Intentionalism in the off-season

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In today's blog, head coach Yvette Healy talks about the importance of intentionalism in off-season work. 

After six weeks of fall practices and games, we're switching gears into our off-season. We were able to train with our student-athletes for 20 hours per week during the fall season. It was great getting to see our freshmen compete and see how our new faces fit in with our returning squad. 

With eight new freshmen, we spent a majority of our time identifying how each new athlete could fit into, and enhance, our current system. Unfortunately, a lot of our freshmen were injured. We had two serious concussions and a few knee and ankle problems that held a few kids back. 

Overall, we're pleased with the athletes we've added, they will certainly help us. We're even more excited about the strides that many of our returning players have made. We've seen some huge physical and athletic changes in our returners. Many have come back in great shape, after spending the summer enhancing their strengths and picking apart their weaknesses. 

We use the term "get-it" with our athletes a lot. Do they understand and value the opportunity in front of them? Are they passionately driven to succeed? Do they have a plan for success? Many student-athletes don't "get-it" right away. Some never get it until after they graduate. Our job as coaches is to expedite the "getting-it" process, so that our athletes mature and get motivated right from the start.

One key element that helps kids understand their role, and motivates them to work toward improvement, is our individual meetings. We just finished 23 individual meetings with our team this week, spending a half hour with each student-athlete reviewing how she did this fall and helping her prioritize what she needs to work on in the off-season. Communication is such a key component of success. We've had conversations with our athletes throughout the fall, pulling them into our offices if they needed guidance, direction, and wake-up calls. For most of them, the fall meetings were just an opportunity to share their insights, and make sure we're on the same page regarding what their roles are, and how to embrace those roles and become great at them.

The new buzz word of this fall has been INTENTIONALISM. If you showed up at any team meetings or practices, you probably heard the word INTENTIONALISM one hundred times. In athletics, we use the word intentionalism to make sure that we have quality practices. We challenge our athletes to know themselves and use each practice as an opportunity to get better at a specific skill. It's quality over quantity. It's practice with a purpose. We make sure they're not just punching a time clock and taking 50 mindless swings, but actually working to improve certain mechanical aspects of their swing with each cut. Intentionalism is the difference between just taking 100 ground balls or taking 100 ground balls and improving angle steps, short hops, back hands, footwork or glove work with each rep. The book "Talent is overrated" talks a lot of intentional practice for elite athletes.

Our staff has taken intentionalism to a different level. On a personal/motivational level, intentionalism helps us fight through the grind. We're entering "the grind" phase of the season. We'll lift and condition five days a week. We will spend a lot of time on the seemingly meaningless, detailed parts of the game. We'll put huge amounts of time and effort into the least glamorous parts of softball. Staying motivated and energized this time of year can be tough. We've challenged our team to be intentional with their workouts. Each time you sprint, it's not just about getting faster; it's an act of sacrifice for your team. Each time you study, it's not just about being smarter, it's a way to help the team achieve their goals by staying focused, staying eligible and eliminating distractions. Each extra cut off the tee if for the greater good of the team. It's about preparing yourself to help the team achieve their goals. This selflessness is noble, it's critical. We can serve our teammates and our university by putting in the extra time and effort to become the best athletes and students we can be. That is true leadership and appreciation in action.

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