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With the season underway, Wisconsin softball head coach Yvette Healy talks about what the team is focusing on in the bye week and how the team must use some fight moving forward. 

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!

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Badger Blog with Coach Healy

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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! 

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With the start of the season on the close horizon, Wisconsin softball head coach Yvette Healy talks about the team's core values and how they will drive the team to success in the upcoming season. 

This is certainly going to be a new year for Badger Softball.  Looking ahead, we have seven games against teams ranked in the pre-season top 25, and almost 20 games against 2014 NCAA tournament teams.  We have two short weeks until we open up at Arizona State, facing off against University of California Northridge, Utah Valley and Virginia, before closing out to the weekend against Pac-12 rivals Oregon State and No. 2 Oregon. 

The past two seasons have been so special, posting back-to-back NCAA Regional Championship game appearances,  and finishing ranked in the top 25.  We graduated four All-Region seniors, who each contributed so much to our recent success.  As we work to help our newest leaders emerge, our focus has been on competing with character.  Our weekly chalk talks this fall featured how we can approach this challenge with passion and integrity. 

Wisconsin Softball 2015 -Core Values

1.     Gritty

2.     Selfless

3.     Driven

4.     Dynamic

In the Wisconsin Softball Family, we strive for our thoughts and actions to reflect our program's core values.  When a student-athlete embodies the core values of the program, she will be successful.  In order to maximize potential and reach optimal performance, fit is key.  When coaches, student-athletes, and support staff are aligned with the program's core values, synergy is created; athletes are connected, supported, and ready to learn, coaches are engaged, empowered and motivated to teach.  If we can put our core values into action this season, our greatest challenges will simply become opportunities to work together, grow and achieve together.

Wisconsin Softball Core Values in Action:

In order to understand and connect with our core values, it is important that our thoughts, preparation and actions connect back to what we value most.  When our words and deeds reflect our core values, we are in sync with our inner purpose and mission.  We are then aligned with who we are, what we value, what we're fighting for, and the significance we're searching for.

  1. Gritty

No amount of adversity, loss, setback, or failure seems permanent.  We are in charge of our own success and destiny.  When we have bad at-bats, bad innings, bad games, and even bad seasons, we know that we can work to overcome these challenges.  At the core, we know that life is good, and we are fortunate and talented.  We continue to connect with our teammates, communicate with our coaches, utilize our resources and work hard on our own to become better than the day before.  The path may be rocky at times, but our vision is clear, and our goals are worthy.  We are changing the culture of Wisconsin softball, bringing respect to our state and university, proving that a warm-weather sport can thrive in a cold-weather state. Confidence and composure are key elements of grit.  Our outstanding work-ethic, sacrifice, and preparation allows us to be optimistic and successful.

  1. Selfless

The selfless Wisconsin softball athletes always values the success of the program and team over personal glory.  She finds joy and gratification in the success of the team.  She embraces her role, and feels her contribution is crucial.  She works to do more, give more, and make the program better than when she arrived.  Selfless teammates care about each other's accomplishments.  They work to make their teammates look better on and off the field, backing up plays to save errors, being loyal in times of crisis,  giving full effort, diving for free outs to support the pitchers, minimizing personal drama and distraction.  Selfless teammates hustle, are engaged and play hard each time they step on their field.  They respect their coaches and teammates time, and are always engaged, enthusiastic, trustworthy.  Wisconsin softball student-athletes know that everyone has her own challenges and struggles, her goal is to make those around her better, and make people smile.  She wants to make the team better, improve the culture, and give back to her coaches, athletics department and university.

  1. Driven

Wisconsin softball student-athletes are driven, over-achievers.  They understand that creating momentum and legacy is far more challenging than walking into a program with proven success.  She embraces being an underdog, and wants to put her stamp on Wisconsin Softball.  She has come to Madison to break records, create a championship legacy, and achieve things that no team in the history of Wisconsin softball ever has.  In all parts of her life, she strives for success, overcoming odds and obstacles.  She over-achieves by always finding a way to succeed despite lacking a map for success, benchmarks or mentors.  A lack of All-Americans, blue-chip recruits, or post-season runs, is never an excuse for mediocrity.  These trailblazers take pride in being the first to achieve great things in sports and life. 

Wisconsin softball is about more than winning and losing.  Well-rounded athletes know that happiness and optimal performance go hand-in-hand.  In order to achieve true greatness in life, it's never just about personal glory.  Driven, well-rounded student-athletes value a renaissance experience.  They want to be great at many things, from academics, athletics, and community service to relationships.  Our well-rounded athletes have maturity, perspective and purpose.  When we know life is about more than softball, we can truly enjoy the time we spend training and perfecting the gifts and talents we've been given.

  1. Dynamic

Wisconsin softball athletes are exciting, driven, and full of vitality.  They are well-spoken, endearing, dynamic young women who find ways to achieve great things in life.  Wisconsin softball athletes are passionate about their opportunity to be a Badger, and earn a University of Wisconsin degree.  She loves competing at one of the most challenging academic and athletic institutions in the country.  She is driven to achieve great things, and excited to take on new challenges.  Her energy and optimism is obvious, in the way she approaches learning, training, academics and competition.  She is fiercely loyal to her teammates, coaches, and the athletics department.  She understands how special and finite this opportunity is.  Every season, every game, every inning, out, at-bat, and pitch matters.  Her hustle and enthusiasm let others know how much she cares about her teammates, Wisconsin Softball, and this opportunity.

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

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.

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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.

Badger Blog: Back home in Madison

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In this week's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy discusses the Badgers tough schedule and their first home series of the 2014 season.

It's opening weekend in Madison! It's exciting to be home in Wisconsin, after playing on the road six of the last seven weekends.  We've been to Texas, California, Tampa, Miami, Louisville, and Chicago.  We're 15-12 right now, with big ranked wins over #8 Arizona and #23 Northwestern.   

This season has been filled with adversity, facing the toughest schedule in school history.  We've played #4 Florida twice, #17 Texas A&M twice, #5 Washington, #11 Arizona State, #8 Arizona, and #23 Northwestern three times. We still have eight ranked games ahead against #6 Michigan, #15 Minnesota, and #19 Nebraska.  At least two of our games against ranked opponents will be at home, when we host #19 Nebraska here on April 30th.

We'll face off against a tough Iowa team this weekend, as we get into the heart of Big Ten play.  Being from the Midwest, it's easy to appreciate how special Big Ten softball is.  What an amazing conference; great academics, great facilities and exciting rivalries.  It's an honor to play legacy programs like Iowa, with their 16 NCAA tournament appearances, 4 trips to the Women's College World Series, and 31 NCAA tournament wins.  Iowa is the type of successful, legacy softball program that we're working to build here at Wisconsin.  They have so much history when they step on the field, with 27 All-Americans. 

We know playing opponents like this is never easy.  Iowa has competed in Madison 8 times, and they've only lost one series.   The Hawkeyes are 12-3 all-time here at Wisconsin, which is an 80 percent win percentage.  Our goal is to start evening those numbers out.  We're working to make strides, to improve and to grow.  One game at a time, we're making progress, we're changing history, and we're building success.  It's a tough task to change history, but this senior class is certainly up for the challenge.      

Badger Blog: Resilience is the recipe for future success

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In this week's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy explores the opportunity her team has to bounce back from a tough start to the season and make a statement in the days and weeks to come.

Resilience:

This is a core skill we all wish we had more of. It's important to sports, and critical to life. Can you bounce back from failure? Can you overcome adversity? Do you have the ability to persevere when things get tough? If you really want to train resilience, you need failure.

Congratulations Badger softball, we have an amazing opportunity to train resilience this week. We're 4-5 so far this season, after a tough 2-3 performance in Miami. The question is, where do we go from here? It's so easy to get emotional, and make excuses when we fail. You can ignore the problem and hope it will go away, or face the issues head on. Sometimes it takes a little failure and adversity early on to remind everyone how hard this journey really is. If we could cruise for one moment, one game, or one tournament, then every goal and accomplishment in May wouldn't be nearly as gratifying.

Even after a good season last year, it's so important for every player in the program to understand how much work it takes to be consistently good each and every day. Consistent performance is path, not a destination. Great players find a way to bring energy, enthusiasm and focus every day. College athletes have to work for consistency, every day, every game and every season to continue to grow.

This spring is certainly a gut check for our badger softball athletes and staff. There are challenges each and every game. There's adversity every pitch, and every inning. Yet somehow you can't prepare for how it feels. You really have to live through strikeouts, losses, error's and giving up home runs to experience it, learn from it, flush it and move on. These are the times that teach resilience. When you pour your heart into something and lose, that's when you're ready to learn. These are the moments that character is formed. If you dig deep, take responsibility for your performance, learn, make changes, and truly work hard, we'll all emerge stronger and tougher.

We're learning resilience right now, each and every morning we wake up, get back to work, and get better. Our goal this week is to keep learning, and to play better softball. That's all there is to do. 

Badger Blog: Embracing the challenge

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In this week's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy previews Wisconsin's first games of the season, as it travels to the Sunshine State to participate in the USF-Wilson Demarini Tournament.

This weekend will certainly be a challenge. In fact, the entire spring will test our will. We'll be put under pressure day-in and day-out. There's no relief in this schedule. There are no gimmie games, or easy wins. Would you really want it any other way?

Galvanize. That's our word of the day. Sometimes it takes great pressure for things to truly come together. The more you face adversity, and survive, the more prepared and protected you'll be in the future. It's like battling the flu early in life, you're simply growing stronger, building your immune system, preparing your body to be healthier, stronger and more resilient the next time you're exposed.  Sometimes you need a shock, jolt, or near miss to really get sparked into living.

Malcom Gladwell talks about this empowerment in "David and Goliath". He looks at the Luftwaffe Nazi bombings on London. The people of London actually grew stronger every time there was a near miss. Each bomb that dropped, that they survived, made them feel more resilient and invincible. Courage and resolve rose all over the country, because of the adversity they faced and overcame, head on.

So let's embrace the challenge of playing three games against top 25 teams this weekend. Sure Florida won 58 games last year, and made it to the World Series. South Florida has 11 NCAA appearances, an All-American pitcher who got them to the World Series, and wins more than 80 percent of their games at home. It's more fun being the underdog. Maybe we've been indoors for every practice this winter, maybe we haven't seen the sun shine yet, it only makes the opportunity more exciting.

Badger Blog: Finding inspiration

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In this week's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy talks about the inspiration the team gets from playing in Madison.


With one week to go until we open the 2014 softball season, the team is focusing on getting better, and enjoying the journey. It's been a cold snowy winter in Madison, yet everyone on campus seems happy and optimistic, especially the softball team. Maybe it's the excitement surrounding Super Bowl Sunday, with former Badger favorites Russell Wilson and Montee Ball leading the way, or the fact that we can watch basketball, hockey and wrestling compete on campus in the winter. The fact is, there's inspiration all around us: from the success of Wisconsin volleyball competing in the national championship game this fall, to basketball, hockey and wrestling being ranked in the top-10 and top-25, there are some amazing Badger athletes training all around us in the weight room, on the ramps and in the field house.

One of our players said, "It's easy to be inspired when you're living a life that you love." What's not to love about Madison? It's such an amazing town! So many universities are in cities that you'd never visit unless you were looking at that school. But Madison is a tourist hotspot and family destination. People from all over the country want to see what all the excitement is about. This might be one of the healthiest, happiest towns I've ever seen. Families here are so outdoorsy. You see kids sledding, ice skating, skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and jogging, regardless of the temperature. If you can love your life and community when it's cold and snowy, and you're practicing indoors, imagine how much better everything gets when spring sets in, and you can get out on the field, bike trails and lakes.

ON WISCONSIN