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Hey friends!

 Sadly, I'm writing this post while wearing my dad's old sweatshirt, which means the trip to the Bahamas is over and we are back in the frozen tundra.

Last week was nothing short of unforgettable and we returned with tanner skin, full bellies and thankful hearts. I have to admit that spending Thanksgiving on an island threw me off. I had to keep reminding myself that it was thanksgiving, normally by telling every American that walked by "Happy Thanksgiving!" It was a jam packed trip with activities, experiences, and sites we will never forget.

Since there were so many neat things to do and see, I decided to make a video of everything I documented. It seemed much more efficient, and honestly it gave me a reason to use iMovie. But before you watch the movie, here are a few things we are thankful for this Thanksgiving:

--Our amazing families that give us never-ending support, especially the ones who made the trip to the Bahamas with us. We love y'all more than you know (even when we don't show it)

--Our coaches and teammates that keep us laughing everyday

--The kind and gracious Bahamian people who let us use their gyms and schools for our games

--Coffee, because while getting up at 6 a.m. to watch the sunrise every day was beautiful, it was also exhausting

--Paddle boards, because they provided Wednesday afternoon's entertainment (well actually it was Malayna, Cayla and my horrible attempts to paddle board that really got the people going)

--The hilarious and kind dolphin trainers who let us meet, hang out and even kiss some of God's most beautiful creations (and our guy Buddy, for letting us act like fools on his boat)

--Last but most certainly not least, Teddy, our joyful, serenading tour guide/bus driver

And without further ado, I give y'all a Badger Thanksgiving!

Love, Shannon

Badger Thanksgiving

Below is a letter sent to the team from the coaching staff this week:
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving this week.  When we think about what we're most grateful for, working with all of you every day, and coaching at Wisconsin is pretty high up.  Of course we love our families, spouses, and kids, but it's an amazing thing in life to have a vocation.  When you're lucky enough to have a job that you truly enjoy, it's special.  If you're passionate about what you do, who you get to help and inspire, and how you can use your gifts and talents to make others' lives a little better, it's easy to get up in the morning. 
As you're all working on your degrees and studying for finals, I hope you're fighting to create a life that makes you and those around you happy.  I hope you're studying and sacrificing now, so that you can spend your days doing something that you love, being good at it, and helping people along the way.  It's a privilege to work here at UW Madison.  It's fun teaching a game that has opened so many doors for us, and created so many memories and stories in our lives.
Coach Schneider, Coach Dow, and I, have all enjoyed working out with you this fall, watching you push yourselves in the weight room, in conditioning, on the field and in the classroom.  Even if the treadmill sprints, lunges and abs make us want to throw up, we're proud watching all of you dominate the workouts!  We're looking forward to watching all of you maximize your talent this year, as you grow as young people, and learn to lead. 
Thank you for taking a leap of faith and joining the Badger Softball Family.  I know it's not always easy, but you're working to do something special and become something special.  Right now, playing softball is your vocation, being a student-athlete is your calling.  I hope it brings you a great deal of pride to tell people you're a Wisconsin student-athlete, representing the Big Ten!
Gobble Gobble

Hello friends!

I'm currently typing on the bus as we're headed to Drake, which means one thing - sweet, sweet season is in full swing.

This is the time of the year to iron out our kinks as a team on the court and more importantly, to improve. I remember during my freshman year, this was the time everything started to sink in. This is when I started to feel like a real college athlete.

Season is in full swing and school work starts throwing better curveballs than Sandy Koufax. Oh, plus there is a very good chance we are traveling all weekend. Let me tell y'all, it is no joke.

So, this week I sat down with our freshmen, Roichelle Marble and Cayla McMorris, to see how they were handling college athletics.

The other day I walked into the NJP (our practice gym) and was facing the opposite direction of the door. All of a sudden I heard Coach Bobbie yell "Oh, there's Trouble 1 and Trouble 2!" I didn't have to turn around to know who she was talking about.

It is an extremely rare occasion to spot Roichelle without Cayla and vice versa. They are more attached at the hip than Michala and Malayna, which is ironic because Michala and Malayna are actual sisters. Needless to say, if I ever see one, I know the other is not far behind. So far, the only place Cayla can go without Roichelle is the court. Having torn her Achilles in the summer, Roichelle is still not released to play yet but that hasn't stopped her from experiencing all that college has to offer. 

When I asked Roichelle how she would sum up college as a whole so far, she replied as only Roichelle could. "It's definitely very different than what I'm used to, especially the walking. I've never had to walk to class before. My classes are just really spread out across campus"

If any of you have visited UW, I'm sure you can relate. I promise this isn't a freshman just being a freshman, this campus is huge, y'all and unfortunately, getting to class isn't the hardest part.

This university prides itself on its curriculum and the type of students it admits. Sometimes getting a paper turned in on time means we don't sleep one night, but hey, that's the price we pay! We all have to learn to adjust.

Roichelle says so far the hardest part for her has been "the classes and "how the teachers aren't as guiding. In high school, the teacher explains what is expected. In college, you're just in a lecture and he talks, and you have to take notes and in a few weeks you have a paper due on what he said."

I know for a fact that I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast most days, so you can imagine how difficult it can be for us to recall what our professors said three weeks ago.

On a lighter note, I asked Roichelle what the easiest part of college has been. She paused to ponder, sighed, looked me dead in the face and said "There's really no easy part about it."

I immediately laughed because although I have only spent a few months with Roichelle, I still know a few very solid attributes about her - she can nap ANYWHERE (and I mean anywhere y'all, as a fellow napper myself, I am often quite impressed) and also, every word that comes out of her mouth is exactly what she is thinking. It is funny, honest, and real. And for that, we love her.

Roichelle says for now she is focused on fully rehabbing her Achilles and is working toward a 3.0 GPA for her freshman year. As all freshman eventually do, she has learned the "do not procrastinate" lesson. 

I would say that means she's already half way to that goal. Her situation is a little different due to her injury, but for now she says her role is to "encourage everyone". If what I have observed already continues, I have no doubt 'Trouble 1' will not only achieve, but surpass all of her freshman year goals.

As for having to watch 'Trouble 2' play everyday while she has to sit, Roichelle says "I'm happy for Cayla! She's my friend and I want her to do well."

Personally, I'm very happy I get another year to play with this girl. She is goofy and quick to give her opinion, but she is a hard worker, a great teammate, and she is going to do amazing things in a Badger jersey.

If any of y'all watched the Vanderbilt game or looked at a stat sheet, you can tell Cayla McMorris is adjusting quite well on the court. Our little diaper dandy finished with 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in just 18 minutes.

 

When we sat down, she mentioned the college style of play made her a little nervous. "The bigger girls, and how strong they are" was the biggest difference college basketball has shown her so far.

She already has the speed and skills that college basketball demands, which gave her a huge advantage coming to Madison, but it is rare for a freshman to have the strength required to compete.

That's what the summer before our freshman year is for. She agrees all of those early mornings will be worth it "to win a Big Ten tournament and to get to the NCAA tournament."

But the reigning Minnesota AAA state champion doesn't want to stop there, with dreams of earning first-team All-Big Ten honors one day. I would have to say she is on the right track.

If there was a Ms. Popular award in college, she would probably be on the right track for that too.

I had a hunch about what she would say the easiest adjustment to college was. "Meeting new people, it's easy to get to know other athletes, because we spend so much time in the same places." Needless to say, I wasn't surprised.

If you've ever had a conversation with Cayla, then you've probably heard her laugh, or make some joke (probably about you). If you've ever seen her play, then you should be excited for the future of Badger women's basketball.

Our squad returns quite a few veterans this year, but Cayla's age hasn't proved to be the slightest of a problem on the court. In fact, she says its "helpful because it brings maturity to the team, and I look up to them. It means I have to step up. I know the bar is set at a high level."

There aren't many of them, but our freshman are more than ready and able to take on the responsibilities of college basketball. Both of these players described being a Badger as a blessing and I could not agree more. College is a journey, but college basketball is a journey for the tough, the disciplined, and the talented future. If I were y'all, I would get your season tickets now.

Catch y'all next week!

Oh and Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble Gobble

-Shannon Malone

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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