Broken windows

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In today's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy talks about the broken window theory and fixing the broken windows on the team and in life. 

Our staff had a great discussion yesterday about the broken window theory. Actually we've been meeting with our players all week, seeking out problems and issues that have gone unsolved or unnoticed in the program up until this point. They say winning washes over a lot of problems. The only difficulty with that maximum is that nothing is being solved. An unaddressed issue doesn't disappear just because you're not forced to look at it.

One of our student-athletes left her notebook in our office after visiting yesterday. The page was flipped open to the broken window theory. The broken window theory states that in neighborhoods or communities where broken windows go unfixed, there is a higher incidence of crime and littering than in the same community where a similar broken window on a house or building gets repaired. Thus a seemingly insignificant act of fixing and maintaining a broken part has bigger implications on the psyche of the community and the choices others make.

I'm sure the broken window theory was not written to reflect culture in sport, team chemistry or personal discipline, yet our staff couldn't help but to apply this theory to our team. How many times does each of us choose to overlook small problems for the sake of not rocking the boat? How often do we let little broken windows in our lives go unfixed due to lack of time, or the seeming insignificance of the problem? Have we really taken the time to study and understand the implications of our actions, and sometimes more importantly, our inaction?

The two words that come to mind -- when I think of the broken window theory -- are neglect and vigilance. Those words are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Neglect is most closely associated with what we fail to do, the action that we choose not to take, failing our responsibility to guard and protect.  Neglect often comes when we're oblivious to problems or issues, failing to take action where needed. Conversely, vigilance is often associated with an alert and watchful eye, seeking to solve potential problems before they arise. 

Our staff has worked hard to create a positive, competitive atmosphere that encourages hard work, passion and effort. Once you've created that environment, it becomes even harder to maintain and protect that culture. Yet how often do the broken windows in our programs and on our teams go unnoticed or unfixed? 

From a cultural standpoint, small issues and problems that go unaddressed and unresolved send a message to the community. If we choose not to fix broken windows in our lives and within our team, what does that say about our values and culture?  We may be creating an environment that perpetuates laziness, bad attitudes and poor mental approaches, not by our action, but rather our inaction. When we neglect our responsibility as coaches to care for our environment and protect the culture on our team, it makes it easier for those around us to neglect responsibility and fail to take appropriate action. 

Hopefully we addressed a few problems and fixed a few broken windows this week, as we prepare for two very difficult series on the road at Minnesota and Nebraska. It's never easy to face Top-20 and Top-30 teams on the road, especially in the middle of the season. Hopefully the team's hard-work, preparation and vigilance pays off during this challenging stretch. 

Yvette Healy
University of Wisconsin Softball

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