By Rick Assad
Being an athlete was important to Delaney Nicol, but it served as a passageway for the former Burroughs High softball and basketball standout.
“It was 100 percent worth it. Softball led me to the place in my life I’m at today,” she said. “Softball was never “my life,” but softball helped shape my life.”
Nicol saw true value in her time spent on the softball field and the basketball court.
“If I never played softball, I never would have had the opportunity to find such an incredible school in Hamilton College [Clinton, New York]. I never would’ve looked to move to the East Coast and open up new doors for myself,” she explained. “At Hamilton, I was able to have an internship with the Brooklyn Nets, experience life in New York City, study abroad in Spain for a semester, find my passion in business and eCommerce. All of these experiences helped me grow tremendously as an individual and realize what I wanted for my future, and it all started with softball.”
Sports were also instructive for Nicol, whose best asset was speed while chasing down balls in the outfield and rushing down court as a four-year starting point guard from 2011 through 2015.
“I learned so much. Team mentality, leadership, communication, relationship management, time management and hard work ethic,” she said. “Softball is also a game of failure and failure makes us better. Softball taught me how to effectively deal with adversity and develop a resilient mindset.”
Softball offers opportunities for success, but they can be rare.
“Even when you hit .400, you’re “failing” six out of 10 times,” said Nicol, who majored in Economics and minored in Hispanic Studies and Communication at Hamilton. “Softball taught me how to overcome failure. Above all, it taught me how to have heart. If you don’t play the game with heart, why play it at all? I know that if I don’t have heart, passion or give 110 percent to my job, I will never be as successful as I can possibly be.”
Vicky Oganyan coached Nicol, who graduated magna cum laude and is currently employed as a retail eCommerce Manager for Markwins Beauty Brands where she develops strategies to increase sales with such retail giants as Walmart, Target and Amazon, on the hardwood.
“Delaney was one of the toughest kids I have coached,” she said. “From the beginning as a freshman point guard on varsity, she was ready to work hard, learn and tackle adversity. She was a pleasure to coach and helped me grow as a coach as well.”
Oganyan was taken with Nicol’s overall game.
“Her leadership and play her senior year was a big part of leading our team to a school record 30 wins, a [CIF Southern Section] Division I semifinal appearance, a 26-game winning streak and a three-peat undefeated Pacific League title,” she said.
Being a prep athlete versus a college player can be striking.
“It’s hard to compare my high school and college softball experiences because they were both special in different ways,” Nicol said. “I had played softball with some of my high school teammates since we were all six years old. We lived through incredible experiences together, most notably, representing the West in the Little League Softball World Series in 2010, and getting second place. Our on-the-field chemistry was unmatched because we already knew how to play together.”
It was slightly different at the next level for Nicol, who played on the women’s softball team as a freshman and sophomore.
“In college, although there were many unfamiliar faces to start, I ended up living with some of my teammates throughout college and we became best friends,” she pointed out. “Our off-the-field friendships really shaped how we were able to gel on the field and we had such similar experiences being Division III athletes and learning how to balance athletics and academics, that we leaned on each other for things far beyond softball.”
Nicol, who was the starting left fielder for the Continentals, went on: “I’ve learned so much from my teammates and have grown tremendously as a person because of the experiences my teammates and I had together,” she said.
Trying to remain calm and cool was always a goal before every contest.
“I was definitely nervous before games, but I tried to turn the nerves into excitement,” said Nicol, who was named to the New England Small College Athletic Conference All-Academic team and was the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III All-American Scholar Athlete Award winner in 2017. “At the end of the day, I knew my teammates all had my back and I played with incredibly talented individuals. If I made a mistake, I knew someone would be there to pick me up. I had confidence in my team and in our preparation to know that we were in a great position to excel – we just needed to trust each other.”
Nicol, who joined the Burroughs varsity midway through her freshman season and became a starter as a sophomore, the same season she switched from second base to the outfield, reflected on her best moment on the field.
“The highlight of my high school softball career was beating Burbank in extra innings for the league championship my senior year. My dad, coach [Doug] promised the team that if we won he would do “The Whip” in the middle of the field [he probably didn’t think we would win because Caitlyn Brooks was in the circle],” she said. “It was a memory I’ll have for the rest of my life, dogpiling in the middle of the field with some of my best friends and celebrating a championship against our biggest rival.”
In college, the top moment came with Nicol, who was asked to join several academic honor societies such as Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Epsilon, Lambda Pi Eta and Phi Sigma, at the plate.
“My biggest college highlight was hitting a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning against Dickinson College,” she said. “We were down three and ended up winning the game by one run!”
Doug Nicol knew it wouldn’t be easy for his daughter.
“As a father, I could not be prouder,” he said. “Having to play for me was hard because she was put into awkward moments with friends and teammates. However, she always fought through that and I think it made her stronger as a person.
Nicol continued: “That toughness served her well playing in college and academically at such a demanding and challenging academic school at Hamilton College,” he stated.
Nicol assessed his daughter on the field. “As a player, she was such a hard worker and never cheated the game. She moved from second base to center field because I wanted more speed in the outfield,” he pointed out. “She never complained and was a team player. She knew that our relationship on the field was player-coach and not father-daughter. It was challenging at times, but it only worked because she accepted that and worked so hard. I was so lucky to coach her, but even luckier to be her dad and that relationship has only gotten stronger.”
Excelling on the field and hardwood plus the classroom can be a daunting task.
“Prioritization and time management were key. I made lists of things I wanted to accomplish every day and I would try my best to stick to those lists,” Nicol said. “I would try to plan ahead as much as possible, so I wouldn’t get as stressed out if things came up last minute. I tried to find a balance between softball, academics and my social life, but it definitely helped that I had a strong support system in my teammates, who were all in the same position I was in.”
With so many years of being an athlete under her belt, Nicol has some sage advice.
“I’d say do it! You’ll meet some of your best friends and learn so much about yourself, good and bad, but it’ll all make you better,” she offered. “Never be too hard on yourself, but give it your all and you’ll be surprised what other opportunities it will bring.”
Nicol added: “Focus on your academics, it’ll open so many more doors for your future,” she said. “And lastly, if you so happen to get that Coach Doug guy as a coach at Burroughs, “optional” means “mandatory.” You heard it here first, and you’ll thank me later.”