A person that inspires, motivates, supports, respects, and helps the team, or a person who is jealous, negative, demeaning, and distruptive to the team? Whether it is a few words here and there, or a vast amount of words used constantly and consistently, it is detrimental and causes harm, EVERY SINGLE TIME.

You may not think your words are hurting your athlete, teammate, coach, or parent, but they are.  You may believe that you are “just being hard on them” or “toughening them up” but their is a difference between bullying and constructive criticism. Some may be able to hold back and not let you see it hurt them, some won’t be able to hold those emotions in and hide their tears or brokenness, and some will lash out causing an even bigger disruption to the team and the individuals. CHOOSE positivity, support, and respect! It doesn’t matter if you are saying it to them in person or behind their back, IT IS HARMFUL. They don’t just cause tears, anger, frustration, and fear. They cause depression, anxiety, terror, lack of confidence, negative thoughts and actions, and that is just to name a few.

Don’t be the cause, be the CHANGE. Your words can either hurt someone or save someone, which person do you want to be?







Bullying should not be tolerated in any circumstance. Let’s start being a part of the change of saving lives instead of destroying them.

You know the saying, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Well, we also believe that, “if you do have something nice to say, say it.”

Kind words save lives. Unkind words destroy them. Choose wisely.

Written by Nikoli Sharp


Being Honest With Your Athlete by Nikoli Sharp


Do you lie to your athletes?

Do you tell them that they have improved when they haven’t?

Do you tell them they pitched an incredible game, but they didn’t?

Do you tell them their swing looks great when you see flaws?

Are you allowing your fear of hurting their feelings and hurting your relationship get in the way of your honesty?

Do you look through rose colored glasses, believing your child is the best and can do no wrong, has no flaws or problems, and any mistake that is made is not their fault?

Now, I am not a parent, but I have been an athlete, a coach, an instructor, a teacher, a student, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I have been in situations where I have been lied to, I have been in situations where speaking the truth is hard and can be hurtful, and I have seen people I care about be lied to. I have learned and experienced honesty, truth, and lies in a variety of circumstances and situations, and I have learned that no matter how hard the truth was to hear, HONESTY made me better; a better person, student, athlete, daughter, coach, teacher, instructor, and friend who was able to broaden my understanding, perspective, and potential. I learned from my mistakes, experiences, and hardships, and applied the lessons I learned to not only help myself, but to help those around me and whom I care about. I learned that lying only hurts you, that person, and your relationship in the long run if not right away. Speak the truth with your athlete! It will truly help them in not only their softball goals and dreams, but also in reaching their goals and dreams in life. They will be able to see themselves through honest eyes and an honest heart, allowing them to find strength within themselves, take on challenges, make realistic goals, build confidence, determination, character, and overall become the best version of themselves.

With the lack of honesty, comes the lack of trust, and no parent/athlete or coach/athlete relationship will survive or be able to help with reaching their goals, potential, or dreams. There is nothing worse than being the person that holds others back because you are afraid of speaking the truth or because you aren’t looking clearly at the level your athlete is at. Put your rose colored glasses on the ground and step on them!

Honesty tends to get a bad reputation for being blunt, brutal, and lacking empathetic nature, but that’s not always true! You can be honest and compassionate! Honesty doesn’t come from hate or negativity; it comes from empathy, love, and care. Do not keep hurting your athlete with lies because you are afraid of hurting their feelings, because you are being blinded from the truth, or in denial. No one is perfect! We are all “imperfectly perfect”! We are individuals who have weaknesses and strengths that are unique to each of us, and it is important that your athlete knows and understands that! We will all make mistakes, fail, and lie. We will all look through rose colored glasses at some point in our lives. BUT, we will all learn, succeed, be honest, and see the truth.

So start your honest relationship with your athlete today! Your honesty will help them find success not only in the sport, but as a person. Create resilience, diligence, value, morals, and positivity! Help your athlete see themselves through honest eyes so that they can keep learning, applying, and stepping towards their goals in a positive direction. Keeping them from the truth isn’t keeping them safe, it is hurting them. Be their honest confidant that they can TRUST. You will be surprised that it will not hurt your relationship in the long run, it will make it stronger.

“A single lie discovered is enough to create doubt in every truth expressed.”

Written by Nikoli Sharp


Listening, Learning, Understanding, and Reacting to Different Perspectives

Listening, Learning, Understanding, and Reacting to Different Perspectives

Getting constructive criticism, feedback, or having to listen to something you don’t want to hear can cause negative reactions, emotions, and future problems among coaches, players, and even parents.

Do you get defensive when someone else has a different opinion than you? Some of us can be so quick to feel attacked and judged, leaving us with a sour taste in our mouth. But why do we feel like we only have two choices? We either hold our tongue or nod our heads while allowing it to bother us, cause us to lose focus, and control our emotions, or we lash back with a critical comment on their opinion leading into an unnecessary argument or punishment. Instead, why don’t we just accept their opinion, and then ask a question that involves learning about their perspective? Maybe instead of feeling like we all absolutely have to be right, we can learn and grow. For some ridiculous reason we tend to feel threatened when someone doesn’t see what we see, believe what we believe, or hear what we hear. Who knew opinions could cause such a stir!

Opinions are the beauty of learning and growing whether it is in the classroom, on the field, or in life’s circumstances. Instead of getting defensive and only seeing in black and white, we should embrace the grey area. Listen to what you don’t know. Listen to what you don’t understand. Don’t backlash because it’s different and you feel embarrassed, or demoted. You may surprise yourself when you open your eyes to something new and actually learn from it. You may learn something you never even considered, and finally be able to fix one of your weaknesses or reach one of your goals!

We all place walls up, guarding ourselves from feeling inadequate, misunderstood, or under qualified. Break the walls down! We shouldn’t hold ourselves back. We should embrace the difference in opinions, perspectives, and beliefs that others share. I’m definitely guilty of feeling defensive when someone else didn’t agree with my opinion while I was growing up. And I definitely held my tongue when I wasn’t sure about another point of view. Instead of listening, I completely ignored it, and put up a wall. I could have learned something new, broadened my viewpoint, and created a completely new understanding. I could have developed my growth in that specific topic, whether it was a trigger for understanding my perspective with new insight I was able to exemplify, or maybe it encouraged a new perspective and understanding of a subject or skill. I could have gained more knowledge and input, but I faltered and just blocked out any opinion that wasn’t my own, or judged it for the differences. I should have just listened and asked questions with curiosity, instead of feeling defensive and attacked. Luckily, when I matured, I realized the importance of multiple perspectives, asking questions when I didn’t understand, and applied my new learnings in helping me reach my highest potential as an athlete, student, and person! I want the same for our athletes! They shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, be frustrated with the difference in opinions, or feel the need to be defensive when they don’t understand. They should be excited to learn and grow as athletes of the game, students in the classroom, and as a person in life itself! If they build walls up, they won’t be allowing themselves to ask questions, reach new underatandings or perspectives, and the ability to apply and react in a manner of optimism, determination, and motivation in becoming a stronger, more knowledgeable, and mature athlete, student, and person!

We all have to remember that constructive criticism isn’t a judgement full of negativity, it is an observation backed by knowledge and care! Our coaches, teammates, parents, or guardians wants to HELP you succeed! Understand that the more accepting we are of others opinions, constructive criticism, and differences, the more you will learn, the more we will succeed, the more we will be able to help yourself and others, and the more likely we will be in reaching our highest potential!

Opinions will always range in any subject and topic. Opinions will change, subside, become strong, weak, and everything else in between. Opinions are what we create based on our knowledge, morals, and understanding. Opinions shouldn’t be seen as black or white, right or wrong. Look into the grey areas. Find more meaning, understanding, and optimism that will encourage a stronger, different, new, and unexpected point of view. Learn, grow, and never settle for the black or white, right or wrong that has become comfortable in your mind. The world is full of opinions. So if you are willing to share yours, listen, and hear what someone else has to share as well, you just might be surprised.

Written by Nikoli Sharp

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