Sep
19

WHO IS SHE PLAYING FOR?

Who is she playing for?

“You have to know that you are good enough and worth it. Once you master belief in yourself no one can steal that love from you.”

Who is your athlete playing for? Is she playing for herself, or is she playing for you, her parent, coach, or mentor? It is all too often that our athletes talk to us in lessons and in mental training about playing for someone other than themselves. They are playing because their parents want them to or their coach tells them quitting on their team is wrong and disrespectful because they are counted on. They are pressured by their surrounding peers who probably and usually want what is best for them, but happen to make their athlete feel like they don’t have a choice to make for themselves, or they feel like they have to play to benefit everyone else around them. It’s sad when we see and hear that our athletes are not playing for themselves first, and not having fun with the sport. They are terrified of disappointing their parents, coaches, and even their team. They feel like they will be letting others down, losing friendships, and even hurting their relationship with their parents if they make mistakes or don’t play up to their expectations. Our athletes start to lose the love for the game, and start to feel forced into playing the sport they no longer want to be a part of because their parents or coaches have made it about them, and not their athlete.

We can’t be living through our athletes, putting pressure on them, and making them feel like the sport isn’t about them. Of course the sport is a team effort, but in order for your athlete to have fun, love the game, and to perform their best, they have to believe in themselves while playing with the passion they have for the game; they have to know their own worth and know that they are good enough within themselves and not based on what they hear and think their parents and coaches say and believe. It is an amazing thing to have everyone around you believe in you, love that you are their athlete, and be excited about your future in the sport, but it takes more than that. It takes your athlete believing in herself and believing in what she is capable of instead of being told. She has to know and feel it from within, not just hear it from outsiders, because when your athlete is constantly being told it doesn’t feel like support, but pressure.

I’m not saying that pressure isn’t good, that your athletes don’t need to be told they are good enough, or that they don’t need consistent support. THEY DO! But they also need room, perspective, and time to find it within themselves to believe in themselves and to believe in the sport they are playing-not because of the fear of disappointment or what others want, but playing for what they want and what they believe in.

Sports aren’t just physically tiring, they are mentally draining, and we can’t be the ones that add to the pressure of the mental game. We have to be the ones that help them believe in themselves, because without self-worth and the love for the game, they won’t be playing for the right reasons and they won’t be reaching their potential. They will be slowing down their athletic growth and eventually resenting the sport and possibly even their parents and coaches because they will feel like the game they loved and were great at was taken away from them. Don’t be the one that takes it away, be the one that helps them see WHY they play; for the love of the game.

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Sep
12

I Don’t Fit the Mold

I Don’t Fit the Mold

“Don’t follow someone else’s way, find what works for you and stick to it.”

Fitting in is easy for some and hard for others. We have young athletes who want to have the coolest clothes, makeup, shoes, games, and so forth, not necessarily because they like those materialistic things, but because they want to “fit in”. For some reason, as young individuals, being different or simply being yourself becomes an uncomfortable or “bad” thing that our society has reflected onto the minds that are too scared to be themselves because of what others will think, say, or even do to them. Rumors, embarrassing moments, feeling alone, and losing friends is inevitable, but it is also really hard on our young  student-athletes as they are learning their emotions, who they are as an individual, and who they want to be. Everyone tends to fall into the hole of society where you do what the magazine, T.V., and computers tell the world. “Don’t do that, do this.” “Wear this, not that.” “That is wrong, this is right.” But as we get older we start to form our own opinions, judgements, likes, and dislikes. We start to create the person we are based on what we value and find morally acceptable. We start to become ourselves, the one person we wish we had always been, but were too scared to be because of the mean students in school or what we read or heard was what we should be, how we should act, and how we should look. We become an individual in society, instead an invisible follower.

As a role model to my athletes, it is important that I reiterate the advantages of being different! There are so many advantages of being confident in yourself as an individual, accepting what makes you different, using your own strengths, and finding what works for YOU, not what works for “everyone”. Our athletes are each unique in their own way, and if we try to mold all of them into the same exact swing, throw, pitcher, fielder, and competitor, we are doing them a disservice; we are letting them down, because we are not helping them become the best version of themselves, but merely the image of majority. As a coach, we are here to not only enhance their skill levels and to provide them with basic mechanics and fundamentals, but to help them become their own athlete, own competitor, and own person as they grow, learn, and become the best version of themselves.

Each of our athletes learns, acts, and responds differently. They each have different skill sets that are strong and that are weak. We have athletes who get mad at themselves when they make a mistake and gravel in it, and we have athletes who brush it off and reset themselves. While it is our job to help them see different perspectives and ways to find success in their sport, it is also important that we let them learn what works best for each of them on their own. They might need to get angry at themselves to light a fire under them and work harder, or they may need to take a deep breath and refocus to stay mentally strong through the game. It is so incredibly crucial to guide our athletes on a positive path in the sport, but it is also crucial to allow them to fail, to allow them to make mistakes, learn what works for them and what doesn’t, and to give as much knowledge, experience, and perspectives as we can to help them see through a multitude of lenses to look into and see themselves in.

We know what worked for us as athletes, and we share that with our athletes as they are getting older and past the basic fundamentals and mechanics. They have to learn who they are not only as an athlete and competitor, but also who they are as a student and as a person. We want what is best for our athletes, and sometimes everyone loses sight of what is truly important and why we are coaching or playing the sport. It can be so incredibly challenging and mentally draining, but I wouldn’t change a single thing, because if I can help my athletes reach their highest potential not only on the field, but in the classroom and in life, then I am making a difference, and as coach, isn’t that what we are here for, to make a difference?

“When you are born into a world you don’t fit in, it is because you were born to help create a new one.”

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Sep
05

I’m Busy: Don’t Be Busy, Be Productive!

I’m Busy: Don’t Be Busy, Be Productive!

“You did not wake up today to be mediocre.”

Busy. A common word we use as an excuse when we don’t want to do something. A word that is severely misused and misunderstood. If you look up the definition of busy, you will find: “occupied with or concentrating on a particular activity or object of attention” or “full of activity” with synonyms ranging from active, hectic, lively, and strenuous. So why is it when we use the word busy, we aren’t ACTUALLY busy? Busy is a cover word-a word that is empty when we need an excuse to not do something that we should or need to be doing. But WHY do we lack that motivation and determination to put the work in? Why is it so hard to be productive? Why do we wish for things instead of working for them? It’s sad that life is so full of incredible opportunities, yet we let our excuses get in the way of grabbing onto them.

Are your athletes falling into the pile of excuses? Are they lacking motivation and determination? Do they understand that wishing for something doesn’t make it happen? Do they know what they need and should be doing to be the best they can be?

Are you being an accessory to their laziness, or are you fueling the fire that will keep them motivated and determined to work hard and be productive every single day? Are you being a role model that influences their motivation to grab onto opportunities, to go out on their own and practice, and to WORK for their potential?

Whether we are a coach, parent, teacher, role model, or instructor, I don’t think we realize how much our athletes watch, observe, follow, mimic, and do the things that we say, do, and act. They follow in our footsteps, and it is up to us to make sure those footsteps aren’t hindering their abilities, negatively affecting their actions, and creating barriers and challenges that are unnecessary.

Sometimes we need to take a step back and reevaluate ourselves to understand why our athletes are doing, saying, and acting in ways we don’t approve of, understand, or worry about. We have to take responsibility for our actions and our words and instead of blaming our athletes for being lazy and making excuses, maybe that behavior is stemming back to their coach, teacher, instructor, parent, and/or role model.

We are much more of an influence than we realize, so take a step back and make sure you are striving towards the best version of yourself, so your athlete strives towards their best self.

“Never let someone out work you or out hustle you. Ever.”

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Aug
29

The Next Level

The Next Level

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all love for what you are doing or learning to do.”

Getting to the next level is not easy. It is easily said, written down, and talked about, but when your athlete actually starts gaining experience on the field and getting older to the time of recruitment, she will realize that getting to the next level is not going to be simple. It is going to be hard, take lots of time, and challenge them mentally and physically. If they want to get to the next level, they have to stop hoping and wishing, and start working and believing. If your athlete wants to get to the next level in a sport, then they will have to learn how to love the process, study the sport and their position, study their strengths and weaknesses, create a consistent schedule, start training their muscles and endurance, and mentally preparing themselves.

They will miss out on school dances, birthday parties, hanging out with friends, and so forth. They will have to study during their breaks, lunches, and do extra tutoring for their SAT’s. They will be at the gym, going to practice, and strengthening their skills in lessons while their friends are going to movies, dances, and having slumber parties. They will be making sacrifices. But instead of looking at the small picture, it’s important to look at the big picture. They won’t be missing out on every single thing, they won’t be stuck with their head in a book during their free time every day, and they won’t have to sacrifice their other interests outside of the sport forever. They just have to remember WHY they are making sacrifices, taking extra time to study, and doing extra practice time. They are preparing themselves for the next phase in their life that involves the sport they love that leads them into a pristine college that will guide them into their career. It will be really hard for your athlete, but we have to be that person that helps them see life through another perspective and lens that will provide strength, perseverance, determination, and understanding of priorities and values.

Some athletes have a hard time finding time for friendships, school, and softball. It’s hard and it is scary for them to feel like they are missing out, losing friends, and finding time to get all of their school work done. As a coach it is important for us to help our athletes through not only the process of recruitment, but everything they are going through because of their goals and dreams. Provide knowledge, answer questions, address concerns, and help them with scheduling. Provide assistance, help instruct, teach lessons, and guide them into the next stepping stone they need to reach in order to reach their next goal.

Getting to the next level isn’t easy, but it is possible! They just have to be willing to see what they are capable of, so let’s help them see through that lens of empowerment and get them to that dream!

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Aug
22

A Coaching Perspective

A Coaching Perspective

“Be the woman who you needed as a girl.”

Every child, athlete, and person has a different upbringing. We have grown up with different role models, learned different ways and styles of life, and overall we were molded into the person, student, and athlete that we are through what we were taught in the household, in the classroom, on the field, and the life we each grew up in. We were taught different skills, taken on different types of trips, vacations, and events, and grown up in different lines of discipline, respect, and rules. We are all different in many aspects of life, but we also have similarities, common knowledge, agreeable factors, and values. We have opinions and perspectives that we share and find understanding and value from. But most of all, we learn what type of person we want to be, the person we had or wish we had as a young child, student and athlete that can teach our own kids, students, and athletes how to be the best version of themselves.

As a coach, instructor, teacher, and overall person, I will always strive to be the best version of myself for my young ones to look up to, learn from, have support from, and to be the person they can always count on to have their best interest at heart.

As we grow up we have that person, guardian, parent, family member, or coach that taught us the person we wanted to be or maybe even who we didn’t want to be, maybe both! What we went through helped shape us into who we are now, and to be the best version of ourselves so that the young ones who look up to us can learn how to become the best version of themselves with support, care, understanding, respect, discipline, and excitement for the life they can build and the dreams they can reach!

Let’s strive to be our very best so that our young ones can have the very best and they can keep the positive, caring, and supportive ways of life a part of this ever changing world. If there’s one thing we should never allow to change, is the acts of kindness, love, support, and family that we have for the ones we are blessed enough to have in our lives.

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Aug
15

I Have Nothing To Worry About

I Have Nothing To Worry About

“Worrying is a misuse of your imagination.”

Starting as little kids, we imagine things. Dreams, hopes, fairytales and so forth. We see everything with bright lights, happiness, and excitement. But as we get older, we suddenly learn about this sense of worry…

Worrying about what could go wrong with every choice we make. Worrying about the unknown. Worrying about our possible faults, mistakes, and fears. We worry about the smallest and rarest things every time we start to move towards a goal, a dream, or a new place in our lives.

 Instead of imagining those dreams that are surrounded with positivity and color, we start to envision negative scenarios that are either this way or that way, black or white with no grey area. The grey area is where life is. The unknown, the unexpected, and the unimaginable. The grey area is the place where dreams are worked on tirelessly, where we face our fears, where things go incredibly right and incredibly wrong. The grey area is where life truly is. There is no perfect way of life, no perfect dreams or goals that are set and made for every single person. Everyone has to find their own way. Their own right and their own wrong based on themselves and themselves alone. There is not one right way for everyone in this world, but there is a right way that we can each find for ourselves in order to make and reach our own dreams.

We have to learn to worry less and to trust ourselves. Trust our instincts and strive towards our hopes, dreams, and even fairytales. They may not be exactly what you imagine, but everything will work out exactly as it should as long as you believe in yourself and you believe in what you are capable of. You are not just a person with scenarios going on in your mind, your a playmaker. You are a doer. So don’t let worrying overtake your imagination. Let your imagination fly towards the sky, because you my dear, are a star in the making.

“Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.”-Walt Disney

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Aug
08

I AM CAPABLE OF GREATNESS

I AM CAPABLE OF GREATNESS

“Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is only for the chosen few-for the superstars. The truth is greatness is for us all. This is not about lowering expectations; it’s about raising them for every last one of us. Greatness is not in one special place, and it’s not in one special person. Greatness is wherever somebody is trying to find it.”

Softball as in many sports like baseball, football, and soccer has become an incredibly big and well-known sport that is watched and talked about, where we see and hear names on T.V., read about them in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and we follow them on social media. Those pro athletes are the “stars” in their sport, as they become the faces we think of when we see or hear about a team name. Those athletes become valuable and more noticeable than the other athletes in the sport who are also incredibly talented, important, and valuable. We don’t think about the unknown, we think about the well-known. We don’t think about their character, but follow their reputation. We jump onto bandwagons and cheer on the “face” of the team rather than the diligence, support, and talent that each player has and puts forth throughout the game. We become so consumed with society’s favorite, that we think that the best athletes are those considered “special” or the teams that are “special”. Even at the young ages and within travel ball, we become consumed with the team names, coaches, and athletes that have been considered and noted as “the best”. We listen to reputation rather than learning, seeing, and experiencing for ourselves what we need in order to be great, not what everyone else says is great.

Because young athletes and parents are chasing the reputation of others, our athletes tend to fall into this idea that they are not capable of greatness if they are not on that “special” team or coached by the “best” coaches. Greatness becomes this disappearing goal and dream that leads to lack in self-confidence, diligence, and determination. They give up on the sport, themselves, and on their dreams. They don’t realize that even though they are not on the team that is considered the best, coached by coaches who are considered the best, or categorized as the best on the team, that doesn’t mean they are not capable of greatness. Greatness doesn’t come from what society says, it comes from rising to the challenges, working hard every chance they get, and never giving up on themselves. It is not about the name on the jersey, it is about the heart in the player and the heart of the team.

Society doesn’t choose who is great, we determine that ourselves.

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Jul
31

Wanting and Doing the Best for your Athletes

Wanting and Doing the Best for your Athletes

“The greatest success we’ll know is helping others succeed and grow.”

Coaching is not always easy, sometimes it can be extremely difficult, but as a coach it is our responsibility to do our absolute best to prepare our athletes for each at-bat, situation, pitch, game, tournament, and level of play. If we are not preparing our athletes and teaching them skills and providing them with knowledge, we are not fulfilling our purpose as a coach. It is up to us to not only want what is best for our athletes, but to do what is best for our athletes.

Each athlete is different. In the sport of softball, we have all kinds of athletes on the spectrum of strengths and weaknesses. It is up to us to use the strengths as a whole, and to work on the weaknesses purposefully and sufficiently in order for the athletes to get better as individuals and as a team. If we only focus on their strengths and ignore their weaknesses, we are not helping them, challenging them, or preparing them. If that is what you are doing as a coach, you are ignoring or covering the weaknesses, and that is disrespectful to your athlete. If you are a coach, do not push the weaknesses to the side, make sure you are including drills, knowledge, and questions that help them see, understand, and apply the new to start getting rid of the old.

We should be creating practice plans that not only keep their strengths tuned and progressing, but a plan that starts and keeps pushing their weaknesses further up the spectrum in becoming strengths. I have seen and heard a lot of negativity about coaches, practices, and games that is extremely upsetting. As a coach, we have to realize how much of a role model we are and how much of an impact we have on each athlete, parent, and fellow coaches. If you take the position of a coach, it should not be because you want to be in charge, because you want the title, or because you want your kid to play. Taking the position of a coach should be to help, teach, instruct, prepare and do everything you can to get each of your athletes to progress consistently, to compete successfully, and to reach and play at the next level sufficiently. It is and should always be about the athletes on your team.

Parents and athletes are putting trust into their coaches. Parents and athletes care about the practices, team bonding, games, and what the coach says and believes in regards to softball. Not everyone has played softball or been around sports, so parents are also learning, asking questions, and putting trust and time into their athletes sport. If you are wasting that time, you are taking away from an athletes ability to learn and progress each minute they spend on the field and with the team. If you are not coaching for the right reasons, that trust will not be present within the team, you will lose players, and you will lose respect not only as a coach, but as a person.

Be there for your athletes! Be purposeful when you are making practice plans, be their cheerleader, but also their challenger to keep them progressing, learning, and growing. Be their role model they can trust and learn from. Be their COACH. A coach who cares. supports, and does everything they possibly can to help their athletes be learners and competitors of the game.

 Are you wanting and doing the best for your athletes?

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Jul
25

The Heart of a Champion

The Heart of a Champion

 “Never underestimate the heart of a champion.”

Champions are not just made in the gym, on the field, or in the classroom. A champion comes from within. It is a part of your heart that cannot be simply defined. It is a part of the heart that holds a deep desire, undeniable determination, goal oriented visions, and an overall dream that lights a fire in the hearts of those who can’t shake the feeling of never giving up. It is a part of a champion that has the will to succeed and the will to fight through the pain. A champion is not measured by the wins, but by the passion within. A champion does not fall, but rises every time they are faced with a challenge. A champion does not break or fold under pressure, but pushes back when the sport gets hard. A champion is more than just an athlete. It is so, so much more than that.

Many athletes, coaches, and parents seek winning and only winning. They measure level and skill by the amount of wins their team or athlete has, by the stats they see on the computer, and by comparison to other athletes and teams. They chase the name of “champion” with the thought of it being easily defined by a single notion of winning and winning only. It is easy to ignore, not acknowledge, and misunderstand that a champion is not what is formed and obviously seen on the outside, but it is created, formed, and built from the inside. A champion is so much more than a record. It is so much more than statistics. It is so much more than a winner.

Winning records may give you the title of being a champion for that day, for that weekend, and for that moment, but what makes an athlete a champion every day? It is not all of the trophies sitting on the windowsill, medals hanging, game balls and home run balls sitting on their dresser, or plaques plastered on the walls. A champion is the athlete who has the heart and the will to consistently create and work to reach new goals, to practice without being told, to go the extra mile when their mind tells them no, to fight through the obstacles, always finds time for honing in on their skills, and to keep working hard to get better on every aspect of the game and their position on the field. A true champion is not just given that title for the day; they hold the meaning of that word within their heart every single day.

Every athlete at some point loses, has a bad day, and has a performance that does not reveal their potential. That is normal and it is inevitable. But the unfortunate part  is when those times trigger the words that slip out of our mouths and into our minds that demean the person, coach, and athlete that we are and are capable of being. We let those hard times define if we are good enough, if we are capable, and if we are a champion. Win or lose, the heart of a champion does not fade. The heart of a champion cannot be taken away. The heart of a champion cannot be defined by their good days and bad days. The heart of the champion remains a piece of them that stays lit and full of desire to keep fighting to get better, to keep positively envisioning themselves, and to keep striving towards their dreams.

“Champions don’t show up to get everything they want; they show up to give everything they have.”

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Jul
17

Resting Time is Valued Time

Resting Time is Valued Time

“Sometimes making progress means taking rest days.”

Many of us athletes, coaches, and parents push our athletes and ourselves to the limit. We keep playing, practicing, and training every single day. We take private lessons, gym sessions, and nutrition to the next level so that we take our performance in our softball positions to the next level as well. We strive for our idea of “perfection”, get disappointed when it is not met and jump for joy when we do.

But we also get sore, tired, and run down. We lose focus, passion for the game, and sight of our goals. We start going through the motions instead of taking on challenges. We start to stay in the same place because our bodies and minds are beat up; we keep going and going, even though we are not improving.

It is okay to work hard every day, but we have to make sure that we are working our minds and bodies in a positive and progressive way so that every once in a while, we REST!

Resting time is valued time. It allows us to restart, refocus, rebuild, and reassess. If we don’t rest, we will not move forward, but completely plateau, sometimes even moving backwards. Playing tired whether it is mentally or physically is not helping your performance, but stopping improvement. Take advantage of REST! We need it! Whether it is for a day or for a week, you have to give yourself a break. So many of us worry that resting and taking a break is going to hurt us and slow us down, but it is actually helping us. We have to learn to listen to our body and to our hearts so that we know when it is time to rest. If we can do that, then we can reach our goals, expectations, and our idea of success without a clouded mind, tired body, and lack of focus.

Rest, rest, rest! Let your body and your mind have a break so that you can focus, find that love for the game again, work hard, rebuild yourself, and start moving in a positive and improving way.

If you push yourself and never allow your body and mind a break, you will be making everything a lot harder on yourself, negativity will arise, and lack of control will reside.

Find your intuition and listen! Allow yourself to rest so that you can move forward and become your very best!

Written by Nikoli Sharp

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