Empowering future female leaders through softball is what it's all about for
Nicole Fougerousse. At 19 years old, Nicole started giving pitching lessons when she realized there was so much talent in her small community. This talent prompted her to create the first non-profit travel softball organization in the area in 2005, which quickly exploded into multiple teams.
Over the next 18 years, she coached at Tennessee State University (2015) and Indiana State University (2021). She moved to Ireland to get her Master of Science in Sport Psychology (2017), and when she returned to Indiana, she opened up NF Softball Performance (2019)
while teaching high school business.
Nicole's journey to achieving her dream of owning, operating, and solely
supporting herself through softball instruction has had many twists and turns.
Yet, her north star has always remained constant - developing youth players
into powerful athletes, resilient young women, and our future female leaders.
Nicole is a fantastic example of the power of ConnectedCoaching. This is a conversation you won't wanna miss.
Continue scrolling to read a few highlights from her conversation with Spencer.
To hear the full conversation, click one of the links below:
I know many of the listeners have been following along and are likely already familiar with your work, but I’m thinking we kick off this convo with a quick introduction and catch up. How have things been since we last talked? What does a day in the life of Nicole look like here at the end of 2022?
So to prepare for this convo, I wanted to get a big picture sense of how I’ve been performing this year. So I went in and looked at some financials and it was really cool to see that i’m currently sitting at roughly $98,000 in rough sales.
That’s HUGE! That's a massive difference from where I was this time last year. And it was around this time last year that we started working one-on-one consistently. And I remember one of the first things you pushed for is this idea of selling full year subscriptions.
I was scared to completely dive in, but I'm telling you right now, it's the best thing I’ve ever done for my business. Golf coaches reach out to me constantly to ask how I’m doing it and I keep telling them “Spencer’s not wrong, move to subscriptions”.
Anyway, this is the first full year of one of the biggest business pivots I’ve ever done. I’ve evolved a TON since we last spoke publicly.
First off, I’ve been niching out quite a bit. My specialty has always been pitching, but since I live in a rural area, in the past many people have just seen me as a general softball guru. But this year I’m doubling down on my niche and really leaning in on pitching as my primary area of expertise.
So I’m moving away from hitting and moving away from skill development for very young players. Because I’ve found it’s too time consuming to try and be great at all those things. That’s absolutely been a big part of this year and I’ll continue niching out in 2023 as well.
I’ve also been recording pretty much everything I do so I can leverage it down the line. I reuse stuff as much as I can and it really saves me a ton of time. I’ve gotten a lot better at being objective about my business and breaking down my short-term, achievable goals that will keep me on track for my larger, more long-term goals.
All in all, the biggest thing I've improved is my capacity to think like an entrepreneur, rather than just like a coach. Does it make sense for me to teach hitting, when my niche is pitching? As a coach, I want to say yes because I want to be there for my athletes, but when I think like an entrepreneur, I know that it’s not the best use of my time.
I’m so pumped to hear you speak like this! What was the transition like for your athletes when you decided to move into the subscription model?
So after you convinced me to give it a try, I took a few months to get all the details ironed out and think through the rollout. Then, last March, I basically told my parents
“Here's what I’m doing, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m no longer selling the 8 week classes. Now, if you want to keep working with me you need to sign up for a full year.”
I was incredibly transparent and made it abundantly clear that there would be no hard feelings if they decided not to stick around. I laid out everything they needed to make an informed decision. E.g. time commitment, deliverables, costs, etc. Just laid it all out on the table.
And to make the transition a little easier, I also gave all my athletes the option to leave after 6 months. So if after 6 months, they didn’t want to stick around with the new plan, I’d refund the rest of the year.
All in all I only lost about 5 students during the transition, which is pretty low overall given my numbers. And, honestly, those 5 students likely would have left either way since it was becoming clear that they weren’t as interested in pitching. It was super amicable and easy in that way. It wasn’t that the relationship has changed, it was simply that the business had evolved and they no longer needed my services.
Sounds like the launch went really well!
Oh it went great.
And now I actually have way more demand than I can handle, since I have a limited number of spots. They literally are grabbed within an hour if there is any availability.
I also created an entire onboarding process that takes place over 4 months. I now position my coaching as something you “try out” for, rather than something you purchase. You have to hit certain performance metrics during our trial period before I’ll take you on as a long-term client.
It gives them the ability to test me out and see if my coaching is right for them. Because I think it’s best to figure that out early. And the people who stick around are usually there for the long term, which makes my life a whole lot easier.
And how do you integrate CoachNow into the offer from here?
Oh CoachNow is in there from day 1. All the kids have their Group in CoachNow as part of their onboarding.
I’ll create various channels with different recordings and resources for the girls to review. All my drill videos are in there and they are also supposed to submit videos of themselves for me to review and critique as well.
We’ve built a community around it. Kids know I’m gonna analyze their videos and everyone gonna see it. But doing this ensures that everyone learns from each other in a totally safe, judgment free environment.
And since I work primarily with young girls, it’s so important for them to feel like their videos are safe on the platform. Because a lot of the time, they are posting action shots that aren’t “curated” like the photos they’d feel comfortable posting on social media.
Yeah, that is absolutely a unique challenge, since I’m sure your athletes don’t want these videos of them in “athletic motion” to be public. But as you know, we are totally private and secure because we know how sensitive information in these channels can be. And we want to make sure they aren’t worried they’ll end up on Tik Tok or something like that.
Totally. All the time I’ll have them say they don’t feel like an image makes them look pretty, but I think it’s so unfortunate that that’s what we’ve been trained to see. Because athletic motion is such a great form of expression.
A lot of the time, girls don’t want to submit videos because they don’t like being in front of the camera. They don’t think they look pretty, they are conditioned to edit themselves, etc. But it’s all mental. So I try to lead by example and get vulnerable and tell them that, honestly, it took a long time for ME to feel comfortable filming myself for their drill videos.
And once I say that, I’ve found a barrier goes down. Hearing that I struggled with the same thing makes them feel safe to express their concerns and/or insecurities. So that was an interesting thing to learn and I’ve found that sharing my experience really helps get them comfortable.
Well, video is just so valuable to have. In our marketing, we’ve recently been highlighting this idea that your CoachNow Feed represents your athletic journey. It acts almost as a progress journal to look back on.
Absolutely. In fact, right now in December, I’m doing my one-on-one sessions with each of the girls. It acts as a way to get a baseline, get some facetime in, and make sure we set up some solid goals while we are together.
And a huge part of that is going back and taking a look at all the videos they posted in CoachNow. Because I’ve found that kids have a generally bad sense of how far they’ve come.
Like I had one young girl who I asked “where do you wanna be this time next year? You know, did we make work? Did we hit our goals?” and she said she didn’t really think she even got better at ALL.
In that moment, I put CoachNow on the TV and we went through some of the videos from a year ago and was like “remember this? 9 months ago you couldn’t pitch full distance. We had to move you up 5 feet! Now you’re throwing 44 MPH full distance. You’re throwing 8 for 10 strikes. You are hitting your spots. You just went five for five throwing your change up. What do you mean you didn’t improve??”
I’ll tell ya, that record is invaluable. It really helps contextualize their progress.
And it creates awesome word of mouth from the parents, because they love seeing the improvements as well. I’m not great at marketing, but that’s honestly not a big deal right now because my parents are selling for me. Though, like I said, next year I’m hoping to focus a ton more on Evergreen offerings and improve my marketing chops in the process!
Right it sounds like you’ve got great word of mouth and great retention. You’re creating programs that you can forecast against. And like I’ve said you don’t need to be a social media master in coaching to be a successful business owner.
But wow it’s really great to see how far you’ve come. It might not feel like that to you but, like that girl you mentioned, from my vantage point there has been SO many awesome improvements to your business since we last spoke.
Yes. I was a High School teacher just a couple years. Then I moved into the college ranks for a little bit before eventually starting this business that’s about to hit six figures this year. And I’ve got a great lifestyle and doing a great job of avoiding burnout.
It’s a bit surreal. It’s like every coach’s dream and I’ve been able to achieve it in less than two years. In my last year of teaching, I was teaching and giving lessons and not making around $70,000/ year combines. And I had no life, I was burnt out to, and I just kind of accepted it.
Then when I decided I could coach full time I was aiming for the $60k range, which felt like a huge win. But I had such big ideas and I couldn’t really scale the 8 week programs beyond that.
At the end of the day, you can't do everything, you gotta pick one thing and stick to it. For me, getting that commitment upfront was a brand new concept but I’m SO glad I did it. I knew it was gonna work well, but this has far exceeded my expectations.
Obviously there’s always more to improve, but it’s on my schedule, it fits in exactly where I need it to in my life, and I’m coaching in person only 16 hours per week, including my group sessions. And like I said, I’m on track to clear $100k this year. And I have even more ideas for next year. It’s really shocking, but so exciting!
You are a great example of an entrepreneur who saw an opportunity and ran with it. What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur/ business owner just getting started?
It’s cheesy, but you have to believe in yourself. I cannot stress that enough. You have to believe that you're gonna figure it out because you’re gonna make mistakes. It's not gonna be perfect and you're gonna get lots of curve balls outta the gate.
I also believe you can have, as they say, paralysis by analysis. You gotta be careful with that too. You obviously need a plan and some structure, but you need to be flexible as well and realize when it’s gotta go.
When I first started coaching, I was on a softball field. I did not have a facility. I asked the gyms to just let me practice there. That’s where I started. But I always knew this is where I wanted to go, I just had to muster up the guts to say “I'm doing it, and here's the plan, here’s how I’m gonna make it happen.”
Another thing you said during our coaching: it’s also so important to be transparent. So, as you have customers that love you, they know you, they trust you. It’s so important to be transparent with them about where you’re at. Then they are more invested in you and what you’re doing. They’ll go along for the ride.
Lots of it is just building relationships. Trust your gut, trust yourself. It’ll be a rollercoaster but it’s very fun in the long run.
Alright, final question for today is for those coaches who are listening that are already in the CoachNow community. What is your personal CoachNow best practice in your business? What feature is the most important to you?
I use the group feature a lot and I use it a lot because you can do the channels to separate out ideas. In fact, with my kids I call them file folders. Like treat them like a Drive folder, you’re gonna put your warmups here, your pitching videos here etc. If you ever wanna look up a video, just go the channel and it’s all organized by topic. It’ll be there like in a shared folder.
I think this is one of the many things that makes CoachNow so awesome. It’s so easy to create a bunch of content, but when there’s a bunch of content it can get lost and overwhelming. I want to actually be able to find my content and use it, so channels and tags are incredibly important as your building out a library.
The new scheduling feature is also a huge life saver. I'm so glad that that's finally an option to do that because I schedule out all much touch points with an athlete as soon as they come in for a session. I know every Wednesday at this time, they're gonna get a message from me. It takes me 5 minutes to make and schedule it out and then I don’t ever have to think about it again.
That is definitely something I suggest coaches do. Because then you avoid guilting yourself and wondering if you messaged them, did you hear from them, have they heard from me, etc. You just schedule it out and then you have a super super easy way to get dialogue going back and forth.
Honestly I use all of the features every day. But those are the big ones that come to mind. Can’t recommend using them enough
I'm stoked that you're using Scheduled Posts. We've gotten great feedback on it, and we're gonna keep expanding it to, to do even more.
Well Nicole, it’s been a pleasure. You are killing it out there. Hope you have a great week and we’ll talk to you soon.
*NOTE: This is just a few snippets from the conversation Spencer had with Nicole. If you liked any of these topics, please listen to the full conversation at one of the below links: