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Believe in who you can become

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In today's Badger Blog, senior catcher Maggie Strange writes about a leadership presentation she attended, what she learned and how she can become a better leader. 

"I believe in who you can become." Brian Curtis

Four years after I began my journey as a Badger, I was given the opportunity to attend an event hosted by Brian Curtis.

Brian, a former soccer coach, writer and father, spoke to some of the student-athletes at the University of Wisconsin. The discussion started off with having to talk to a teammate for forty seconds and to compliment them, tell them positive things. 

Sounds easy right? Could you do it without using filler words, such as "um or like"?

Now, could you look a different teammate in the eyes and tell them two things they need to work on? Oh sure you could if you actually had time to sit down and think about it and really evaluate. 
The hardest thing to do as a teammate is to be positive; a great team has great communication. The impact of words that you use affects your coaches, your university and your team. 

Whether you are walking through an airport, down the street or even speaking to a professor, value what you say, what you wear and how you act. Keep your emotions under control. 

Brian presented us with some clips of coaches and players who let their emotions get the best of them, and yea, we all laughed and giggled about it, but Brian made sure we understood the reason that we were watching these. Emotion kills; it gets the best of you. 

One thing that our coaches really preach to our team is to be accountable, Brian said the same thing, be accountable for your emotions and your actions. Nothing is off record and everything you say, counts. 

"Do not underestimate the power of you voice, body or eyes." Brian Curtis

Be proud, sit up straight, look someone in the eyes when being spoken to, be honest. Think to yourself, did I lie today? The question that Brian asked us as a group, some raised their hands and said yes, but when asked what they lied about they couldn't answer. "You don't have to remember a lie." He said. Just be honest with yourself and who are you are talking to or it will come back to haunt you. 

As student athletes, we are placed on a pedestal. Our Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts are under a bird's eye view. Believe it or not what we post online not only reflect who we are but also is never removed from search engines, meaning coaches, employers and fans can see these things anytime they want. 

Brain gave us three rules to remember when posting things online. 

1. Would you stand in the middle of campus and scream it? 
2. Would you put it in an email to your mom and dad?
3. Would you want your future kids to read it?

He also led us through an exercise where he crumpled up a bunch of pieces of paper and threw them in a box that was taped on the floor. Two volunteers, one being myself and the other being a basketball player were then put to the test. We had to walk backwards through this minefield of paper, with people from our team leading us through it. 

As we have done in our softball practices with coach Schneider leading someone through an obstacle course with our eyes closed, I pinpointed Molly's voice and strictly listened to her through this course. The other team had many people yelling and telling my opponent where to step, etc. 

The purpose of this was to figure out whose voice matters. He mentioned that sometimes to be the best leader you have to be quiet. If you listen to too many people at once, its chaos. But, if you listen to just one person to get you through an obstacle, you will be better off. 

With this part of the presentation, he mentioned a few great leaders and coaches. Napoleon for example, would pull up a soldier and have him introduced to the platoon that was headed to war. This was simply to show his soldiers that he cared about them and therefore they would work harder. 

John Wooden was another example, he made his players practice putting their socks on correctly for two hours. 

The reason? To pay attention to the details, because the little things matter. 

You can be a quiet player and still have leadership potential. You just have to be trusted and able to trust, communicate and represent, be smart about your social media, and practice leadership exercises. 

Sometimes your best leaders aren't your best athletes. 

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.

Happy October!

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In today's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy talks about the fall, Badger Olympics and the hard work everyone is putting in on and off the field.

Happy October! The fall is flying by here in Madison. The trees are changing colors and we've already played six of our eight fall games. We're 6-0 so far, pitching one perfect game, and one no-hitter. Even with all 23 student-athletes on our squad earning playing time this fall, we're hitting almost .400 as a team. It's hard to believe that we only have two weeks left to practice. We've taken a creative approach with our team this fall. With eight new freshmen, our staff has placed a priority on leadership and competition. We're fostering leadership through team chalk-talks, weekly meetings, senior goals and constant communication. Our staff has really enjoyed getting to know each of our student-athletes better, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and coming up with individualized plans to help maximize each athlete's potential.

The most exciting part to witness this fall is the infusion of competition. Coach Schneider created a Badger Olympics program to reinforce that competitive spirit every day. It's been fun and insightful seeing the old and new players battle it out on the "tough mudder" obstacle course, push-up challenge, juggling, distance throw and speed tests. The intensity at practice has really improved with the addition of more softball challenge drills.

This spring season will certainly test our mental toughness as a program. After finishing the past two years with a 77 and 52 RPI, and back-to-back 30 win seasons, we're pleased to have the program moving in the right direction. Yet we'll have to make another leap this year to steal a few top 25 wins, contend for a Big Ten championship and compete in the NCAA tournament. We amped up our schedule to face more ranked teams earlier in the season. With ten weekends on the road this spring, we'll need every bit of leadership and competitive training to succeed.    

Wear the 'W' with pride

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Join sophomore Maria Van Abel as she talks about the first week of chalk talks in today's Badger Blog.

After a year of being a student-athlete at the University of Wisconsin under my belt, I was anxious to get back on campus. I was happy to spend a couple of months at home in Kaukauna with my family and friends, and then it was back to the beautiful city of Madison. We jumped right into things with our chalk talk meetings the first week of school and got a chance to look at and prepare for the year ahead. 

With a room full of excited teammates and friends who had been separated for what seemed like forever, coach Healy officially kicked of the new academic and athletic year. I believe it is so important to be reminded of the incredible opportunity that all of us student-athletes have here at Wisconsin, and our coaching staff does a great job of doing just that. Between the prestigious level of academics, quality of athletic facilities and staff, and the overall experience we obtain here, it would be difficult to undermine the opportunity we have all been blessed with. As coach Alvarez says, "wear the 'W' with pride." 

This brings us to one of the key points Coach Healy touched on- "appreciate what you are given and be passionate about what you do." As a team, appreciation and passion are necessary building blocks for reaching our goal of becoming a championship program. Of course, this can only come through hard work. This was the second of three things coach emphasized throughout the meeting. This combination of qualities can help any team develop and achieve success. 

The last of the three points coach reflected on happens to be one of the most focused on points in our program- "be a family." Leaving home and taking on the challenge of being a Divison I student-athlete is no easy task; however, with the relentless support given to each individual on our softball team by our coaching staff and faculty, the constant reinforcement of 'family' makes the transition one of ease. This family atmosphere creates something more than just a softball team that we will play on for four years; but more importantly, it is a constant and continual support system surrounding us during our time at Wisconsin. Between balancing academics, athletics, and everything else that college may throw at us, having a group of girls and coaches who genuinely care for one another makes this task achievable. 

The senior class also gave their presentation this same day which reiterated this concept. Each of the seven seniors spoke about different ways to use the all of the different resources we are given here at UW to be as successful as possible. Between academics, athletics, time management skills and ways to get involved, the seniors did a great job of making all of us aware of the resources and people that are available to help us through our years in Madison. It was a great way to start of the year, and we are excited to see what the year has in store for Badger softball!

Having a summer plan

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Join sophomore Marissa Mersch as she talks about her summer plan and how she improved her game in today's Badger Blog. 

Having a summer plan
By Marissa Mersch

It was a great first year playing Badger softball. I finished my freshman year playing for one of the most prestigious universities in the country. After my freshmen year I knew that I had to work hard in the off season and get myself ready after coming off one of the team's best seasons in school history. 

Everyone has an idea of what they hope their college career to be like, and for me, I knew I could do better after the results of my freshman year. Our team had such great team chemistry, although I knew that we could have done better after losing some close games against some of the best teams in the nation. We have one of the youngest teams in college softball and with hard work and commitment; we can be one of the elite forces to contend within Division I. 

Throughout last season the coaching staff really began to emphasize putting in extra time if you wanted to build a legacy program. With that being said, I started off my summer motivated to be the best softball player I can be through conditioning and working on my skills. I trained with a personal trainer four days a week near my home. I knew that would get me in the best shape of my life. I was not disappointed, as he kicked my butt and pushed me to the maximum at each and every training session. Some days consisted of straight cardio circuits such as hill runs with weights, treadmill and bike workouts and long runs around the town. Other days we concentrated on building muscle mass as we pushed it to the limit with power cleans and squats. I also knew that I needed to work on my hitting and fielding, so I concentrated on working out with the best and went to a hitting instructor who teaches some of the top division I softball players.

Throughout the summer I played in games with players who were home for the summer and were also working on being the best they could be. My former travel coach Bill Conroy (Beverly Bandits) put together a team this summer made up of his former players who are playing at the D1 level. We played competitive games that tested all of our skills. I also worked out at an outfield camp with Coach Megan Ciolli who was a tremendous All-American outfielder at the University of Notre Dame. Coach Ciolli taught me everything ranging from diving to proper outfield throwing mechanics. 

I am looking forward to my sophomore year and working with an amazing coaching staff and such a great group of young women. This summer I really began to understand why I fell in love with this game. It really hit me when I was working the little kids softball camp hosted at my high school. The little girls were so happy just to be there and run around the bases. That really began to bring back memories of good times I had and the life lessons I learned throughout the years. Having the opportunity to be a Badger, play at a Big Ten school and get an education at an outstanding university is what many dream of. 

With this opportunity I have been given, I realize that you cannot take it for granted and with each day you can become better. You will only see results when you take time to improve on your weaknesses and continue to build on your strengths. The combination of hard working teammates with winning attitudes and great coaches is a recipe for great things to happen this upcoming Badger season. 

A summer of hard work

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Join head coach Yvette Healy and senior Meghan McIntosh as the write about the upcoming season in today's Badger Blog. 

Welcome back to school Badger softball fans. We are so excited to see our team return to campus. School starts on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and move-in has officially begun. We're trying something new this season; we'll start the year off with a week of team meetings and chalk-talks focusing on mental toughness, leadership and competition. Each coach will make a few presentations to the team, and each class will put together presentations too.   

Leadership will be a critical component this season. We finished 2012 on the bubble for making the NCAA tournament, ranked in the top 50, and recording the most wins in school history. We challenged our team to come back in the best shape of their lives to prepare for a run at Wisconsin's first Big Ten softball championship.

This week, a few of our Wisconsin softball student-athletes will share their journey this summer. It takes a tremendous amount of motivation and hard work for each athlete to meet and exceed her potential. We have some extraordinary young women in our program, and we're thrilled to have them share their inspirational stories from summer break. - Coach Healy

Summer 2012
By Meghan McIntosh

At a young age I dreamed of making it to the College World Series. When the Badgers were not selected to play in the post season last May, reality set in. I begin to think to myself about my senior season being right around the corner and the time I had to make my dream come true was diminishing. 

I had one last summer to become the best athlete I could to help the 2013 Badger softball team make it to the post season. My coaches recommended a 140 mile running challenge over the summer in order for me to have the best endurance possible. I took up this challenge and am about 20 miles from completing it. Through this I gained physical and mental toughness in which I will carry on to the field. Along with this running challenge I also did the recommended lifting workouts to gain and maintain my strength. Being a pitcher, I put a prime focus on developing a stronger core.

A big motivation over the summer was to become the best at what I do. I spent multiple hours out in the bull pen perfecting my fastball, change up, screw ball and curve ball. While working on these pitches, I also worked extremely hard on adding a new pitch. In order to see my progress I was able to throw live to a local summer travel ball team. Not only did I spend time out on the mound I also practiced my fielding and hitting. I tried to improve on every aspect of my game so I can contribute to the Badgers' success this spring.

I took part in a 30-day challenge of trying to keep my heart rate down and not experience stress while taking part in something physically or mentally tough. Being a pitcher, I experience pressure every game. This helped me find ways not to become stressed and relax. 

I also learned more than I could imagine by teaching girls how to pitch over the summer. Teaching the fundamentals of pitching to these young girls was beneficial to my own pitching as well. I began to focus on crucial fundamentals such as wrist snap every time I would warm up to throw. This summer I began to realize that I was once one of these young girls dreaming of becoming a part of a college softball team. I am grateful that I had an opportunity this summer to help enrich the softball community in my hometown.

This summer was my last summer to leave everything on the field, in the weight room and on the track. It marked the start of the last preparation for my last college softball season. It may be my last softball season but it will be the first time this Badger softball family will be selected into the NCAA tournament. 

On Wisconsin! 

Hall of Fame week: Lee Kemp

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It is Hall of Fame week at the University of Wisconsin. Join UWBadgers.com as they look back at all of the deserving wrestlers in the UW Hall of Fame.  

If you were to come up with a list of the greatest UW wrestlers of all-time, Lee Kemp's name would almost certainly be near, if not at, the top of the list. 

Kemp, a member of the Hall of Fame's inaugural 1991 class, was a walking trophy case during his time at UW from 1975-78. Kemp was a three-time national champion at 158 lbs., winning the nation's top spot in 1976, 1977 and 1978, seasons in which Kemp went an astonishing 110-1-1. In those same years he was also a Big Ten champion and a Midlands Tournament champion. 

Kemp sits atop the Badger wrestling record book in three categories: single-season falls (18), career falls (47), and career winning percentage (.957). 

But Kemp's long list of accomplishments isn't limited to just his time on campus. No, the all-time US wrestling great moved on to leave his mark on the international stage as well. 

After graduating Kemp went on after to become a seven-time National Freestyle Wrestling champion -- a USWF champion from 1979-1983 and an AAU champion in 1979 and 1982. He also was a three-time World Freestyle Wrestling gold medalist and a one-time bronze medalist. Kemp, at the age of 21, was the youngest American to win world championships, the first American to win three world championships and the first American to win four World Cup titles. He also was a gold medalist at the Pan American Games in both 1979 and 1984 .

With all of his career accomplishments, it is no surprised that Kemp was inducted to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1989.


Ryan Evans
UW Athletic Communications

Catching up with Boo Gillette

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Join head coach Yvette Healy and Badger players Michelle Mueller and Cassandra Darrah as they write about former UW catcher Boo Gillette in this week's Badger Blog. 

Gillette was a member of the UW softball team from 2002-2005. A three-time All-Big Ten performer, Gillette was a member of the 2002 and 2005 squads that qualified for the NCAA tournament. Gillette played in 210 games for the Badgers, second-most all-time at UW, ranks second on the UW career record list with 299 at bats and is tied for third with 20 career home runs.  

This week for the blog, Michelle Mueller and Cassandra Darrah - both current UW softball players - had the opportunity to speak with former Badger Boo Gillette, who grew up at the ballpark and learned her shapes and numbers from scouting. As a three-time All-Big Ten softball player, Boo played an important role on the best team in school history with key wins over Arizona, UCLA, Oklahoma and other top ranked teams. 

Boo was known for having an enthusiastic spirit and more Badger pride than Bucky himself. We would find it interesting to see a competition between Bucky and Boo to find out who had the most spirit and pride. You would think Boo was a Wisconsin native with all of her Badger pride, but she hailed from Florida. So it was only fitting that we spoke to her now with school and softball rolling around the corner. - Coach Healy

Catching up with Boo Gillette
By Cassandra Darrah & Michelle Mueller
Boo obtained so much Badger pride by being an all or nothing type of person. Her goal while being a Badger player was to have the best four years of her life and to accomplish as much as she could with her team. For those of you that haven't been to Goodman Diamond, there is a small field beyond left field that was used for UW baseball. Being a catcher, Boo had a perfect view from home plate of the field and it helped her to realize that she was given the opportunity to play on an established field that players from the past never got the chance to experience. That contributed to her pride for UW because of the greater opportunity she was given with the newer facilities and how they were treated as student-athletes. The University of Wisconsin is one of the top college sports towns in the nation and Boo believed it was almost impossible to not have an overwhelming amount of pride for the school.
Along with Boo's feelings about Badger pride, she had great advice on how to be mentally tough. Her best advice was to be confident, not be afraid to fail, put yourself in pressure situations as much as possible, and be confident in yourself to be able to execute. She also believes that in order to be mentally tough you have to see yourself as the best and understand that with all the hard work you put in, you will be successful. She trusted in playing with confidence that the talent would follow through. Always being put in pressure situations in practice helped her develop more mental toughness. The softball atmosphere that Boo had while she was here was all about competition with each other and there were new challenges every day. Visualization was a key component to developing a tough mental attitude because she saw herself as the best hitter in pressure situations.
When speaking to Boo, it was clear she had always had a winning attitude and had the mentality that they would win. Growing up with four siblings, she was raised in a competitive atmosphere. Boo's biggest advice was to remember to have fun even if you are struggling and you need to go back to why you started playing in the first place. 

Obtaining a winning attitude during her softball career was not hard because 9/11 happened her freshman year and that brought everything into perspective and brought the team closer together. All of a sudden your batting average didn't have much meaning and helped them remember to cherish the time they have.

"If you have the courage to dream something you'll have the courage to go after it. It's not just a Wisconsin jersey; you're playing for everyone before you and after you. It is so much more than the team it's about the program as a whole. Whatever you do now is a stepping stone for the future. Make an identity for your team so you can look back and say we did this." -Boo Gillette

Achievements of the Year: Softball ties wins record with 34

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Over the course of two weeks, UW Athletics will look back on the Badgers' biggest accomplishments during the 2011-12 season.

Timely hitting, including a home run by Karla Powell, led the Wisconsin softball team to its first-ever win over Nebraska on May 11. The win snapped the Huskers' 16-game home win streak and earned the Badgers their 34th victory of the season, tying the UW school record set in 2000.

Wisconsin's 19 losses in 2012 were the fewest in school history and its .641 winning percentage was a program best.

The Badgers also set a new mark in the record books with their 12th Big Ten win of the season against Purdue on April 28, earning the most league wins in program history. Win No. 13 came against Nebraska, as the Badgers finished the year with a 13-10 record in league play.

The Badgers' success earned them a school-record-tying four student-athletes on All-Big Ten teams, including a pair of first team selections. Second baseman Whitney Massey earned a place on the NFCA All-Great Lake Region first team after finishing the season with a school record 22 doubles and a team-best .358 batting average.

Goodman ground breaking

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In today's blog, head coach Yvette Healy shares her speech from the Goodman Softball Training Center ground breaking on June 21, 2012.

They say true happiness in life comes from being a part of something bigger than yourself, from dedicating yourself to a greater cause and building a legacy that will extend beyond your years. Thank you to everyone in the Wisconsin softball family gathered here today to build not only a new indoor softball facility, but ultimately to build the Badger softball program into a national powerhouse.

What an honor it is to be here today with Randy Schneider and Tracie Adix of our coaching staff, and so many of our Wisconsin student-athletes to celebrate this groundbreaking

We want to extend a special thank you to EG Schramka and the Goodman Foundation for their lead gift and ongoing support of the Goodman softball complex and the new Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Softball Training Center. And to all of the softball alumni, family and friends who have donated their time and money to make this dream project possible.

Thank you to coach Alvarez, Terry Gawlik, Marija Pientka and all the senior staff in the UW Athletics department for their outstanding commitment to women's athletics.

People say it takes a village to raise child, or build a championship program, and after coaching the Badger softball team for the past two years, we know that's true. We are committed to growing Wisconsin softball into a nationally-ranked, NCAA tournament team that competes for a Big Ten championship each year, and a big part of that journey starts today.

We are extremely proud of the strides we've made as a program over the past two years, posting back-to-back 30 win seasons, tying a record for the most wins in school history and earning the most Big Ten wins in a season this year. Yet, we still have a lot of work to do. We know to take this program to the next level, it will take year-round commitment from our student-athletes, state of the art facilities and blue chip recruiting. The addition of the Goodman Softball Training Center will give us a new competitive advantage on all of these fronts.

I've always thought Goodman stadium had one of the most beautiful locations in the country. When you can combine a world-renowned academic degree with nationally ranked athletics, you have something special. The scenery of this beautiful lakefront view coupled with this new state of the state of the art indoor space will now make the of the Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Softball Training Center one of the premiere softball stadiums in the Big Ten and the country.

Thank you!