UW Health Sports Medicine 

The need for leadership

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the need for leadership and building a legacy at Wisconsin

Watching the team play yesterday, and how bad we were, it's easy to see how Wisconsin softball struggled in the past. We played like the 177 RPI team we were in 2010. What we've achieved in the last 1.5 years -- winning 30 games last season, sitting 11-8 right now after facing several ranked teams, is special. Culture is not easily changed, and losing ways and bad old habits die hard. Like any progress, it's not a straight, linear path. Sometimes it's two steps forward and one step back. You have to appreciate the climb, and celebrate the small victories and minor improvements.

 As a team and coaching staff, you can't panic when things fall apart, but rather focus on solutions and improvements. It's easy to get angry and point fingers when we fail. Yet the best programs and coaches stay constructive with their criticism and approach, focusing on teachable moments and opportunities for growth rather than sulking and dwelling on what's broke. Things can get ugly and go downhill fast when adversity strikes.

The main thing I feel like we're missing right now is leadership. It's not just about one or two great players that we need to lead, but a culture of leadership that needs to be created. We need people to model what leadership is all about and to teach our athletes how to be great captains.

With all the amazing athletic success at Wisconsin in football, basketball and hockey, our athletes need to reach out to other top programs and ask the captains to share how they lead. It's interesting after being around teams in the past and coaching and playing, there's a toughness and savvy that we need. We need a few people who refuse to let the team or individuals be bad. For now, it's just our staff saying the tough things and holding people accountable.

What great teams have...

Great teams have a group of hard working athletes who love the game of softball, who are passionate about being extraordinary at what they do. Amazing teams are comprised of fearless individuals who know their strengths as an athlete and joyfully pursue improving their weaknesses, step by step.

Championship programs have a group who hold themselves to a higher standard, working to be great in all parts of their lives; academically, offensively, defensively and socially. There is accountability within great programs, where people aren't afraid to talk about what's missing and what needs to be done.

Most importantly, great programs achieve. The leaders will work, fight and prepare to guarantee effort and results. Leaders refuse to let their team walk in flat or scared. On their way to success, great teams grow by being fearless. They aren't afraid to fail. When they do stumble, they work through the difficulties, they embrace the journey, and all the while they fully believe in their talent, teammates, and inherent ability to succeed.

Mental toughness and confidence are the keys to achievement. Great teams and athletes have a sense of urgency. They passionately work to improve, grow, and minimize their deficiencies while remaining focused, cheerful and confident.

What would it take to truly believe that everything is going to work out, that things are meant to be good and you deserve to succeed? I don't know why some athletes truly believe that they are great, that their team is great and failures and setbacks are just bumps in the road along the path of achievement.

What's really important in this whole collegiate experience? What matters most as a take away from college athletics? Is it wins and losses and ERA and batting average? Or confidence, success and a deep belief that anything can be worked towards, built and attained?

When our athletes walk out the door in four years with an amazing degree from a nationally-ranked school, the most important asset they can take with them is an unshakable belief in themselves.

Athletics forges a sense of purpose and control over our lives. It is a microcosm of the world, where we all get to see and experience how hard-work, passion and dedication lead to success. Great things can be built from scratch.

Legacies and programs grow from the ground up, becoming something extraordinary and lasting, when a few passionate people dedicate themselves to improving as individuals and as a team. It is that group achievement that you'll never forget. Growing, leading, and lifting up those around you is life changing, its life affirming.

All great leaders care more about the relationships and group success over personal glory. There's an amazing satisfaction and pride that comes from making everyone around you better as you collectively achieve.

That lesson in leadership must come alive at Wisconsin. Legacies aren't easily built. They are hard-fought victories with a prize truly worth the years of dedication they take to grow.

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