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Wisconsin head coach Yvette Healy is excited to welcome back the Badgers back to Madison for the first week of classes and some team bonding events.
Welcome back to school! It's been an exciting opening week in Madison. Classes for our student-athletes, started on Wednesday, and the weather has been sunny and 80 all week. The softball team has been busy meeting with our administration, academic advising, athletic trainers, dean's office, and Badgers Give Back volunteer group. It's amazing how many staff members and resources are available to help our student-athletes succeed. It's always informative to hear what new facilities, projects and programs are available on campus, to help our students have an outstanding college experience at Wisconsin.
Our softball team took a trip out to University Ridge, Wisconsin's golf course, to see their new training facility, and meet with Badger Men's Golf Coach, Mike Burcin. Mike gave us a few pointers at the driving range, had a putting contest for the team, and shared some inspiration back in the new golf team room. We loved his "Champions Way" ideas.
- Know Your "Why"
- Eliminate Entitlement
- Give your all, all the time
- Do ordinary things, extraordinarily well
- Finish what you start
We are so fortunate to have so many amazing coaches and sports at UW. There are world-class programs all around us. Our softball team is inspired every day, as we watch badger volleyball drop their Big Ten Championship banner, basketball celebrate competing for the National Championship, hockey unveiling another Frozen Four trophy, and UW football preparing for opening weekend vs Alabama. Next week, we begin strength and conditioning, as we get one step closer to the first practice of the 2015-2016 Badger Softball season.
Hello everyone, my name is Kelsey Jenkins.
I have a very simple story. I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, for my first 18 years of life and now I have made my way over to the Midwest where I proudly attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am honored to be a sophomore on the Badgers softball team.
I know what most of you are thinking... Why on earth would I want to play ball in the cold Midwest when I live in the warm and delightful west coast area?
The answer is really quite simple. This wasn't my first time seeing snow, so I was most definitely not afraid to leave the warmth. What many people don't know is that I have dual citizenship. Yes that's right, I am a citizen of Canada as well as the United States.
Softball has always been a big part of my life and has brought me many opportunities beyond my wildest imagination. I have always had a dream as a little girl to play softball at the next level. I am currently living that dream as a Badger. But this summer I was invited to try out for the Canada Junior Women's softball team.
We just played in the Canadian Open Fast Pitch Future's Division and won the Gold! We are now preparing to face other junior national teams at the World Championships in Oklahoma City.
It is a great honor to wear the Maple Leaf across my chest. Fun fact about the Maple Leaf: My mom and both her sisters also wore the leaf across their chest. Not the same jersey because that would be a little old-- haha just kidding mom! But you guys get what I am saying. The Maple Leaf is a representation of Canada and is every Canadian's dream to wear, and I am proud to be the next generation to wear it.
It has been a great journey playing international ball; it's a whole new culture on the other side of the border. I am learning slowly and have great teammates and coaches to help me along the way. I am even learning how to speak French and learning all the words that us "Americans" say wrong!
One last note...
FEAR THE LEAF!
Your fellow Badger,
Coach Healy talks about the homestretch as the Badgers close out the regular season with a five-game homestand against Nebraska and Minnesota before traveling to Rutgers.
As we prepare for the
last 5 home games, we're about to face two of the toughest teams in the Big
Ten, with a three game series against Nebraska this weekend, and a Wednesday
double header against #10 Minnesota. Both teams are scoring more than seven
runs a game, on average, which ranks them in the top 20 in the country.
We've been battling the winter weather this spring, canceling a home double-header on Tuesday due to the wind chill. With all the challenges and adversity you face, after two record-breaking, back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, the end of the year is about energy, enthusiasm and momentum. We use the word momentum a lot in sports. Usually we talk about riding the momentum, or continuing it. Yet, one of the most challenging tasks in sports, is creating momentum, and that's what we're looking to do. That's the way we look at this five game stretch, it's an opportunity to play against two of the top teams in the country, learn from them, and create momentum by stealing a few wins.
Coach Schneider always jokes, that I use a lot Chicago quotes, and sayings. "Sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back, when you build a legacy program. Sometimes you have to go down, to go up. You have to take the bad with the good, and it's all part of the miracle." Those are the messages we've been sharing with our team this week. You don't get to pick and choose the parts you want to experience in life, you have to deal with it all. Life's not a cafeteria line. Every experience, every day, and every season is its own challenging, exciting, gut wrenching, and amazing experience.
Malcom Gladwell's "David and Goliath" argues that the key to happiness, pride, and accomplishment is to be "appropriately challenged". If something is far too hard, you're overwhelmed and paralyzed by the daunting task ahead. If it's too easy, there's no value, joy or accomplishment, it just becomes another easy day that means nothing. Yet those who have the ability to delay gratification, and work towards something great for more than a day, a week, a summer or a season, those are the people and teams that accomplish something truly great. The other book I love right now, "How Children Succeed", by Paul Tough, explains that grit and character are created in these challenging times. You just need a little maturity and perspective to work through the challenges, and stick with the process. Adversity is not something to avoid, but to embrace. Life is not mean to be easy. The challenge, and the lessons are part of the climb.
The student-athletes that gain perspective through adversity, walk away with a life-changing, life-transforming experience. Anything is possible. Big, giant, far away dreams and aspirations can come true, if you work hard enough, and long enough. You must refuse to be deterred, refuse to back down, or listen to the naysayers. There are plenty of people in the world who say it will never happen, that you're not good enough, it's impossible. We've seen the impossible happen here at Wisconsin. When you start with one first-team all-big ten kid in the history of the program, just a few all-region kids ever, one big ten tournament win, and one NCAA win, ever, you have a tall hill to climb. To turn those things into 10 all-big ten kids, a Big Ten tournament championship and MVP, seven all-region kids, four big ten tournament wins, back-to-back top four finishes in conference, and four NCAA tournament wins, impossible doesn't exist.
Great things can happen. They can happen right here, right now, this season, if you fight for it. How easily are you dissuaded? Are you already focused on next season? How quick are you to listen to voices around you, the voices in your head, and the numbers of what you've seen so far this year?
This is our job in life, to make ourselves, and those around us believe. That's what it said on our men's basketball shirts, "Make 'Em Believe". Make your teammates believe, make your parents believe, make the fans believe that anything can happen. Why not us? What if we all chose to turn it on at the end of the season, and caught fire? What if we gained a little moment and went on a run and won a few big games, anything could happen. If someone leaves the door open and we sneak into the Big Ten tournament, we'll make a run. If any team doesn't bring their best game, these last 8 big ten games, if we get a call, a bounce, a roll, look out. That spark will catch fire. When you've been working for it, and battling for it, and staying vigilant, believing it will happen, anything is possible. If we find ourselves with a chance to surge back and steal a game late against one do these great teams, look out. That's momentum. That spark just might catch fire if you win one. It's amazing how quickly one win could become five. Get ready for the synergy. If you can find a way to win just one, anything can happen. That's opportunity. That's momentum. That's what you play for.
I believe we have a spark. We have a secret weapon. We have a plan that will work. Taylor and Chloe, our returning All-Region kids, are going to go out there this weekend and have fun. They're going to strategize, buy in, make those touch calls and celebrate the small victories along the way as they take ownership of these games. Coach Dow and Mariah are going to put together a whole new look. They're going to bring the energy and harmony we saw in practice Wednesday, having fun and competing. Let's get excited about the home stretch. We'll plan, prepare and strategize, then turn it over to heart, grit, gut feelings and passion. If we're going to go out, we do it our way, together. We go down swinging, scratching and clawing, playing badger softball with passion.
Coach Healy talks about the team's fight through an emotional weekend a successful Softball 101 Clinic.
What a great weekend for softball in Madison. The stands were packed as we battled Iowa in a nearly four hour, marathon, rubber match, game on the Big Ten Network Sunday. Our staff was filled with pride watching our team battle and compete for 10 innings, in front of a huge crowd of more than a thousand fans through the weekend. We played some great softball. The defense was making plays, the pitching was on-point, and the hitters kept finding ways to pressure the defense and get on base all afternoon. Our local Wisconsin athletes carried our team this weekend, with Ashley Van Zeeland (Kaukauna, WI) and Megan Tancill (Madison, WI), both hitting over .500 for the series. Maria Van Abel (Kaukauna WI) hit nearly .400 with three runs scored, and had the walk off hit on Saturday.
Surprisingly, the best softball of the weekend came after the games. Our team was scheduled to host a kid's clinic at 5:30pm, on Sunday. Since it was after 7pm when we finished our heart-breaking extra-inning affair, we weren't sure if any kids would still hang around. The team grabbed a quick snack in the locker room, shook off all the emotion of the afternoon, and walked back on to the field to be greeted by nearly one hundred little future badgers and their parents. Seeing our student-athletes dig deep, and give their best energy and smiles to our young fans was amazing.
We've talked about grit and character all season. Sometimes the greatest grit and composure you can show, is to continue to be selfless, positive, and enthusiastic, no matter what the circumstance. It's such a life-lesson, to be able to leave work at the office, and give your best energy, and attention to the kids in your life, after a tough day. I've never seen such maturity and composure in a group, as I saw from our team last night, hosting a kids clinic, as the sun set, after an emotional weekend.
We host in-state rivals Wisconsin Green Bay this week, before traveling to Champaign for another exciting Big Ten Match up this weekend.
Wisconsin head coach Yvette Healy talks about the legacy of Wisconsin athletics and building programs into the successes that they are.
It's a great time to be a Badger. Our Wisconsin softball team had a blast cheering on Men's Basketball, in our Final Four and National Championship run. All of Madison has been wearing red throughout March Madness. In the five years our staff has been at Wisconsin, we've seen three Rose Bowl appearances by Football, two Final Four runs by Basketball, a National Championship and three Frozen Four appearances by Women's Hockey, and Big Ten titles brought home by Football, Basketball, Hockey, Volleyball, Soccer, Track and Cross Country. What a fun school to compete at!
The winning at Wisconsin, is easy to see, and it's fun to follow. Yet the path to success is so much tougher than people realize. So much of the success at this University has been built over time. Coaches like Barry Alvarez (football), Bo Ryan (basketball), Mark Johnson (women's hockey), Kelly Sheffield (volleyball) and Paula Wilkins (women's soccer), have built their programs up, creating championship environments. Volleyball went from failing to reach the NCAA's for a few seasons, to back-to-back Final Four appearances these last two seasons. Women's soccer climbed from the bottom of the conference to a Sweet 16 appearance in three years. These stories of creating legacy programs can be seen all over campus.
Our softball staff is so proud of the strides we've made these past four seasons. It's taken a lot of sweat, grit and strategy to go from back to back 15-40 seasons, to back-to-back NCAA Regional championship appearances and a Big Ten Championship. Yet the challenges don't end here. For our softball program, success is not a destination, it truly is a journey. Each season, each new class has to work, and earn every win that we achieve. Our goal is to create a legacy program. We want to become a softball team that competes for a Big Ten Championship, and makes a run in the NCAA's every year. Consistency is one of the greatest achievements a program can have. The first step towards greatness is accomplishing something amazing once. To have one great weekend, month, or season for a team or an individual is special. Yet the truly great teams and the really impressive athletes do great things every day. They bring confidence, composure, work-ethic and high level performance to the field every practice, every game, and every season. What a jump it is, to go from having a great day, or a great series, to being a consistent athlete, and a legacy team.
Right now, we're proud of our athletes when they have a few great games, or a great season. As we continue to chase history, and work towards becoming a legacy program, we're challenging our athletes to be "everyday" kids. To be great every day, and every season. The world loves Badge Basketball right now, for the National Championship appearance against Duke, and the Final Four win over Kentucky, but our staff is most impressed with their 16 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, and the fact that Bo's teams have finished 4th or higher in a powerhouse Big Ten conference every year that he's been here.
Consistency, Legacy, Pride. This season is just another step along the path to becoming a championship program. We're 3-2 at home right now, excited to play another five games in Madison this week.
Coach Healy talks about how meaningful opening day is and how playing in front of a home crowd brings out some sparks in certain players.
Change. It's never easy, it's never comfortable, and usually it's forced upon you. In the case of Badger Softball, change can't come soon enough. There are all those great leadership books, like "Who Moved my Cheese", that praise those who anticipate. They commend the savvy leader who stays one step ahead of the curve, who's ready to tie up her running shoes and look for new avenues toward success, before life even throws her a curve ball or takes an unexpected turn.
The Badgers softball team has one goal this weekend, beat Penn State. For some on our team, they'd like to pitch better, others want to score more runs, others are focusing on top-notch defense. Yet at the end of the day, the goal is to score one more run than Penn State in each game we play. With a doubleheader Friday, and the series finale Saturday, our softball team is focused on capturing a conference series win, then joining together to cheer on our men's basketball team Saturday night in the Final Four!
In order to get there, change needs to be in the air. New month, first home games, fresh start. Each year there are always a group of kids that blow it up at home. It's a really interesting thing to study as coaches. Who plays great softball at home? We've had a group of pitchers over the years who throw their best games at Goodman Diamond. There are hitters, for one reason or another, who hit 100 points higher and slug 200 points more when we play at home.
They say home is where the heart is. We're about to find out who those passionate, "hot home" kids are. Lucky for us, we have a lot of Wisconsin talent on the field. We've never had more hometown heroes playing in our program, than right now. We certainly need that Wisconsin pride. This weekend, we'll have three outstanding Wisconsin walk-on's, who've worked their way into becoming scholarship starters, in our opening line up. We'll have two local girls from Chicago in the outfield and we'll have a Midwest Iowa athlete behind the plate. When 6 of your 9 starters live just a few hours from Madison, you know they'll be supported at home. Friends and family, high school and summer ball coaches, parents, grandparents, siblings and former teammates from Kaukauna High School, Edgewood, Downers Grove South, Andrew and Pleasant Valley, IA, all want to see their hometown heroes compete on the Big Ten Stage.
Seventeen of our next 20 games are at home. That's a heck of home-stand. When you're one of the last teams in the country to play at home, and your first 31 games have been on the road, all across the country, you'll take every edge and nudge you can, to get back on track, and get things rolling.
Happy opening day!
Below is the team chalk talk from Sunday morning,
before the Badgers' last game at Purdue. Coach Healy talks about playing the game with passion and embracing the challenges they have faced this season.
Our opening Big Ten weekend was certainly challenging. We didn't pitch, hit or defend well. We're almost 30 games into the season, and we still have one more road series at Northwestern, before we have our first home game. Our goal right now, is to focus on the process. We're working as a staff, to continue to teach, focus on effort, improvement, execution and approach.
These hard times have so much to teach. They have so much to teach about our approach, our thoughts, our minds and our actions. When things get tough, as they are right now, how do you get from here to there? When life isn't what you want it be, are you action oriented? What goes through your head? Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? Are you moving forward or moving backwards? Do your thoughts help you or hinder you?
I saw a great quote, and TedTalk that said, "Fear of failure means you're not focused on the task at hand". You're more worried about what could go wrong than how to execute what you're doing.
I'm sure this isn't a news flash, life is hard. You're going to face adversity. The sad part is, the adversity you'll see in life moving forward is 10 times harder than this adversity in sports. You'll have to deal with losing a parent, a sick sibling, kids and drama, mortgages, saving for college, cooking and cleaning. That's real life, that's stress. This isn't stressful, it's just playing the game you love. It's not life or death, it's softball, It's not heart surgery, don't make it more than it is. You have prepared, you've worked hard, go out there and play the game with passion.
Before we can think about playing like champions, you first have to think like a champion. Champions are in the moment. They are focused. Are you focused or distracted? Are you thinking about this inning, this pitch, this at bat, this ground ball, or are you carrying with you all the feelings and emotions of what's gone wrong? Defeatist thoughts are a pity party. What's going through your head? "I should be better, our team should be better, no one's nice, no one likes me, coach doesn't believe in me, here we go again, this kid's unreal, I'll never hit her, she's owned me. I wish we were better, I can't believe how cold it is, I can't believe it's going to snow, why did I come here, maybe I made a wrong choice, I miss my friends, I miss my family, I want to go home."
How is that going to help? We know when you're thinking it. We know when you're distracted.
Or, are you in the moment? Are you gritty? Can no obstacle bring you down or make you lose focus? How is grit made? You have to earn it. You have to go through it. You really have to experience the down to feel the up. You have to know bad to really appreciate and relish good. There needs to be some death, for you to truly understand life. That's the truth. You earn your grit. And here's a chance.
Sometimes you have to go down, to go up. Let's embrace the challenge, and relish the climb.
Let's get better.
We're so fortunate at the University of Wisconsin, to have an Athletics Director who has coached. Coach Alvarez not only understands how to run a highly successful athletics department, but he's been in the coaching trenches. With his big Outback Bowl comeback win in January, he actually just climbed out of the trenches once again. Coach knows what it's like to build a program from the ground up, to transform the culture, and to create a winning legacy. It's never a straight climb, and the journey is never easy. After two challenging weekends on the road, we invited Coach Alvarez to practice, to share a few insights into becoming a legacy program. The bottom line, Coach talked about the importance of getting better every day.
We have a bye this weekend, and it couldn't come at a better time. We're 5-6 right now, after coming home with four wins from a weekend in Texas. Yet with a young squad like we have, it's all about progress. We're seeing a few bright moments, with freshman pitcher Mariah Watts earning her first victory, and junior pitcher, Taylor Stewart racking up two wins, but all-in-all, we have a lot of work to do. Our focus this week has been on getting our heads in the right place, getting back to fundamentals, and just working hard. We've talked all year about, "What are you Fighting For?" The interesting thing is, when you struggle and lose a few games, fight is the first thing that starts to fade. Before you ever drop a game, you lose a little bit of fight in your preparation, you lose some fight in your response to adversity, and you forget how to fight when it comes to putting in extra work, getting extra sprints, watching your film and meeting with your coaches.
"What are you Fighting For/WRUF4", is about being passionate about earning something together. Before the season began, most of the team talked about fighting for the Badgers, fighting for the state of Wisconsin, fighting to create a legacy. The interesting thing about fighting, is that it never happens. People rarely fight. People avoid confrontation. We read a great article as a team from Psychology Today magazine, called, "Beyond Happiness". The author suggests that anger isn't a negative emotion, it actually fuels change, and prompts people to stand up for the life they deserve.
The absence of fighting does not equal a healthy environment. We all know families, marriages, relationships and friendships where people never fight, those aren't always the healthiest environments. The opposite of love isn't hate, its indifference. That, is the greatest problem of all. Apathy, and not really caring what happens, and not really feeling motivated to do anything or change anything is the greatest failure of all.
What we are looking for right now, is a little bit of true passion. We want people to be angry, to have an emotional response, and to fight to get better. If you just ignore a problem, it's not solved, it's just lying under the surface. If you are okay with being a below .500 team, just ignore what's not working and smile and keep doing what you're doing. If you refuse to lose, and you refuse to be the athlete, or team that we are right now, let's get angry about it. Let's get a little fire, and feel the urgency. It's not an option to just go through motions, and show up. FIGHT!
It was a short turnaround after opening weekend at Arizona State. We're back on the road, traveling Wednesday, to play six games this weekend in Texas. I think everyone on the team is anxious to get back out on the field. Opening weekend was tough, as we faced a full weekend of very talented teams. We were happy to see freshman pitcher Annie Davis, get her first collegiate win in front of her hometown Arizona Crowd. She pitched a beautiful shutout against Virginia, showing a lot of composure and maturity in the circle. Freshman walk-on Brianna Flugaur had her first collegiate hit and run scored against Oregon on Sunday, which was fun to witness.
Beyond the excitement of great weather, and all the key learnings that come from getting outdoors for the first time, the highlight of weekend was definitely our team dinner at Wisconsin Alumni and donors, Steve and Marsh Bennett. Below is the thank you note we sent to the Bennett's. What an unforgettable experience for our student-athletes.Steve and Marsha,
Thank you so much for your generosity and hospitality, hosting the Wisconsin Softball team at your house. It was such a treat to see Scottsdale, and the mountains. These early trips are so much about team unity and bonding. Your home was the perfect setting for a team meal.
The girls were so impressed with your home, your inspirational success story and your Wisconsin athletics family legacy. Yet the most inspirational part of the night was having you share your story of stewardship. Everyone loves hearing how you went from a Wisconsin baseball walk-on to Hall of Fame athlete and CEO. Still, your vision and generosity for the Wisconsin Student-Athlete Performance Center is what touched their hearts.
When I think about what three things I accomplished opening weekend, bringing the softball team to your house is at the top of my list. You helped open their eyes to a world of possibility, of what amazing things they can achieve with their Wisconsin student-athlete experience.
Thank you again for your generosity and kindness!