MARION — Teams with ambitious goals need strong leaders.
The Marion varsity softball team’s goal is to make state this year, and they have senior Sydney Nielsen to lead the way.
Nielsen started playing at age 4. By 7, she was playing for an Amateur Softball Association team. Next season, she will be playing softball at Minnesota State-Mankato.
Through the years, Nielsen’s love of the sport has yielded many honors. She owns a batting average of .465, a slugging average of .722 and was the Class 4A first-team all-state catcher last season. Despite these honors, Nielsen continues to grow with her team.
Marion (13-12) has won three games in a row and four of its last five heading into Wednesday’s home game against Williamsburg.
“We’ve set personal goals ... but as a team, we try to work toward our one goal,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen considers the sport’s “mental side” to be the largest obstacle. Mastering the mental side means controlling nerves, staying positive and learning from mistakes rather than letting them take hold.
“When we make a mistake, (we) just have to shake it off,” Nielsen said. “You can’t dwell on it and take it to the field.”
Coach Scott Fruehling knows players have a lot to learn from Nielsen.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“She does a lot of the little things that, in turn, make her a great player,” he said. “... That’s what I’m hoping these kids can pick up on ... She almost does it without thinking; it comes from playing a lot and understanding the game.”
Evidently, overcoming the mental side of the game plays an essential role in a team’s growth. For Nielsen, overcoming self-criticism has helped her grow into a better player. Fruehling believes Nielsen has even become a seasoned leader among her teammates.
“Kids look to her ... when things aren’t going great, and she’s really embraced that role,” Fruehling said. “If you watch her games behind the plate, she really takes command of the team ... she really is the captain.”
Softball has equipped Nielsen with the qualities of a strong player and leader. Throughout her career, she has learned how to use obstacles to her advantage. To her, nerves are a source of energy and focus, and mistakes are simply opportunities to learn.
Nielsen is not afraid to keep learning — and she has encouraged her teammates to keep learning as well.