Outstanding Coach of the Year Nominee Says It All Begins with Love

Nicholas Lincoln

“He truly understands how to reach the heart of his athletes.”  Those powerful words were just part of the Outstanding Coach of the Year nomination for Nicholas Lincoln, football coach at Delaware Military Academy in Wilmington, Delaware.  The nomination also noted that under Nicholas’ coaching, the team’s GPA significantly improved.  They reached the state semifinals in his first year of coaching (when the team had never before won a playoff game) and he also helped create a culture of trust and good sportsmanship.  We followed up with this veteran coach who shared these insights.

  1. What common traits have you seen among your best teams? 

The common traits among the best teams I’ve coached were perseverance in our young men and a dedication and priority in relationships from our coaches. Championship teams are led by players, they hold each other accountable and set the temperature of every room they enter.

  1. What foundational step is most critical when building a great team? 

The foundational step to building a championship team is love. Players need to feel valued and listened to by their coaches in order to be pushed to their limits. Love is sacrifice, and we are asking a generation of young people with every possible excuse not to commit to team sports to put on a helmet in the summertime and run gassers, only to be one part of a whole. Young people want to be heard and respected, my best teams had a voice and were met with tough love at all turns.

  1. Why do you personally believe that Sport Fuels Life? 

Sport fuels life because it is a guaranteed opportunity to meet people with a variety of backgrounds, put aside your differences, and commit to a common goal of excellence. Sport is therapy for athletes and coaches alike, it’s the ultimate ability to breathe, release, and recenter.

  1. What is the greatest piece of advice you have ever been given? Who gave you this advice and what did it mean to you at the time you received it?

The CEO and founder of ODAAP, Open Door Abuse Awareness and Prevention, Mrs. Valencia Peterson, has been a mentor. She was my community coordinator in all my programs. She told me to focus on relationships, to show love to my players at all times, and get to know their past, including any trauma. This piece of advice was instrumental.

  1. Imagine you’re speaking to a crowd of 10,000 coaches and athletes. Do you have any words of wisdom to help their team/players excel? 

We would first do a small box breathing exercise--5 second breath, 5 second hold, 5 second release, 5 second hold, and repeat. After a few repetitions, the speech would be about locking into the moment they’re in, only focusing on the now, appreciating all aspects of the process, and embracing all the beautiful steps it takes to get to your ultimate goal. 

  1. What goals do you have your eyes on next and how do you keep pushing yourself? 

Eventually, I have the desire to coach collegiately. However, I’m not in a rush and there is nothing like the influence and impact in high school athletics. 

  1. Please share a story of how sports have positively impacted your life.

I’ve personally learned so much from the young people I was entrusted with throughout my 15 years coaching football; it’s hard to pinpoint just one moment. Watching the seed you plant at a young age blossom into the fruit of adulthood is one of the best aspects of coaching. As our young men become college graduates, contributing members of society, and, most importantly, fathers with their own children, the grind of coaching is well worth it.


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