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Badger Blog: Accountability, Ownership, Innovation

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about how to get ready for the upcoming season.

This week is a time of transition for the Badger softball team. We are wrapping up our fall practice schedule and preparing for our off-season. Since school started, we have been practicing 5-6 days a week for 3-4 hours a day. The team has worked extremely hard in the weight room and on the field. Now that our non-traditional season has ended, our team will lift and condition six hours a week and the coaches will run individual skill work-outs two hours a week. We'll breakdown swings, use a lot of video and game film and make any major adjustments that we need to now. This is also a great time for our team to bear-down academically, spending extra time with tutors and TA's preparing for midterms and finals. 

Our team chalk-talk yesterday focused on three words, "Accountability, Ownership and Innovation." Below are the coaches' notes from our talk. 

The past does not predict the future, yet creating inertia is one of the greatest challenges in life. I'm sure you've all heard the saying in physics, "objects in motion stay in motion, an object at rest stays at rest." If a pendulum is swinging, it will continue to swing. A penny sitting on the counter will continue to sit there, unless some source of energy appears and a force is applied to that object. If you've never done anything, it's easiest and most likely that you will continue not to do something. If you create a habit of getting up, working hard and accomplishing things, you will continue to do that. That's the reality. That's the science.

I think the greatest life lesson learned through sports is that as individuals we have the ability to break the cycles of the past and create a new, successful future. Think for a minute about your past, about your family, about your heritage. What was life like for your parents, grandparents and great grand-parents? Maybe things have been easy. Perhaps it's been a comfortable progression of well-educated, comfortable ancestors who all have college degrees, who all have houses, large bank accounts, retirement funds and college accounts to support each child. Maybe every marriage has been happy and prosperous, lasting 50+ years, and your siblings are all stand-up members of society with great jobs who make your parents' lives easier. Maybe you come from a long line of happy, successful family members.

I would guess that reality is a bit different. Just picture what the holidays will feel like with the crazy cousins, and dysfunctional aunts and uncles.  Many of us have ancestors who didn't speak English, who had no money, no education and no support. Many families struggle now and have struggled over the years. I am sure there have been a lot of failed marriages, lost jobs and hard times that have fallen on our families. 

Who is the first person on each side of your family to go to college? Certainly a college degree doesn't guarantee you job or make you a better, more successful person, but it does stack the odds in your favor. It does put you in a better position to succeed, providing you with more options and opportunities.

Just as the past does not have to predict the future in life, the same is true in sports.

Can you create something new, forge a legacy that never existed before and build something substantial that will serve as the groundwork, as the solid foundation upon which all great future accomplishments are built?

The true challenge here at Wisconsin is creating a dominant winning legacy in softball when it has never existed before. When you don't have a culture of winning to work in, it is the responsibility of each coach and student-athlete to create that environment; to search out, dream and create that culture which breeds success. How do you know how the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year or Big Ten Player of the Year trains, acts and leads if she's not on our team? You have to study it, look for it and seek it out. Look at other programs here at Wisconsin and see how national champions train.

As we transition from our fall season, into our individual winter works, the key ingredient is you! Ownership and accountability happen when you take full responsibility for your success or failure. Whether or not you are a hall-of-fame athlete, or team at Wisconsin, comes down to you. Sure I think coaches have a huge impact on your success. I believe that I have hired two of the smartest and most caring softball coaches in the country in Randy Schneider and Tracie Adix. They love the game, they are competitive, they have a wealth of knowledge and they can teach. The fact is, I think they have said most of the things that need to be said already. I think they have pointed out your deficiencies, they have shown you film on what you need to work on and they have met with you about your weaknesses. You have the knowledge, you have the drills and what you do next is on you. One of my favorite quotes is, "All know the way; few actually walk it." Are you passionately driven to achieve your dreams? Do you have dreams for what you want your personal experience and your team experience to be like here at Wisconsin? Do you have goals? What will your legacy be? What will your classes' and your team's legacy be?

I want to be very clear as we head into our fall meetings, that you will manage your own destiny. No excuses, no explanations. You are the most important person regarding your success. Every team is filled with special student-athletes that over-achieve, that break the mold and forge new paths. Every great program has a few special kids that changed the course of the program, changed the culture, set the team on a path of dominance and consistent high performance and achievement. We are looking for those leaders that are game-changers and history makers to emerge.


Badger Blog: Building leaders

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about last week's games and the UW sports medicine department.

What a great weekend in sports here at Wisconsin. We played our final three games of the fall softball season at home last Friday and Sunday, going 3-0. We had a great pregame meal Friday afternoon at the Kohl Center, our basketball and hockey arena. We got to visit with our women's hockey coach, USA Gold Medal Olympian Mark Johnson, before the meal. Women's hockey dominated in its opening weekend, scoring more than 20 goals in two games. Our men's basketball coach, Bo Ryan, addressed the softball team too, attributing his years of Big Ten conference championships and NCAA Sweet 16 finishes to teamwork, toughness and great chemistry.

Friday night was an exciting game battling DePaul. Our junior pitcher Meghan McIntosh did a great job keeping hitters off balance, working ahead in the count and inducing groundballs. She only gave up three hits and one walk, while striking out five and getting 11 hitters to ground into outs. Meghan has always had great speed and spin, getting gunned at 67mph, yet she went 3-0 this fall by hitting her spots, working ahead and changing speeds.

Redshirt sophomore Molly Spence hit a game-winning walk-off home run in the bottom of the 7th of the DePaul game, crushing a change up over the fence. Molly spent last season rehabbing her shoulder. We are so proud of her leadership, focus and toughness, battling through a shoulder injury, surgeries and a long year of doctor's visits and rehab. Our athletic trainer Ashley Parr had a huge smile on her face as Molly trotted around the bases.

I believe we have one of the best sports medicine departments in the country here at Wisconsin. Our team physicians and connection to the UW hospitals is amazing. Yet the most impressive part of our healthcare is definitely the people. Our athletic trainers go above and beyond the call of duty, working long hours before and after our practices, and on days off, keeping our team healthy and happy. Beyond physical therapy and rehab, our athletic trainers manage the nutrition of our student-athletes. Each Wisconsin student-athlete attends a healthy shopping and cooking seminar each year, to learn what to choose in the cafeteria, how to get the most nutrition for your money at the grocery store and, of course, quick and easy recipes for nutritious meals and snacks. Each athlete leaves the nutrition seminar with a binder filled with great recipes and cooking tips.

Our main function here as coaches at the University of Wisconsin is not only to create a winning legacy athletically, but also to help transform our student-athletes in mature, healthy, capable young women who will lead on the field, in the classroom and in the community.  The college years are critical for helping transition students into adulthood. The health and nutrition lessons learned here at Wisconsin will last a lifetime, as our Badgers learn how to build strength and character through adversity and teamwork.  


Badger Blog: Chalk-talk

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about last week's games and assistant coach Randy Schneider's chalk-talk.

What a great week in Badger softball. We had the opportunity to travel to Chicago last weekend for our first bus trip and hotel stay as a team. Our football team played at Soldier Field while we competed at Loyola and UIC. It was a great bonding trip to spend a weekend together as a team; we even got to enjoy a little deep dish Chicago pizza after beating Loyola Friday night.

We had a few great practices this week, breaking down film, working on the fundamentals and getting in a great sweat yesterday with our "Texas BP". We opened the season last year at the University of Texas, going 4-2 on our first road trip. We designed a great 1.5 hour batting practice/"BP" workout that featured as ton of fly balls and grounders, combined with batting practice on the field with live runners. It's amazing how much work you can get in when everything is highly organized, and planned out. Our staff takes a lot of pride in teaching the game, but also being efficient. We love to see our student-athletes hustling on and off the field, diving, playing hard, sweating and learning. It was a great day both offensively and defensively.

The highlight of the week was coach Schneider's chalk-talk. He spent a few hours on Wednesday helping our student-athletes understand what it takes to be an outstanding student-athlete. One of our biggest challenges in taking over the Badger softball program has been creating a championship culture. It takes a lot of mentoring and teaching to help create a culture of competition, exemplary work-ethic and belief. Coach Schneider challenged the team to make history, take ownership and go above and beyond the call of duty, doing extra every day.

One of my favorite quotes that coach Schneider uses is; "You're either training for something, or you're not". It's so simple, yet profound. Either you're on a path of discipline and goals, working towards some great accomplishment, or you're just coasting.  Either you wake up every day motivated to get better, or you spend your life being average.

Coach sent the poem below to the team, and it really summarizes what being a successful, motivated, division-one student-athlete is all about:

Don't wait for some distant day to come,
it may be too late before you've even begun.
Not everyone will agree with all you decide.
Be true to yourself first and foremost.
The only important thing in life is what you do
with the time you spend here on earth.
Don't be afraid to follow your desires,
they are not silly nor selfish.
Take the time and do what makes you feel alive.
Leave your fears and regrets in the past,
for this is where they belong.
Don't cloud today with things that can't be undone.
You have no more control over yesterday or tomorrow,
than you do the raging of your passions.
Do not quiet these dreams nor quench your desires.
For if you do, your journey is ended.
You have only today to begin anew and follow your dreams.
For in the end all we have are our memories.
When the twilight comes to us, let there be,
No excuses, no explanations, no regrets.

Badger Blog: Back to school

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Catch up with coach Healy as the Badgers return to Madison for the fall season.

It's great to have the softball team back on campus and practicing. I'm amazed at how fast the summer flew by. This was the Healy family's first summer in Madison, and although I was on the road recruiting and doing camps around the country, my husband Shawn, our three year old daughter Grace and I found some time to enjoy  Madison's Farmer's Market, the Zoo, a few festivals and the beaches.

We had our first football game on Thursday, Sept. 1, beating UNLV 51-17.  It was nearly 90 degrees at kick-off, one of the hottest games ever played at Camp Randall. 

Last week we had our softball kick-off meeting and classes began. Our men's hockey coach, Mike Eaves, addressed the softball team, sharing some words of wisdom and keys to success. Mike won a national championship as a student-athlete at Wisconsin in 1977 and led the Badgers to a national championship in 2006 as the head coach. Mike is competitive, dynamic and passionate. It's no wonder UW hockey leads the country in attendance, filling the Kohl Center with nearly 16,000 fans every home game. 
Mike shared Wisconsin hockey's focus this season, "PAD". "P" is for Persistent work ethic, "A" is for attitude and "D" is for discipline.

Persistent Work Ethic. The goal is to show up each day and truly focus on the task at hand. Get a little better every day. Create a ritual before stepping on the ice or field that allows you to tune out distraction and prepare to learn. Appreciate the opportunity to grow. Be deliberate about practice, do something that will turn your head around before entering the arena each day. 

Attitude. See everything as a challenge, negative attitudes only gets in the way of your progression. Mike spoke about the book "Talent Is Overrated", by Geoff Colvin. The greatest life lessons and achievements come from those who are determined and have great attitudes. If your approach is great, and you stay positive throughout the learning process, you'll surpass even those who walk through the doors with more talent.

Finally, Discipline. Discipline is not a bad thing. It's not only a word that means you've done something wrong. True self-discipline allows you to organize your life, prioritize your tasks and accomplish. Discipline is the opposite of chaos. If you had no order or organization to your schedule, you'd never get your homework finished, you'd never find anything in your room.  Discipline allows you to focus time on the most important tasks, prioritize your life and ultimately achieve your goals due to sacrifice and order.  

Our Badger softball team is so lucky to meet and learn from some of the best coaches in the country. After winning 30 games in 2011, we know our biggest challenge will be sustaining what we've started to create, and creating a culture of success.

Great athletic teams:
1) Create momentum.
2) Sustain moment.
3) Build a winning legacy. 

That's our goal for 2012.


Krueger and Massei combine to capture top play

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Anyone who was in attendance for Friday night's game at Goodman Diamond knew it was likely going to happen, but on Sunday it was confirmed by the Big Ten Network's Diamond Report.

Jennifer Krueger and Mary Massei recorded back-to-back spectacular diving catches against Ohio State to earn the Diamond Report's top play for the week.

In the Badgers' 11-3, six-inning win, OSU's Karisa Medrano led off the third by hitting a sinking liner to center field. Krueger raced in and made a diving catch on her stomach to rob Medrano of a base hit. Not to be outdone, one batter later Massei made a diving catch to her right in foul territory in left field to retire Melissa Rennie.

It's the third time this season the Badgers have been featured on the show's weekly countdown. On April 11, Meghan McIntosh was recognized as the No. 5 play for her 13-strikeout, shutout performance against North Dakota in game two of a doubleheader. On May 1, Stephanie Peace's diving catch against Michigan earned the No. 3 play of the week.

Watch the catches made by Krueger and Massei below.


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team_NU_2011.jpgIn today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about her goals for the team's final four games of the season. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.


That's the goal right now.

We have four Big Ten games left. Our record is 27-22, 6-10 in the Big Ten. We still could get over 30 wins this season and register 10 Big Ten wins. That's a tall order with Purdue and Ohio State left to play, but it's possible. What an accomplishment that would be for this group, 30:10.

There are only five teams that have reached the 30 win mark in school history, and only two teams have ever finished the Big Ten season at or above .500 in Big Ten play. We're chasing history right now and have the chance to be one of the most successful softball teams to ever play for Wisconsin.

We have a lot of youth on the field with freshman and sophomores pitching and playing key positions. We split a tough series with Green Bay last night as our team balances end-of-year papers, tests and finals. Last night was one of our few times this year that we got beat by a team with a worse RPI than us. You never want to see that happen. To have a successful year you have to win all of the winnable games and steal a few key victories from teams that are ranked.

My wish for this group of young women is simple: play hungry every game, battle and refuse to lose. Yes we have a long season that spans four months and 56 games, but if you want to build a legacy, you can't take one pitch, one at-bat, one inning or one game for granted. You have to fight, scratch and claw to get every run, every out, and every win possible. If you have a chance to score runs in the first inning, you have to take it!

You must refuse to lose any battle. These games, these at-bats and these seasons are precious. Every one of these opportunities is a chance to see how we match up, and it's a chance to win. I hope every member of this team remembers nights like last night to motivate them at the end of this season and all summer long as they train for next year. Ninety percent of our lives are spent working, preparing and training for our challenges. When we get those few golden opportunities to compete and win and accomplish something special, we have to embrace it.

The softball program here at Wisconsin has made some huge strides this season, winning 27 games and earning the respect of top programs and coaches. We still have a huge leap to make in terms of ownership, leadership, accountability and pride. We've worked hard all year to start to build something special, to make a little history and earn a few small accomplishments. Now I want this group to battle ferociously to protect what we've worked for and to really accomplish something noteworthy down the stretch to make this season memorable.

30:10 would be an amazing thing. With four games to go, we could still reach that 30-win plateau. It's going to take each and every member of the Badger softball team to finish 2011 with 30:10. We'll need some amazing pitching, superb defense, timely offense and key hits to pull it off. We'll need to dive, steal, squeeze and defense to make it happen.

Let's finish strong and make history, together.

Peace recognized by Big Ten Network's Diamond Report

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For the second time this season, a member of the Wisconsin softball team has been highlighted by the Big Ten Network's Diamond Report for having one of the top performances of the previous week.

On April 11, Meghan McIntosh was recognized for her 13-strikeout, shutout performance against North Dakota in game two of a doubleheader.

Now, Stephanie Peace is being recognized for a great play she made in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Michigan. With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning, Peace dove to her right and made a great diving stab of Caitlin Blanchard's line drive to save at least one run.

Peace's catch went down as the No. 3 play of the week, as can be seen below.

Lucas at Large: Providing a spark

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Mary Massei's perseverance has manifested itself in many ways for the Wisconsin softball team which has rallied around her presence as a "spark-plug" and a "catalyst" at the top of the order.

For starters, the spunky freshman is back in the lineup after missing 14 games; the result of an outfield collision with a teammate that left Massei with a black-eye and three facial fractures.

Since returning, Massei has nine hits in 22 at-bats, including going 5-for-7 in a two-game series against Illinois. Most recently, her three-run homer sealed the Badgers doubleheader sweep at Iowa.

"When she was gone, we definitely missed her presence," said UW coach Yvette Healy.  "Other people stepped up and we still had some quality wins. But she brings another elite bat to the lineup.

"And that makes every other hitter stronger. Mary is a little spark-plug. Somebody has to be the catalyst and embrace doing that and she's that type of kid. People want to cheer for her."

That's due in large part to Massei overcoming thyroid cancer to play for the Badgers. After learning she was cancer free in December, she enrolled at the UW in January.

Given her resiliency, it should be pretty easy for Massei to shake off Saturday's loss to Michigan.

Culture of tenacity

In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's doubleheader sweep at Iowa on Wednesday night. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What an amazing doubleheader sweep at Iowa Wednesday night. It was our first Big ten sweep of the 2011 season and the first time the Badgers have ever swept Iowa at Iowa. I'm so proud of this group of young women.

The Wisconsin Softball team has played with a lot of energy and passion this season. We came from behind in both wins last night in Iowa. We actually tied the record for most comeback wins in school history with 14.

As a coach, you want your athletes to play hard every game, every inning and every out. You challenge them to believe in themselves and their teammates, to fight and to never give up. That culture of tenacity is being established here in Madison, and it's one of our greatest sources of pride.

We just earned our sixth Big Ten victory Wednesday night with wins this season over Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota. Whitney Massey, Mary Massei and Shannel Blackshear all had huge home runs for us. Abby Gregory provided a huge spark off the bench, utilizing her speed to score the game-winning run in the seventh inning of game one.

We're 26-19 right now as we prepare for No. 2 Michigan to come to Madison this weekend. What an exciting way to wrap up our season. We have eight games left, and we have the opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country at home to kick off the month of May! We know what a powerhouse Michigan softball is. We're thrilled to compete against one of the best teams in the country in front of our friends and family this weekend.

Overcoming a tough loss

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's tough extra-inning loss to Illinois and what the team needs to do to overcome it. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What a heartbreaking loss in extra innings to Illinois today. We played our hearts out and had some huge clutch hits and pitches to give us chances to win. We pitched well and played with a ton of heart and pride. I am so proud of this group of young women. Their tenacity and fight amazes me!

I am sure all of our student-athletes and coaches are taking this loss hard. I'm sure the parents and fans are heartbroken too. When you come so close to beating top-30 teams two weekends in a row, it wears on you. These losses make you question everything. Yet just because we didn't come out on top, doesn't mean our strategy or philosophy is wrong. We didn't give anything away today. Illinois just outplayed us in extra innings. But for seven straight innings, we played tough.