Oct
17

The Unsure Athlete

The Unsure Athlete

“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”

As parents and coaches, we go through phases, and our athletes also go through phases; one phase that athletes go through is feeling and wanting to “not play anymore.” Now, this can be completely upsetting for us! We will become frustrated, disappointed, get mad or sad, and sometimes act on our emotions too quickly, rather than talking it out with your athlete. Before any decision is made, as we all know, it is important to think it through, ask questions, and to look at all perspectives.

Ask Questions!

Asking your athlete questions is not only to help you understand how they are feeling and why they are wanting to make this choice, but it is also important because you are helping them think it through, understand why they are feeling this way and wanting to stop playing the sport they love, and to bring insight.

  1. Why don’t you want to play anymore?
  2. Is it not fun anymore, or is someone not making it fun for you?
  3. Is there something you are missing out on because of the sport?
  4. Are you scared of failing?
  5. Is there something else you would like to do?
  6. Do you need to take a break?
  7. Are they struggling with school because of the sports?

There’s a lot of questions you can ask yourself and ask your athlete, so ASK! Be a listening ear, a confidant, but also be an adviser! Give your point of view, give them examples of your own experiences, and explain what their decision means.

As an athlete myself, I remember having a hard time missing out on dances, school functions, football games, and just being a “normal kid”. More often than not, this feeling of wanting to quit comes when high school begins. So much is going on in their lives and no many new people, interests, and events are becoming a part of their lives. Helping them through these feelings can be tough, but it is also a crucial step in helping your athlete see their potential, understand what their future may hold, but also providing support and knowledge behind their feelings and decisions.

Most of the time, your athlete realizes she doesn’t want to quit, it was simply emotions of feeling left out or missing out on new things in their lives, but with our help, they will realize that they won’t be missing out on every single thing, just a few sacrifices that will be made; another life lesson that softball gives-sacrifice is a part of life, and you have to be willing to look at the whole picture before you make a big choice.

But if they do decide they need a break after everything is talked through and questions are addressed because they are burnt out, they are struggling in school, or they are no longer having fun-give them a chance to click that pause button briefly…they may really need that so they get that fire back into their hearts to play again and to get those grades up!

We have to remember that the relationship that we have with our kids and our athletes is extremely important, so we have to make sure we aren’t jumping to conclusions, yelling at them, and becoming mad or upset when they tell you “I don’t want to play anymore” because there is always a reason and there is always room for questions, explanations, perspective, and life lessons. We are more than a parent and a coach, remember that!

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Oct
11

Injuries…What do we do?

 Injuries…What do we do?

“Never let a stumble in the road be the end of the journey.”

Unfortunately, in any sport, injuries are inevitable. Some are minor and some are major. Some can be even life changing and altering, while some can be a small scrape to the knee. But what can we do to prevent injuries from happening or to make them less likely to happen????

Many athletes and parents don’t realize that conditioning, weight training, speed and agility, and flexibility are CRUCIAL in helping prevent injuries. Our athletes need to be strong and agile to not only perform well on the field, but to also stay mentally focused and healthy. If your athletes become tired because they are out of shape whether it is during a practice or during a game, they are more likely going to gain an injury. When your athlete is in shape and consistently keeping their muscles strong and their bodies flexible and agile, they will be less prone to injuries because they will be able to control their body on the field when they competing during those long game days.

So what can we do as coaches and parents to help our athletes stay strong and healthy? Here are just a few examples below, but CONSISTENCY is key!

  1. Include conditioning in practices
  2. Work on speed and agility at practice
  3. Higher a trainer to come out to practices
  4. Provide a training program for them to follow at home during the season and for off season
  5. Make sure stretching is a high priority

This is just a small, yet simple list that can be incorporated into your athlete’s routine. Better yet, you will also be getting your athlete ready for college ball when 5am weights and conditioning begin! You can even personalize and tailor it to the positions they are playing on the field so that you work on specific muscle groups along with full body workouts that will keep their bodies alert, strong, and in shape for each season.

What do you do after your athlete already had an injury?

Sometimes our athletes make an astonishing play, but get hurt, it happens! OR maybe your athlete’s body got tired and they tweaked their knee, or their mechanics at a young age led to an injury as they got older. Injuries are part of the sport, and while we work hard to prevent them, sometimes it’s just a matter of timing and luck!

If your athlete is injured, make sure you are taking the doctor and physical therapy sessions serious! Learn as much as you can about the injury-ask questions about the injury, how to prevent it from occurring again, and any exercises that they should and shouldn’t do for it specifically. The more you know about your injury, the more you will be able to take care of yourself, prevent it from happening again, and be able to keep it strong for future seasons.

 Don’t wait on helping your athletes, start NOW in helping them perform their best while preventing injuries!

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Oct
03

Don’t Pout! The Selfish Athlete

Don’t Pout! The Selfish Athlete

“You can’t be a smart cookie with a crumbly attitude!”

Selfish athletes? Do you have them on your team? Do you have players who pout, complain, and disrupt your team dynamic? Unfortunately, there is always an athlete who is selfish and sadly, it causes a much bigger problem within the team than most care to give attention to. We have coaches who will tell the negative athletes to knock it off, be a team player, and just deal with it every practice and game instead of getting to the root of the problem, talking it out, defusing the problem, and laying down the rules of respect, team, and leadership.

If  we as coaches and parents allow an athlete to behave selfishly, than we are allowing them to hurt the team and the team’s success. We can’t just let it keep producing negativity on the team, we have to make sure that we are teaching our athletes not just the mechanics and fundamentals of the game, but the respect, diligence, and teamwork that holds great value within the sport.

  1. Realize the fault

We have to realize the faults on the team. See who, what, and why is being affected and causing a lack in the team dynamic, respect, and success. We have to take action and rid our team of the faults!

  1. Accept Accountability

Make sure not only YOU are accepting accountability to get rid of the problem, but that the athlete or athletes are also accepting accountability for their actions, behavior, and attitude that has caused problems among the team. If each of you are able to speak about the problem and come to a conclusion to work out the issues, and to get rid of the negative effects, than you will be cutting out the selfish acts and helping your team become stronger not only on the field, but also within their mental game.

Softball isn’t just a game and sport; it is a part of life that teaches us as coaches and parents lessons and gives us the ability to teach our young athletes life lessons that will help them on and off the field.

We have the opportunity to help our athletes become the best version of themselves, so let’s keep ourselves and our athletes accountable for their actions and attitudes as we all strive for the best success of our athletes in the sport and in life!

“Life teaches us through errors. When we accept the lesson from our mistake with humility and gratitude, we grow that much more.”

Written by Nikoli Sharp

Sep
26

School Comes First, Right?

School Comes First, Right?

“Don’t wait for tomorrow when you can start today.”

As athletes and parents we tend to get blinded by the excitement when the words “college” and “softball” are fused together on the horizon for our daughter’s future. We forget or sometimes lose the ability to find balance with our busy schedules; lessons, practice, tournaments, training, school, and tutoring, not to mention all the traveling, work, and the others kids you have to take care of! Softball takes up a vast amount of our time, but we can’t let our kid’s education get put on the back burner. Your daughter will work her butt off to get to her highest potential on the softball field and she WILL get recruited! BUT she still has to get ACCEPTED into the school. So make sure she is also working diligently on her school work as well!

Our athletes put so much time into their sport; taking lessons, going to training, practicing on their own, watching new drills, and going to camps to better their skills and mechanics. Softball is challenging and fun, so we need to make sure our athletes also see the benefits of school! Your athletes won’t realize how incredibly important all of those lessons and basic classes they took in high school until they get into college, so start telling them now! Just like softball, you learn the basic fundamentals and then you grow and heighten your skills. School is exactly the same! They have to learn the basic fundamentals in order to keep building their knowledge and reaching higher levels of education. If you don’t have the basics down, then it is extremely difficult to be successful whether it is softball or school. We need to make sure our athletes understand that they are STUDENT-athletes. School is crucial to get into college to play ball, and to get a career they want to thrive in.

School is frustrating and also time consuming, and it is hard to find the balance between school and softball, but make sure your athlete is working within a schedule that is built on helping them become successful in the classroom and on the softball field. Of course it isn’t easy, and all of our kids are different, so find what works best for them! If they are struggling, make sure you’re helping them whether you can help, a teacher can help, or going to tutoring. Don’t wait last minute to find help, because it is not easy to work their way back into a passing grade!

We have to remind and keep reminding our athletes that they are students as well, and if they want to go to college, play in college, and have a career that they love, then they have to work hard in each of their classes, not just on the field!

We have brilliant athletes who are different types of athletes, learners, have different personalities, and have different goals and interests, but it is up to us to help guide them onto the path that will help them learn hard work, passion, and dedication towards the importance of education and the sport. Help them thrive in the classroom and on the field. Hold them accountable. Teach them values. Talk to them. Communicate with their teachers. And always make sure they are understanding the importance of everything they are doing and where the diligence is taking them. They have dreams, help them get there!

Written by Nikoli Sharp

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

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