Recently in Softball Category
In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the Badgers' good start at Iowa.
What a great start to Big Ten play. The Wisconsin softball team is thrilled to open the season taking 2-of-3 at Iowa. Iowa is such a legacy program with four trips to the World Series and 16 NCAA appearances. We knew we would have our hands full facing them on the road for our first Big Ten games of 2012.
Entering last season, Iowa was 28-7 all-time against the Badgers. We're fortunate to have swept them last year, posting a 4-1 record against the Hawkeyes these last two seasons. Iowa native, sophomore Cassandra Darrah pitched all three games for us, holding Iowa to just two hits in the first game of the series.
After 23 games on the road, we're thrilled to host our home-opener this weekend against Northwestern. We have a doubleheader on Saturday at noon and 2, and our game on Sunday will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network at 2 p.m. Northwestern also has a rich winning tradition, with three Sweet 16 finishes and a second-place World Series appearance in 2007.
There are some great highlights from our games at Iowa on the Big Ten Network's homepage too. You can find them on UWBadgers.com
. BTN is rebroadcasting one of our 2012 Iowa games today, March 28, at 3 p.m. CT on the Big Ten Network's cable channel.
In today's blog entry,
head coach Yvette Healy writes about the need for leadership and building a
legacy at Wisconsin
Watching the team play yesterday, and how bad we were, it's
easy to see how Wisconsin softball struggled in the past. We played like the
177 RPI team we were in 2010. What we've achieved in the last 1.5 years --
winning 30 games last season, sitting 11-8 right now after facing several
ranked teams, is special. Culture is not easily changed, and losing ways and
bad old habits die hard. Like any progress, it's not a straight, linear path. Sometimes
it's two steps forward and one step back. You have to appreciate the climb, and
celebrate the small victories and minor improvements.
As a team and
coaching staff, you can't panic when things fall apart, but rather focus on
solutions and improvements. It's easy to get angry and point fingers when we
fail. Yet the best programs and coaches stay constructive with their criticism
and approach, focusing on teachable moments and opportunities for growth rather
than sulking and dwelling on what's broke. Things can get ugly and go downhill
fast when adversity strikes.
The main thing I feel like we're missing right now is
leadership. It's not just about one or two great players that we need to lead,
but a culture of leadership that needs to be created. We need people to model
what leadership is all about and to teach our athletes how to be great
With all the amazing athletic success at Wisconsin in
football, basketball and hockey, our athletes need to reach out to other top
programs and ask the captains to share how they lead. It's interesting after
being around teams in the past and coaching and playing, there's a toughness
and savvy that we need. We need a few people who refuse to let the team or
individuals be bad. For now, it's just our staff saying the tough things and
holding people accountable.
What great teams have...
Great teams have a group of hard working athletes who love
the game of softball, who are passionate about being extraordinary at what they
do. Amazing teams are comprised of fearless individuals who know their
strengths as an athlete and joyfully pursue improving their weaknesses, step by
Championship programs have a group who hold themselves to a
higher standard, working to be great in all parts of their lives; academically,
offensively, defensively and socially. There is accountability within great
programs, where people aren't afraid to talk about what's missing and what
needs to be done.
Most importantly, great programs achieve. The leaders will
work, fight and prepare to guarantee effort and results. Leaders refuse to let
their team walk in flat or scared. On their way to success, great teams grow by
being fearless. They aren't afraid to fail. When they do stumble, they work
through the difficulties, they embrace the journey, and all the while they
fully believe in their talent, teammates, and inherent ability to succeed.
Mental toughness and confidence are the keys to achievement.
Great teams and athletes have a sense of urgency. They passionately work to
improve, grow, and minimize their deficiencies while remaining focused,
cheerful and confident.
What would it take to truly believe that everything is going
to work out, that things are meant to be good and you deserve to succeed? I
don't know why some athletes truly believe that they are great, that their team
is great and failures and setbacks are just bumps in the road along the path of
What's really important in this whole collegiate experience?
What matters most as a take away from college athletics? Is it wins and losses
and ERA and batting average? Or confidence, success and a deep belief that
anything can be worked towards, built and attained?
When our athletes walk out the door in four years with an
amazing degree from a nationally-ranked school, the most important asset they
can take with them is an unshakable belief in themselves.
Athletics forges a sense of purpose and control over our
lives. It is a microcosm of the world, where we all get to see and experience
how hard-work, passion and dedication lead to success. Great things can be
built from scratch.
Legacies and programs grow from the ground up, becoming
something extraordinary and lasting, when a few passionate people dedicate
themselves to improving as individuals and as a team. It is that group
achievement that you'll never forget. Growing, leading, and lifting up those
around you is life changing, its life affirming.
All great leaders care more about the relationships and
group success over personal glory. There's an amazing satisfaction and pride
that comes from making everyone around you better as you collectively achieve.
That lesson in leadership must come alive at Wisconsin.
Legacies aren't easily built. They are hard-fought victories with a prize truly
worth the years of dedication they take to grow.
In today's blog
entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's success at the Wolf Pack
Softball Classic and what is key for UW's top performers.It's sunny and 78 in Madison today, as we prepare for our last
spring trip. We're thrilled to practice outside on the dirt this early in the
What a great weekend for Badger softball in Reno. The team went
4-1 in Nevada, batting .394. We're 10-7 overall right now, which puts us 4th in
the Big Ten with our winning percentage. A few of our student-athletes are
really playing well, including many of our Midwest kids.
Former New Trier (Ill.) standout Molly Spence was named Big Ten
Player of the Week after batting .529 with an OPS of 1.873. Molly reached base
in each game of the weekend and had three multi-hit games, including two,
three-hit games. She belted four home runs on the weekend, including two in the
final game against Nevada, finishing with 10 RBI.
Freshman Maria Van Abel, from Kaukauna,
Wis., is leading the Big Ten in hitting, with a .459 batting average. She's done a great job at the top of the
lineup, setting the table for our big hitters. Maggie Strange, our junior
catcher from Gallatin, Mo., is leading the Big
Ten in throwing out runners and allowing the least number of steals against.
The key for our top performers is definitely confidence, mental
toughness and competitiveness. Each of our standout athletes has the right temperament.
They understand that success is a process, and the only way to achieve small
victories is continued hard work, a great attitude and the overwhelming desire
to succeed. Injuries, setbacks and obstacles don't faze the best
student-athletes. They just continue to work hard, developing a plan for
improvement each day. They refuse to fail, and emotionally invest in the
success of this year's team and the Badger softball program.
We leave Thursday for Santa Barbara, Calif. We'll have five games
on the road, including a big match-up on Sunday against nationally-ranked
Oklahoma State. OSU returns most of their squad from last year's team that
reached the 2011 Women's College World Series. They just pitched a no-hitter
against Nebraska who was ranked earlier this year too. We've had great games
against several ranked teams this spring, and it's time to get over the hump. This
game is a great opportunity to steal a key win for our young squad.
We've seen some weekends of good pitching early this spring, and
strong offense lately. We're looking forward to putting it all together this
weekend, building some excitement and energy as we open up Big Ten play next weekend
In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about stepping outside of your comfort zone to become great.
After three weekends on the road, we're 6-6, after going 2-1
on the weekend, posting wins over UConn and Charleston Southern, and a loss to
Kansas who was on a 14-game winning streak. Our last game of the weekend was
rained out. We'll travel west the next two weekends, flying to Nevada and
With the rain delays this weekend, we had time for a good
team chalk-talk on the road. The focus for this week is ownership,
accountability and urgency. As a staff, we're okay with where we're at. The
team is working hard and getting better every day. We're keeping our head above
water, winning some games and playing fine. The hard message for our team is
that none of us play sports aspiring towards mediocrity. No one shows up to the
field looking to split. We work hard and prepare in order to separate ourselves
from our peers, not to be status quo.
So, while we're not in the dumps, and not getting throttled
by other teams, we're very average. We're showing up to the field, putting in
the work and playing okay. The sense of urgency for all of us comes from
getting over the mediocre hump. Wisconsin softball is about building something
extraordinary. It's about making great plays on defense that inspire people;
it's about dominating from the mound, and having an electric offense. Badger
softball at its best is gritty, tenacious, fiery and exciting. We know that as
you build and grow a program, you can't be afraid to step outside your comfort
zone, take risks and do something special. Razzle Dazzle.
Our staff is excited to see the team catch fire soon. We
know this group has the ability to get things clicking on all cylinders,
creating some energy, excitement and momentum. We haven't found our groove yet,
which is fine. No one wants to peak in February. But, March is the time to make
great strides. Mentally tough teams take the lessons they learn early in the
season, they make the critical adjustments, stick with the game plan and start
playing quality softball.
The biggest jump we all face in life is the move from good
to great. Coach Schneider has spoken to the team many times about what it takes
to be a great program; the extra effort, the attitude, the approach and
swagger. We've challenged our team to work even harder, do extra, and emotionally
invest in the Badger softball family. We were so proud to hear that the team
ran its own captain's practice Sunday night after a long weekend of travel. We're
seeing leadership start to bud.
In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about adversity and opportunity.
Adversity, what a great word for sports, what a great lesson
for life. Wisconsin softball is 4-5 right now. It's a good 4-5. We've played a great
schedule, with our three of our five losses to top 25 teams, and the other two
losses to Arkansas and Maryland who are in the top 30/receiving votes.
The first few weekends always test your mental toughness. Everyone
enters the season with high hopes and dreams of the type of impact player they
could be. Everyone has their sights set on making huge strides as a program,
getting out of the gates fast and knocking off a few ranked teams. Reality can
be humbling. When things don't go as you'd planned, it can either motivate or
hold your back.
For Badger softball, this week is about focus and confidence.
When you face ranked teams, and you play in tough, tight games that you almost
win, it breaks your heart. Adversity tests your character, placing you in
pressure situations, forcing you to act, react, and respond during and after
competition. As a growing team that's still trying to figure out who we are,
and how to win big games, it's the response that matters most. What happens
after the game; what do you do every day afterwards to improve? As a coaching
staff, we're so pleased that our team has the opportunity to play in tight
games against great pitchers early in the season. It builds your database, and
makes you a smarter, tougher team.
As a staff, we work hard to prepare our team to compete. We've
challenged them mentally and physically throughout the fall and winter. We've
built up their softball IQ and worked on mental training. Yet there is no
substitute for the real feelings that arise when each players battles through
the ups and downs of the season. It is the games that cause that gut reaction,
the nerves, the thrills and hearth-break. There's no way to simulate that
emotional rush. What we cannot account for as coaches is each individual's
mental toughness, and their ability to deal with adversity and challenges. Great
players always bounce back.
I think our team is in the perfect position to make a run,
and go on a role these next 14 games. We're prepared, we've been tested; we're
learning and getting better each and every game. Our success over the next
three weekends will be a direct result of how mentally tough our team is. If
the challenges of the past two weekends bring us down, and hold us back, it
could get ugly. If the adversity causes divisiveness internally, we could be in
trouble. Yet if we can pull confidence and trust from what we've learned in
playing tough ranked teams, we could surprise some people.
I'm excited to see our team's character and leadership
develop. This weekend could be a great turning point for the Badgers. We'll see
if we have the leadership and experience to make the jump. I would love to see
the team pull together, get excited, and string together some wins. It all
comes down to temperament. These are the moments in the season, and in our
student-athletes careers, when the greatest opportunity is right within reach.
In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about opening weekend and the team's focus.
It was great to kick-off the 2012 softball season in Tampa, Fla.
The University of South Florida hosted a nice tournament with Arkansas, Drake
and Georgia Southern. I'm proud of our team for winning our opening game, and
coming home 2-2.
Whitney Massey led the offense, getting on base and driving
in runs. Redshirt sophomore Molly Spence provided a few sparks, driving in runs
in three separate games. Our pitchers were impressive; averaging only five hits
a game while keeping us in every contest. Junior Meghan McIntosh and sophomore
Cassandra Darrah each earned their first wins of the season. Defensively,
Shannel Blackshear and Stephanie Peace did a nice job holding down the left
side of the infield their first weekend on the dirt.
We have a short turnaround this week, returning to Florida
to face Maryland, Florida State, Southern Illinois and St. John's in Orlando
Feb. 24-26. Maryland and Florida State are both ranked in the top 30 right now,
which is exciting.
Our focus last weekend was pulling activities from the book,
"10-Minute Toughness" by Jason Selk. We had our team create "Identity
Statements" to help them decide who they want to be and how they want to live. Dr.
Maxwell Maltz's "Psycho Cybernetics" argues that you will act like the sort of
person you conceive yourself to be. I think this positive self-talk exercise
helped our athletes stay composed and confident.
The schedule is daunting: six road weekends and 26 games before the home opener.
"Fatigue is definitely something you have to consider,'' said second-year Wisconsin softball coach Yvette Healy. "Our season is long, it's a marathon.
"It's important to play well every game, but it's more about improvement -- seeing where you match up (early in the season) -- and working on the game plan to get better.''
After winning 30 games last season -- a victory total that has been reached only five previous times in school history -- the expectations are higher than normal for the Badgers, who began their daunting road stretch this weekend at South Florida's tournament in Tampa.
Sustaining that success is the challenge for Healy, who has already taken some positive strides in changing the culture of the program. By her own admission, she knows her work has just begun.
"We did create some momentum last season,'' she said. "But the fact that we had so many come-from-behind wins, half of our victories, you know that those could easily go the other direction.
"It's really going to be a challenging year for the team and our staff. But we're going into it with our eyes wide open. It's not going to be simple to walk in and replicate what we did last year.''
The Badgers, who were 30-23 overall and 9-11 in the Big Ten, return eight starters and all three pitchers. But they must replace center fielder Jennifer Krueger; a difference-maker on the base paths.
Citing the vagaries of her sport, Healy said, "It's such a fickle game. It's so much about getting the right hop here or there. We were fortunate last year, but we created some of that magic, too.''
At the moment, injuries are an issue. "We've got more than last year at this time,'' she said.
Karla Powell, Molly Spence, Mary Massei and Cassandra Darrah are four key pieces to the puzzle, and each has been forced to overcome physical hurdles leading up to the spring competition.
Given the All-Big Ten value in a majority of the cases, Healy won't rush anyone. "This first weekend,'' she said, "is about managing to keep our talent healthy and easing them back in, too.''
Nonetheless, there's an anticipation level with the opening games.
"Everybody wants to see how you match up,'' Healy agreed. "It's a good litmus test to let you know what else you need to work on. The first weekend doesn't make or break you.
"But it sets the tone for realizing how good you can be, or how much harder you have to work.''
Much of the out-of-season work has been centered on conditioning. Healy pointed out that strength coach Stephanie Housh "makes it sport-specific'' and has "done a phenomenal job.''
"We've gotten a little creative on the coaching end, too,'' Healy went on. "We've tried not to have as much down time that you typically see in a baseball game or a softball practice.''
To the extent, she said, where "they are swinging and not breaking a sweat.''
That creativity has resulted in the use of jump ropes and medicine balls. "We're making our team get physically drained,'' she said, "in addition to having to perform those high-level hitting skills.''
A year of maturity should benefit the returning players. "We didn't add a ton to the program,'' said Healy, who also retained her staff. "We brought in just one recruited player this season.''
That has piqued her interest to see how it all comes together. Healy singled out sophomore shortstop Stephanie Peace for having the potential and the "ability to be a marquee player.''
Meghan McIntosh will anchor the pitching staff. "She has worked hard in the off-season, gotten healthy and shown leadership,'' Healy said. "It'll be interesting to see if you can put it all together.''
What does Healy want to see out of her team by the end of the month?
"We'll want to see our pitchers keeping us in games; our pitchers having command,'' she said. "Giving us a chance to win every single game is a really big thing.
"From an offensive standpoint, I think we have a lot of balance and I'm hoping we take a good aggressive approach -- I want to see our speed and power come together.
"I hope we can come out of the gate really strong and create some energy. The first couple of weeks, I want to show how excited we are to get out of the cold and get on the dirt (the diamond).
"I want to start setting the tone for the season.''
In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the first two weeks of practice and what a privilege competition is.
Winter Practice: Week 1
The Badger softball team spent a lot of time in 2011 listening to chalk-talks and inspiring speeches from great coaches and leaders on campus. We kicked off our 2012 winter practice season last week with a few visitors willing to share words of wisdom to help break up our two-a-day workouts. Major Shannon Hellenbrand spoke to our group about leadership, before our team got to participate in a mini boot camp. The amazing thing about Shannon is that she was young, friendly and bubbly. She shared her experiences of leading two tours to Iraq, managing units comprised primarily men, many of them older than her. She led a group of engineers and oversaw a detention camp. Her leadership seemed to be centered on caring for her coworkers. By establishing relationships with the people she commanded, she got more from her employees and created a better environment. We were inspired to meet someone so young who has dedicated her life to serving her country as a leader.
Later in the week Lindsey Smith from Athletes in Action spoke to the team about opportunities at Wisconsin for service, community outreach and spiritual growth. It's amazing how many resources are available to our student-athletes at Wisconsin. There are so many groups, organizations and professionals who are dedicated to helping our student-athletes reach their potential on the field, in the classroom and in life. One of my favorite quotes that you can find on a lot of the Athletes in Action materials is from Nelson Mandela, "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down barriers. It laughs in the face of discrimination."
Winter Practice: Week 2
This week's chalk talk was one of the most inspiring for me, because it featured two of our own student-athletes who wanted to share insights into leadership and mental toughness that they learned over break. Senior Karla Powell led the way by reading a book, "Strengths-Based Leadership", by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. While the book focused on leadership in corporate America, Karla shared lessons that translated into sports. It's rewarding to hear our team echo some of the life-lessons that our staff is working to emphasize.
The two lessons that Karla talked about, which resonated with me, had to do with surrounding yourself with good people, and leading from a strength-based perspective. The book emphasized the need to surround yourself with people who are positive influences. I think that's one of the most important things we can do in life; seek out individuals that inspire us, who build us up, who challenge us and make us better people. There are so many negative influences in this world, why not choose to be around people with similar values and goals, who care for others and do things the right way. My mom always told my sister and me to surround ourselves with good people when we were growing up. That lesson has helped so much in choosing the right college, dating nice guys, finding true friends and working for amazing bosses.
The other message I liked from Karla's talk said that leaders focus on their strengths and the strengths of their organization and employees. As coaches there are so many times that we dwell on what's wrong. It's so easy to see where our players fall short and how deficient our team is. Great leaders have the unique ability to see what people do right, and accentuate the positive. Sports and life can be a long, difficult journey. There are so many challenges and pitfalls along the way. To inspire our athletes, our teams and ourselves to survive the marathon, and stay motivated and positive, we must highlight the good. If athletes don't feel good, and worthy and special, they'll never have the energy or tenacity to chip away at their weaknesses. It's a tough world out there. If we lead from a strength-based perspective, our athletes will feel the confidence and energy they need, to take on new challenges in sport and life.
Sophomore Stephanie Peace then spoke to the team about a 30 day challenge she took on. She read two, 14 day workbooks on mental training. Each day there were stories and activities to read and complete. These workbooks offer a great, tangible plan for improving mental toughness, and teaching relaxation. If our staff had made the team complete these workbooks, I'm not sure how much they would have gotten out of them. I love having one of our young leaders share some of the extra work she is doing and to inspire her peers to do the same. What a powerful way to lead by example. Everyone wanted to try these workbooks out after hearing Steph's talk.
Accountability is an amazing thing among athletes. We can all take on new challenges, or try to overcome a weakness. Yet when you stand in front of your team, commit to being more positive under pressure and in control when the going gets tough, you really become accountable for your actions. True change happens when you put yourself out there and become vulnerable in front of your teammates, committing to a goal in public.
My favorite lesson from Steph's reading on mental toughness states that "Pressure is a Privilege." How true. If you are under pressure at work, in life, or on the field, you must have an amazing opportunity in front of you. Sure, you could fail, but you're in the fight, you've stood up, put yourself out there, accepted the challenge and joined the dance. You might fail, but you have the opportunity to fail brilliantly. Not many people have the privilege of experiencing pressure. If you're feeling pressure you must have made the team, and you are probably in the game! What a privilege to compete.
UWBadgers.com sat down
with head coach Yvette Healy to discuss the first week of practice. The Badgers
kicked off the season on Jan. 17 and play in their first game Feb. 17.
How did the first week of practice go?
"The first week back looked good. We spent a lot of the time
making sure physically we are in great shape. Practice is a lot more creative
than usual. A lot more running, jumping, diving, medi balls, jump ropes, ladders
and juggling. Fun stuff like that. We are really working on some differential learning
with the team, trying to get them active besides just softball skills.
Were there any surprises the first week?
"Molly Spence had been hurt and she was out last year. Even with
being in some pain and being out, she hits the ball a ton. It is really fun as
a staff to see her hit live and hit in scrimmages. She is a tremendous athlete
and she is someone you can't help but notice when you are watching practice."
You worked on fitness the first week, what does the second
"We are getting into a little more philosophy stuff. We are
working a lot on our swings. I think we have a lot of potential to hit home
runs and attack that record. Coach Schneider has been doing a lot of the
science behind it and working with our team on torque and their bat
positioning, creating velocity and increasing bat speed. (There has been) a lot
of strength stuff, vision training and then just your basic, grounders, fly
balls and breaking down the skill and re-teaching it. I think you spend the
second week tearing apart your fundamentals, making sure you are all on the
same page and re-teaching. It is a great week going into a weekend of camp to
have our team reviewing all of those fundamentals."
What are your goals for the next two and a half weeks of
"Every week we try to advance what we are doing and just
make sure we are getting better from a pitching, fielding, defensive and
hitting stand point, each aspect of the game. We are ramping it up to feel more
like game situations, but we were careful not to jump right in and just go from
0 to 60 right away. Really the first weeks are about getting your fundamentals
down and being in great shape and having the team work really hard and get in
"The next couple weeks will really start to feel like game
mode, where every drill feels more a little more rushed, a little more sense of
urgency, a little more game like.