In this week's blog entry, softball head coach Yvette Healy writes about what the Badgers are doing to change their mental approach. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.
Now that we have the first few weeks of practice with the Badger Softball team completed, we're focusing in on opening week.
We've spent a lot of time on our swings this winter, incorporating vision training, hand and wrist strengthening drills, and video analysis. We've challenged our hitters to be students of the game, understanding the forces that create whip and generate power. Beyond creating a strong fundamental base to our swings and being efficient, our staff has spent a lot of time addressing our mental approach in and out of the box.
We've committed to having a "yes" mentality at the plate; meaning, we think and visualize what we do want to happen; not what we don't. Too many hitters step into the box trying "not" to strike out, trying "not" to pop out and focusing on "not" pulling off of the ball. If you've ever heard of the pink elephant theory, then you know if someone tells you "not" to think of a giant pink elephant, the only thing your brain can visualize is a crazy pink elephant. If you're a golfer, you know that if you focus on not hitting the ball into the water on a water hole, inevitably your ball goes straight to the water on your next drive.
Focusing energy and thoughts on what you "don't" want to happen often reinforces that bad habit. We've challenged our hitters to create new self-talk that reinforces a great outcome. Instead of thinking "don't pop up", we think, "hit a line drive." Instead of thinking, "don't pull out my front shoulder" we say, "stay on that outside pitch and extend into the gap." It's a small mental adjustment that goes a long way.
We had two great chalk talks last week too. We were thrilled to have Wisconsin's Women's Soccer coach, Paula Wilkins, speak to our team. In three short years, Paula took the Badger soccer team from 10th in the Big Ten to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, and a Sweet 16 finish! What an inspirational message for our group.
She gave an entertaining presentation on changing the culture of the program from the inside out. Change the attitude of the players and parents to change the culture. She challenged our team to own the softball program and the rebuilding process. Just like in real estate, when you own property, you feel so much more invested in every part of your residence. If every member of the Wisconsin softball family can own the softball program, we'll all work harder to transform every small detail of the experience, instead of acting like renters with no investment and no accountability.
A few days later, assistant Coach Randy Schneider gave a great hitting presentation with tons of video to help reinforce the teaching elements of the swing that we've been drilling since the fall. The Wisconsin softball program will maximize talent and overachieve by teaching the game of softball. Our coaching staff is committed to be being great teachers of the game, and as all educators know, not everyone learns the same way.
We use video clips and chalk talks to help those visual learners who synthesize by seeing benchmark examples. Beyond the hitting clips, Randy also threw some funny movie clips in too, to help motivate and inspire. The team loved the 300 quotes, but the Any Given Sunday speech definitely stole the show.
We finished the week breaking into small groups and doing a few funny team-building activities, including a concentration game, categories and the newlywed game. Funny new facts we learned had to do with fairy wings versus bird wings, uncontrollable arms, karaoke songs and first concerts attended.
School was cancelled on Wednesday this week due to the huge snowstorm that covered a good portion of the country. The Kohl Center erupted Tuesday night when they announced Wisconsin classes were canceled as our Men's basketball team beat No. 10 ranked Purdue in front of a full house. The softball team has been working so hard, the extra day off and snow-day came at the perfect time. My husband Shawn and I had a blast bundling our daughter Gracie up in her snow suit to sled and build snow forts, enjoying the break too.