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Hey fans!

It is with a huge smile and pure joy that I finally tell you, college basketball is officially upon us. This is undoubtedly my favorite time of the year. Basketball players all across the country are lacing up their new shoes, reuniting with jerseys that were in the equipment room for far too long, putting together brand new pre-game playlists and in our case, picking out the perfect headbands. We are breathing the air of fresh starts and endless possibilities that only comes with a new season. It really is a beautiful thing. Here's my first blog of the season!

For some of you, this is the first time you'll get to see your favorite team (the Badgers) showcase what they have been working on all summer and preseason, but for us, it is the ultimate test of preparation. There are two layers of prep in collegiate sports, think of them as a birthday cake.

The first and thickest layer is the actual cake itself. It is fluffy but sturdy and without it, any kind of celebration would simply not exist. The cake consists of conditioning, memorizing offenses and defenses, and perfecting your individual strength and durability to withstand the longevity that is a college basketball season.

The second layer, the icing, contains game prep. Layer one should have hopefully already been tended to by now. Don't worry, suicides, weekly lifts and film sessions are all great reminders. Thankfully, it is finally time for layer two. To me, this is the best part. I've always been an icing kind of gal.

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Game prep is different for every school and for every sport, but here's a little insight to how we like to do it at the Dub (short for the UW, if any of y'all were a little confused). We normally start prepping 2-3 days before game day. First, we watch video in the film room (don't forget to bring a pen y'all).

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Normally it's about a five-minute video, highlighting the five starters and any other significant player's from the opposing team. We look for player tendencies, favorite moves, team offense and defense, and try to get an overall feel for what type of team were dealing with. Next, we take it to the court.

At the beginning of practice, we walk through the opposing team's offense and defense, and most importantly what we plan on doing to disrupt them. Here's where the funky-looking zones, the trick plays and the secret hand signals come in. War calls are play calls, and defenses are changed faster than Nicole Bauman's pull up jumper (if you haven't seen it, just know it's pretty dang quick).

The scout is a plan of attack, and we really do need to know it like the back of our hand. Some wins are pure luck or catching a team on a bad shooting night, but most of them are meticulously planned and more importantly, perfectly executed. The idea is to expose the opponent's weaknesses while at the same time highlighting your own strengths. So if you ever notice a player repeatedly doing something really strange on the court, it's probably part of the plan or they're just really awkward, which is still a viable and probable option. So much of a team's success is rooted in preparation and we cut no corners. I could still tell y'all player tendencies, favorite moves, birthdays and family member's names from scouts during my freshman year. Just kidding, not the whole family!

Just to be safe, we tend to have an hour-long shoot around in the morning of game day to make sure everyone is on the same page. It's like the review session before the exam and it always ends with a half-court shot competition.

Remember Nicole's half court 3-pointer that forced overtime, made ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 and led to our win against Green Bay last year? Yeah, we practiced that too!

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After shoot around, we head to pre-game meal! Nothing puts a smile on this team's face like game day and free food. Actually the food doesn't even have to be free. It's pretty much just food in general. What can I say, we like to eat y'all!

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Before you know it, it's time to lace up our favorite pair of shoes and pull on our Badger jerseys. By the time any of y'all see us run out from the tunnel, our pony tails will be tight, our headbands will match and our jerseys will be tucked.

But don't be fooled friends. We have spent hours learning, dissecting and perfecting before the first ball is dribbled on game day. College athletics has already and will continue to teach me so many lessons than I ever thought I needed to know, but this week I am reminded of the importance of preparation. Nothing in this life or this game, will be given to us, and in order to take it, we must know how to take it. Come watch us take what we have earned on Thursday against Vanderbilt at the Kohl Center! Tipoff is at 4 p.m.

On Wisconsin!

-Shann

 

Badger Blog: Respect

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In this week's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy talks about respect.

I love the T-shirts I saw all over Yankee Stadium the night of his last game. Re2pect. What a cool word and logo. Yes I love things with your number on them. But more than the number, I love the word and what it means. 

Respect is such a powerful compliment. There's this deep understanding of the person, their plight and what they're all about when you use the word respect. You really have to know and value the individual and their journey, their obstacles, the adversity they deal with and their perseverance to use the word respect. 

There are so many people in my life that I respect. The ones that stand out are usually the trailblazers. The ones doing things that have never been done, like my mom, being the first in her family to go beyond grade-school education, advancing to earn her high school, college and master's degrees when no one else around her was doing that. 

I respect my Athletic Director at DePaul, Jean Lenti.  Before being named AD, she was a life-long senior women's administrator who loved her athletes, was humble, gracious, smart and firm. She wasn't afraid to care for you, connect with you and hold you accountable all while giving you a hug. My boss now, Terry Gawlik, is one of the most successful female administrators in our conference, and on the national scene. There aren't many women at her level in athletics, and she somehow manages to be smart, kind, proactive and fashionable. She leads by empowering, not micromanaging, and that I respect. 

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So when I think about our Wisconsin Softball team this season, the word respect has come to mind. Who do you respect and why? What is important to you, who are your role models? Who lives their life, both personally and professionally, that inspires you? I saw Jill, our team physical therapist, finding time to coach and mentor young girls in our community through Girls on the Run. Her passion for athletics isn't just a job. She wants to help our athletes succeed. Seeing our team volunteer, after watching them train and lift, run and practice, fills us with pride. 

I really don't know how strong we'll be this year, when I look at what we've lost and how we look on paper. I do know, that this group is special. We're filled with more selfless leaders like Megan Tancill, and fearless competitions like Ashley Van Zealand, and kids who are willing to put their heart into competing each and every day like Chloe Miller. I have respect for Taylor Paige Stewart working to get into med school while perfecting her curve and rise ball. Because this is a special group this will be a special year. This team is filled with trailblazers, if you just look around you, but the respect has to start with you. 

Hopefully you reach out to someone in the next few days, and tell them how they've inspired you. Share how their actions and accomplishments are significant.  When you see people overcome adversity, and achieve great things while being a great person, let them know. Be a storyteller.  

Finally, think about yourself. Do you respect who you are right now? How do you treat yourself? How do you train, what do you eat, how do you sleep? How do you let others treat you? You get one body in this world, you need it to run, lift, compete, play sports, train, learn, and maybe someday have kids and chase them around. That's pretty profound. Respect.

Catching up with Coach Healy

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In the first 17 years of Wisconsin softball, the team advanced to the NCAA post season 3 times, with a post season record of 1-6.  Over the last two seasons, we've advanced to the NCAA post season twice, with a 4-4 record.  We have a chance to do something special this year, and three-peat.  For the first time in program history, we could post "back-to-back-to-back" post season appearances.  Watching everyone work in the weight room this week, and showing up to get extra and coordinate live hitting this morning, I've never felt better about our chances to make history.

                It's true, we've graduated a lot of talent these last two seasons.  90 percent of our home runs, and wins in the circle have graduated.  Our experience, and our core contributors both offensively and defensively graduated in 2013 and 2014.  That being said, I've never seen a more selfless driven leadership team.  You are all a part of something very special.  This year will feel challenging, and overwhelming at times, but it's historic.  You have to grasp what an amazing opportunity is at hand.  The reason that most teams can't sustain success, is that when things get rough, and the stress from earning a degree from a top ten university builds, and the weather gets cold, and expectations rise, people fold.  The majority of athletes can't take a challenge this rigorous.  Most softball players would choose an easier path.  People don't want the hardest school, the most travel, the coldest weather, and the least legacy.  You could have chosen so many different options that would have been easier, but you didn't.  For some reason, you chose Wisconsin.

                Our staff knows, that path of least resistance rarely leads to true success or happiness.  Those who face adversity head on, and challenge themselves now, over these four years, will be more equipped to handle challenges and life for the next 40 years.  This degree that you are working for will change your life.  You are sacrificing now, to give yourself an advantage when it comes to graduate school, medical school, the competitive job market, and life.  Competing at the BCS level in sports, in the Big Ten, will provide you resources, connections, in-roads, and alumni that can help you get your foot in the door, anywhere in the country.  You are learning to manage stress, challenges, and adversity with composure and grace.

We really are so proud to coach this group.  Watching all of you this week, we could be a 40 win team, just based on your character, work-ethic, and drive.  This is going to be a fun group to chase history with.  The odds are stacked against us, and this could easily be a dip year.  On paper, we may be a 23 win team.  Yet, we believe, with your determination these next three weeks leading into Thanksgiving, we can make strides, climb past teams, and surprise the world along the way.

Happy Halloween!

-Wisconsin head coach Yvette Healy

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In this week's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy talks about the upcoming season.

t's been a special four years for the Wisconsin Softball program, going from a 177 RPI team, to back-to-back seasons, finishing ranked in the Top 25, and advancing to the NCAA Regional Championship game.  Yet we are still far from becoming a legacy program.

Our greatest challenge will be overcoming the loss of 5 starters from 2013, and four more, All-Region athletes in 2014.  When you graduate that much success, and experience, new talent must emerge within your program and from your incoming freshmen.  We will need new leaders to step in and take starring roles in our program.  With so much youth and inexperience, we'll need a tremendous amount of leadership, patience, discipline and hard-work.  Yet character and team-work really can overcome a majority of our deficits. 

The greatest asset that Wisconsin Softball 2015 holds, is our character.  This team is filled with truly inspirational young women who care about their teammates, and are driven to achieve. It will take a tremendous amount of buy-in, selflessness, and maturity to weather the storm.  Are you prepared to face the challenges of this leap year?  This is the point in history where most teams on our path experience a great slide.  It is at this point of perceived prosperity, when the times are actually toughest.  Just as experience and success are graduating, most programs are lulled into contentment and laziness.  When we think we're more than we are, we fail to truly see our team and ourselves for who we are, and frustration sets in.  With frustration comes a lack of motivation, turmoil, and dissension. 

This is a critical year in the growth of Wisconsin softball.  Climbs and improvements are never linear.  As we work to become a legacy, championship program, there will always be two steps forward, and one step back.  The question is, how big are the steps forward, and how small can we make the steps back?  As we grow, and climb and achieve, there will always be minor regressions along the.  When winning outpaces recruiting, your team is bottom heavy with inexperience, and trouble naturally arises. 

The good news is, our staff truly believes we can jump this learning curve and survive and even thrive this trap year, through character.  If this group can be the most collaborative, hard-working, selfless, and purpose-driven team in the history of Wisconsin Softball, we just might thrive.  It's the "Why and the what" that will count this season.  Why do you play, what are you playing for, why Wisconsin, what are you fighting for, what drives you, why now?     

 We are excited to enter this journey with you.  This will be your greatest test of character as student-athletes.  Your mental toughness, confidence and composure will be challenged every day.  If you focus on caring for each other, playing for each other, being great teammates, doing things the right way, being purpose-driven athletes, you may surprise every team in the country, and become one of the most memorable teams in Wisconsin Softball history.

ON WISCONSIN