By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson on October 4, 2012 11:30 AM
In today's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy talks about the fall, Badger Olympics and the hard work everyone is putting in on and off the field.
Happy October! The fall is flying by here in Madison. The trees are changing colors and we've already played six of our eight fall games. We're 6-0 so far, pitching one perfect game, and one no-hitter. Even with all 23 student-athletes on our squad earning playing time this fall, we're hitting almost .400 as a team. It's hard to believe that we only have two weeks left to practice. We've taken a creative approach with our team this fall. With eight new freshmen, our staff has placed a priority on leadership and competition. We're fostering leadership through team chalk-talks, weekly meetings, senior goals and constant communication. Our staff has really enjoyed getting to know each of our student-athletes better, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and coming up with individualized plans to help maximize each athlete's potential.
The most exciting part to witness this fall is the infusion of competition. Coach Schneider created a Badger Olympics program to reinforce that competitive spirit every day. It's been fun and insightful seeing the old and new players battle it out on the "tough mudder" obstacle course, push-up challenge, juggling, distance throw and speed tests. The intensity at practice has really improved with the addition of more softball challenge drills.
This spring season will certainly test our mental toughness as a program. After finishing the past two years with a 77 and 52 RPI, and back-to-back 30 win seasons, we're pleased to have the program moving in the right direction. Yet we'll have to make another leap this year to steal a few top 25 wins, contend for a Big Ten championship and compete in the NCAA tournament. We amped up our schedule to face more ranked teams earlier in the season. With ten weekends on the road this spring, we'll need every bit of leadership and competitive training to succeed.
By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson on September 18, 2012 2:57 PM
Join sophomore Maria Van Abel as she talks about the first week of chalk talks in today's Badger Blog.
After a year of being a student-athlete at the University of Wisconsin under my belt, I was anxious to get back on campus. I was happy to spend a couple of months at home in Kaukauna with my family and friends, and then it was back to the beautiful city of Madison. We jumped right into things with our chalk talk meetings the first week of school and got a chance to look at and prepare for the year ahead.
With a room full of excited teammates and friends who had been separated for what seemed like forever, coach Healy officially kicked of the new academic and athletic year. I believe it is so important to be reminded of the incredible opportunity that all of us student-athletes have here at Wisconsin, and our coaching staff does a great job of doing just that. Between the prestigious level of academics, quality of athletic facilities and staff, and the overall experience we obtain here, it would be difficult to undermine the opportunity we have all been blessed with. As coach Alvarez says, "wear the 'W' with pride."
This brings us to one of the key points Coach Healy touched on- "appreciate what you are given and be passionate about what you do." As a team, appreciation and passion are necessary building blocks for reaching our goal of becoming a championship program. Of course, this can only come through hard work. This was the second of three things coach emphasized throughout the meeting. This combination of qualities can help any team develop and achieve success.
The last of the three points coach reflected on happens to be one of the most focused on points in our program- "be a family." Leaving home and taking on the challenge of being a Divison I student-athlete is no easy task; however, with the relentless support given to each individual on our softball team by our coaching staff and faculty, the constant reinforcement of 'family' makes the transition one of ease. This family atmosphere creates something more than just a softball team that we will play on for four years; but more importantly, it is a constant and continual support system surrounding us during our time at Wisconsin. Between balancing academics, athletics, and everything else that college may throw at us, having a group of girls and coaches who genuinely care for one another makes this task achievable.
The senior class also gave their presentation this same day which reiterated this concept. Each of the seven seniors spoke about different ways to use the all of the different resources we are given here at UW to be as successful as possible. Between academics, athletics, time management skills and ways to get involved, the seniors did a great job of making all of us aware of the resources and people that are available to help us through our years in Madison. It was a great way to start of the year, and we are excited to see what the year has in store for Badger softball!
By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson on September 7, 2012 9:15 AM
Join sophomore Marissa Mersch as she talks about her summer plan and how she improved her game in today's Badger Blog.
Having a summer plan
By Marissa Mersch
It was a great first year playing Badger softball. I finished my freshman year playing for one of the most prestigious universities in the country. After my freshmen year I knew that I had to work hard in the off season and get myself ready after coming off one of the team's best seasons in school history.
Everyone has an idea of what they hope their college career to be like, and for me, I knew I could do better after the results of my freshman year. Our team had such great team chemistry, although I knew that we could have done better after losing some close games against some of the best teams in the nation. We have one of the youngest teams in college softball and with hard work and commitment; we can be one of the elite forces to contend within Division I.
Throughout last season the coaching staff really began to emphasize putting in extra time if you wanted to build a legacy program. With that being said, I started off my summer motivated to be the best softball player I can be through conditioning and working on my skills. I trained with a personal trainer four days a week near my home. I knew that would get me in the best shape of my life. I was not disappointed, as he kicked my butt and pushed me to the maximum at each and every training session. Some days consisted of straight cardio circuits such as hill runs with weights, treadmill and bike workouts and long runs around the town. Other days we concentrated on building muscle mass as we pushed it to the limit with power cleans and squats. I also knew that I needed to work on my hitting and fielding, so I concentrated on working out with the best and went to a hitting instructor who teaches some of the top division I softball players.
Throughout the summer I played in games with players who were home for the summer and were also working on being the best they could be. My former travel coach Bill Conroy (Beverly Bandits) put together a team this summer made up of his former players who are playing at the D1 level. We played competitive games that tested all of our skills. I also worked out at an outfield camp with Coach Megan Ciolli who was a tremendous All-American outfielder at the University of Notre Dame. Coach Ciolli taught me everything ranging from diving to proper outfield throwing mechanics.
I am looking forward to my sophomore year and working with an amazing coaching staff and such a great group of young women. This summer I really began to understand why I fell in love with this game. It really hit me when I was working the little kids softball camp hosted at my high school. The little girls were so happy just to be there and run around the bases. That really began to bring back memories of good times I had and the life lessons I learned throughout the years. Having the opportunity to be a Badger, play at a Big Ten school and get an education at an outstanding university is what many dream of.
With this opportunity I have been given, I realize that you cannot take it for granted and with each day you can become better. You will only see results when you take time to improve on your weaknesses and continue to build on your strengths. The combination of hard working teammates with winning attitudes and great coaches is a recipe for great things to happen this upcoming Badger season.
By Other Contributors on September 5, 2012 1:54 PM
Join Stephanie Peace as she shares how she used falling short of the post season last year as motivation for achieving that goal this season
Last May our team came so close to making the regional tournament and moving on to the post season. Coming up short left a bitter taste in my mouth and I used that as a little extra motivation through the long summer break. When I left Madison at the end of the spring I was disappointed, but not discouraged. The 2012 season was such an exciting experience and every bit of it made us better. With such a large returning class and so many young faces, it is exciting to be a part of Wisconsin softball.
When I returned home to Texas at the beginning of the summer I flew directly into College Station. I wanted to watch a couple of my best friends play in the Texas A&M regional tournament. I wanted to know what the atmosphere was like during a regional tournament and I wanted to see great softball being played. With each game I watched in the post season, I became more excited and more motivated. I want to be at a regional tournament next May. I know that our team is capable of competing in the post season with the top sixty four teams in the nation.
After the regional tournament my parents and I drove home to San Antonio, and I went to work. I was happy to be home with my family and old friends, but I ran, lifted and hit multiple times a week. I worked out alone mostly, but sometimes I would drag old teammates to my workouts with me. I focused on footwork and speed nearly every time I practiced this summer. I ran hill sprints, ladders, base running and changing direction drills.
I am fortunate to have played, and now coach, for a summer ball organization that owns an indoor softball facility. They allow me to come and practice on their field and hit in their cages. Although the facility was inside, it was no shelter from the Texas heat. The building has no air conditioning and no fans. I would usually work out in the evenings and night to avoid the hottest part of the day. I was definitely a cage rat, though. When I went to the facility I was there for hours. I would turn on some country music and work on every part of my game. I took my time with my workouts and skills; I didn't want to waste my effort.
I spent most of my weekends coaching an amazing group of high school aged girls. They were so much fun to be around. All of these young ladies spent the summer working and preparing to play at the college level. We travelled all over the state of Texas and to Oklahoma and Mississippi. They competed with some of the best teams in the nation and in front of dozens of college coaches.
I mostly worked with the outfield players, but I also worked with the hitters. I used drills we use here at Wisconsin, and they loved the challenging workouts. With each drill we ran in practice, I reiterated to the girls and myself the basic fundamentals of the game. I reminded myself that it wasn't long ago that I was in my players' shoes wanting to be a division I athlete. Coaching helped me pick up on some of the finer points of the game. Coaching was a great learning opportunity and I enjoyed working with such dedicated young athletes.
In my first two years as a Badger, the program has grown and improved. It has been an exciting adventure with a great group of girls and coaches. I cannot overlook the opportunities I have been blessed with and the people I have been able to share it with. Coach Healy said today that, "the harder you have to work for a goal, the more meaningful an achievement becomes." I agree. The journey to a post season tournament means more with each year it eludes us. I used internal and an external motivation, this summer, to drive me to be a better athlete. I want our team to be successful and I know that I can play a part in that. I know that I have a wonderful opportunity here at the University of Wisconsin. Not to give full effort wastes the talents and opportunities I have been given.
By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson on September 4, 2012 9:03 AM
Join head coach Yvette Healy and senior Meghan McIntosh as the write about the upcoming season in today's Badger Blog.
Welcome back to school Badger softball fans. We are so excited to see our team return to campus. School starts on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and move-in has officially begun. We're trying something new this season; we'll start the year off with a week of team meetings and chalk-talks focusing on mental toughness, leadership and competition. Each coach will make a few presentations to the team, and each class will put together presentations too.
Leadership will be a critical component this season. We finished 2012 on the bubble for making the NCAA tournament, ranked in the top 50, and recording the most wins in school history. We challenged our team to come back in the best shape of their lives to prepare for a run at Wisconsin's first Big Ten softball championship.
This week, a few of our Wisconsin softball student-athletes will share their journey this summer. It takes a tremendous amount of motivation and hard work for each athlete to meet and exceed her potential. We have some extraordinary young women in our program, and we're thrilled to have them share their inspirational stories from summer break. - Coach Healy
Summer 2012 By Meghan McIntosh
At a young age I dreamed of making it to the College World Series. When the Badgers were not selected to play in the post season last May, reality set in. I begin to think to myself about my senior season being right around the corner and the time I had to make my dream come true was diminishing.
I had one last summer to become the best athlete I could to help the 2013 Badger softball team make it to the post season. My coaches recommended a 140 mile running challenge over the summer in order for me to have the best endurance possible. I took up this challenge and am about 20 miles from completing it. Through this I gained physical and mental toughness in which I will carry on to the field. Along with this running challenge I also did the recommended lifting workouts to gain and maintain my strength. Being a pitcher, I put a prime focus on developing a stronger core.
A big motivation over the summer was to become the best at what I do. I spent multiple hours out in the bull pen perfecting my fastball, change up, screw ball and curve ball. While working on these pitches, I also worked extremely hard on adding a new pitch. In order to see my progress I was able to throw live to a local summer travel ball team. Not only did I spend time out on the mound I also practiced my fielding and hitting. I tried to improve on every aspect of my game so I can contribute to the Badgers' success this spring.
I took part in a 30-day challenge of trying to keep my heart rate down and not experience stress while taking part in something physically or mentally tough. Being a pitcher, I experience pressure every game. This helped me find ways not to become stressed and relax.
I also learned more than I could imagine by teaching girls how to pitch over the summer. Teaching the fundamentals of pitching to these young girls was beneficial to my own pitching as well. I began to focus on crucial fundamentals such as wrist snap every time I would warm up to throw. This summer I began to realize that I was once one of these young girls dreaming of becoming a part of a college softball team. I am grateful that I had an opportunity this summer to help enrich the softball community in my hometown.
This summer was my last summer to leave everything on the field, in the weight room and on the track. It marked the start of the last preparation for my last college softball season. It may be my last softball season but it will be the first time this Badger softball family will be selected into the NCAA tournament.
By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson on August 22, 2012 2:59 PM
Join head coach Yvette Healy and Badger players Michelle Mueller and Cassandra Darrah as they write about former UW catcher Boo Gillette in this week's Badger Blog.
Gillette was a member of the UW softball team from 2002-2005. A three-time All-Big Ten performer, Gillette was a member of the 2002 and 2005 squads that qualified for the NCAA tournament. Gillette played in 210 games for the Badgers, second-most all-time at UW, ranks second on the UW career record list with 299 at bats and is tied for third with 20 career home runs.
This week for the blog, Michelle Mueller and Cassandra Darrah - both current UW softball players - had the opportunity to speak with former Badger Boo Gillette, who grew up at the ballpark and learned her shapes and numbers from scouting. As a three-time All-Big Ten softball player, Boo played an important role on the best team in school history with key wins over Arizona, UCLA, Oklahoma and other top ranked teams.
Boo was known for having an enthusiastic spirit and more Badger pride than Bucky himself. We would find it interesting to see a competition between Bucky and Boo to find out who had the most spirit and pride. You would think Boo was a Wisconsin native with all of her Badger pride, but she hailed from Florida. So it was only fitting that we spoke to her now with school and softball rolling around the corner. - Coach Healy
Catching up with Boo Gillette
By Cassandra Darrah & Michelle Mueller
Boo obtained so much Badger pride by being an all or nothing type of person. Her goal while being a Badger player was to have the best four years of her life and to accomplish as much as she could with her team. For those of you that haven't been to Goodman Diamond, there is a small field beyond left field that was used for UW baseball. Being a catcher, Boo had a perfect view from home plate of the field and it helped her to realize that she was given the opportunity to play on an established field that players from the past never got the chance to experience. That contributed to her pride for UW because of the greater opportunity she was given with the newer facilities and how they were treated as student-athletes. The University of Wisconsin is one of the top college sports towns in the nation and Boo believed it was almost impossible to not have an overwhelming amount of pride for the school.
Along with Boo's feelings about Badger pride, she had great advice on how to be mentally tough. Her best advice was to be confident, not be afraid to fail, put yourself in pressure situations as much as possible, and be confident in yourself to be able to execute. She also believes that in order to be mentally tough you have to see yourself as the best and understand that with all the hard work you put in, you will be successful. She trusted in playing with confidence that the talent would follow through. Always being put in pressure situations in practice helped her develop more mental toughness. The softball atmosphere that Boo had while she was here was all about competition with each other and there were new challenges every day. Visualization was a key component to developing a tough mental attitude because she saw herself as the best hitter in pressure situations.
When speaking to Boo, it was clear she had always had a winning attitude and had the mentality that they would win. Growing up with four siblings, she was raised in a competitive atmosphere. Boo's biggest advice was to remember to have fun even if you are struggling and you need to go back to why you started playing in the first place.
Obtaining a winning attitude during her softball career was not hard because 9/11 happened her freshman year and that brought everything into perspective and brought the team closer together. All of a sudden your batting average didn't have much meaning and helped them remember to cherish the time they have.
"If you have the courage to dream something you'll have the courage to go after it. It's not just a Wisconsin jersey; you're playing for everyone before you and after you. It is so much more than the team it's about the program as a whole. Whatever you do now is a stepping stone for the future. Make an identity for your team so you can look back and say we did this." -Boo Gillette
By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson on July 4, 2012 10:54 AM
Over the course of two weeks, UW Athletics will look back on the Badgers' biggest accomplishments during the 2011-12 season.
Timely hitting, including a home run by Karla Powell, led the Wisconsin softball team to its first-ever win over Nebraska on May 11. The win snapped the Huskers' 16-game home win streak and earned the Badgers their 34th victory of the season, tying the UW school record set in 2000.
Wisconsin's 19 losses in 2012 were the fewest in school history and its .641 winning percentage was a program best.
The Badgers also set a new mark in the record books with their 12th Big Ten win of the season against Purdue on April 28, earning the most league wins in program history. Win No. 13 came against Nebraska, as the Badgers finished the year with a 13-10 record in league play.
The Badgers' success earned them a school-record-tying four student-athletes on All-Big Ten teams, including a pair of first team selections. Second baseman Whitney Massey earned a place on the NFCA All-Great Lake Region first team after finishing the season with a school record 22 doubles and a team-best .358 batting average.
By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson on June 22, 2012 11:11 AM
In today's blog, head coach Yvette Healy shares her speech from the Goodman Softball Training Center ground breaking on June 21, 2012.
They say true happiness in life comes from being a part of something bigger than yourself, from dedicating yourself to a greater cause and building a legacy that will extend beyond your years. Thank you to everyone in the Wisconsin softball family gathered here today to build not only a new indoor softball facility, but ultimately to build the Badger softball program into a national powerhouse.
What an honor it is to be here today with Randy Schneider and Tracie Adix of our coaching staff, and so many of our Wisconsin student-athletes to celebrate this groundbreaking
We want to extend a special thank you to EG Schramka and the Goodman Foundation for their lead gift and ongoing support of the Goodman softball complex and the new Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Softball Training Center. And to all of the softball alumni, family and friends who have donated their time and money to make this dream project possible.
Thank you to coach Alvarez, Terry Gawlik, Marija Pientka and all the senior staff in the UW Athletics department for their outstanding commitment to women's athletics.
People say it takes a village to raise child, or build a championship program, and after coaching the Badger softball team for the past two years, we know that's true. We are committed to growing Wisconsin softball into a nationally-ranked, NCAA tournament team that competes for a Big Ten championship each year, and a big part of that journey starts today.
We are extremely proud of the strides we've made as a program over the past two years, posting back-to-back 30 win seasons, tying a record for the most wins in school history and earning the most Big Ten wins in a season this year. Yet, we still have a lot of work to do. We know to take this program to the next level, it will take year-round commitment from our student-athletes, state of the art facilities and blue chip recruiting. The addition of the Goodman Softball Training Center will give us a new competitive advantage on all of these fronts.
I've always thought Goodman stadium had one of the most beautiful locations in the country. When you can combine a world-renowned academic degree with nationally ranked athletics, you have something special. The scenery of this beautiful lakefront view coupled with this new state of the state of the art indoor space will now make the of the Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Softball Training Center one of the premiere softball stadiums in the Big Ten and the country.
By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson on May 9, 2012 6:01 PM
In this week's blog, head coach Yvette Healy talks about the final week of the regular season and what the biggest question is for the Badgers this week.
It's exciting to enter into the final weekend of regular season play for the Wisconsin softball team. We hit the road for Nebraska on Thursday. We're currently 33-17, with a 12-8 Big Ten record, which ties us for 4th place with Nebraska. This is a huge weekend for the Badger softball program. We're a top-50 program right now, on the bubble for making our first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005.
Nebraska has always been a great softball program. The Cornhuskers have made 21 NCAA tournament appearances and seven trips to the Women's College World series. With their 13-0 record at home, we know we'll have our work cut out for us on this trip. The exciting thing is, it's May and we still have a shot at the post-season. Being a life-long Chicago Cubs fan, there haven't been many October's when we're still cheering for the Cubs. It's fun to have so much to play for during our last regular season weekend.
What a great season we've had in 2012. We've broken a lot of offensive records, and put together a few record-breaking win streaks at home and throughout the season. Our challenge is to take the program to the next level, and create a national presence. The biggest question for the Badgers softball team is when. When do we turn that corner? When do we start putting up big wins over legacy programs? When can we get the big wins, against the best teams, when it counts the most?
Everything is coming right down to the wire, with two games Friday night and our last regular season game on Saturday. How we do this weekend will have a big impact, as we wait for the NCAA tournament selection show Sunday night at 9 p.m.
What a great opportunity for this young team to experience in May!
There have been mornings when UW softball coach Yvette Healy has arrived to work at Camp Randall Stadium only to find some of her players working out in the weight room or running stairs.
To see them working overtime on their own -- to see them doing all the little things that are important to stability and success -- is a sign to Healy that her second-year program is arriving.
"It's great to see softball starting to take a lead from what women's hockey has done and some of the other great programs here have done as far as putting in all that extra work,'' Healy said.
"Some players thought they were working hard and didn't really know what it feels like to work hard at a BCS-level program, so they've kicked it into gear.
"It's a culture thing. You don't want it to be just one or two kids who are taking it seriously and are emotionally invested. You want it to be everybody -- but we're getting there.
"We still have some who are in the phase where the light bulb is turning on. We'll arrive as a program when our entire roster, from top to bottom, has that sense of urgency for 12 months.''
The Badgers have made positive strides in that direction on the diamond by playing themselves into contention for a Big Ten championship and an NCAA tournament bid.
"It's exciting in the month of May for this program to be in the hunt (for a league title),'' Healy said. "That we're in the conversation is already a huge step for the program.''
Especially when you consider the company that they're keeping; the Badgers are within striking distance of first-place Michigan in the Big Ten standings.
On being in such rarified air -- with the Wolverines here for a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday -- Healy has instructed her players to "embrace it, enjoy it; we're the underdogs.''
Perspective is not lacking.
"We just talked to the players about how Michigan has everything to lose here,'' she noted. Wisconsin has never beaten Michigan in Madison.
"They've got all the history, they've got all the Big Ten championships,'' Healy said of the No. 23-ranked Wolverines, the NCAA champion in 2005. "They're a Goliath in the softball world.
"We realize that we're going against the best at the toughest time of the year. Still, we're excited to play them at home in front of all our fans on a big stage when it counts.''
Healy is undaunted by the challenge of facing Michigan and Nebraska on back-to-back weekends, even though the Badgers must travel to Lincoln, where the Cornhuskers are 13-0 this season.
"As a staff, it's exactly what we want,'' she said. "A lot of people would like to face some of the teams that are struggling. But you want to face the best if you really want to build a program.''
The first stage in the building process took place last season and extended to the off-season. "We had some tough meetings with some players at the end of last year,'' Healy said. "They needed to make huge strides in terms of getting stronger, working harder and putting more time in.''
Among those players, Healy said, was Whitney Massey.
"That kid has made more strides than anyone,'' she said proudly of Massey's improvement. "She's done a nice job hitting out of the three hole and bringing a solid, left-handed bat to the line-up.''
Another player who has "stepped up her game'' has been Michelle Mueller.
"For as strong as she is, she didn't have any power numbers last year,'' Healy said. "But you could tell she was in the batting cage all summer. She's got a baseball family and she's a cage rat.''
Not unlike a "gym rat.'' There have been others who have responded in like fashion.
"You watch them play,'' Healy said, "and you know that they have lived it (softball) all summer long and all winter long; they've been in the weight room and in the cages and it's starting to show.''
Healy didn't pull any punches in her end-of-the-year meetings with individuals.
"Young players sometimes think you're just there to say all the nice things and cheer for them,'' she said. "But we have to be some of the most honest people in their lives.
"We tell them, 'Here's what you're doing well, here's where you're not cutting it. This is the expectation.' They really took it well. We kept it positive. Reality hurts some time; the truth hurts.''
Healy resisted the "no pain, no gain'' cliché, but she made her point.
So has her team so far this season. But an exclamation point is still missing.
"Beating a Top-25 team is the next step that you have to take,'' Healy said.