March 6, 2012
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MADISON, Wis. - In last week's issue of "Varsity" magazine, UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez compared his first year as head football coach to Bobbie Kelsey's first season as the Badgers' head coach.
It’s fair to say that Bobbie Kelsey has handled her first year as our women’s basketball coach better than I handled my first year as the head football coach.
Coming in, she knew her situation probably better than I knew mine. When I talked to her about where we were as a program, she had researched us enough to already have a pretty good idea.
She knew there were limitations.
But the thing that I’ve seen is consistent improvement throughout the season. Despite the limitations, I’ve liked the way they’ve improved. I’ve liked the way they’ve competed.
I feel really good about the direction that the program is going.
Bobbie has been upfront and honest with her players. They know what she wants. She has them playing faster and she won’t accept anything other than their best effort. She has been consistent.
When you start where I did with football — and she has with basketball — you have to be patient.
You never tell your players that your expectations aren’t as high as theirs.
But you know deep down inside what they can, and can’t do.
You know if they can always give you effort that they can always improve.
Bobbie believes in the culture she has been building here.
It’s about how they practice — the tempo of practice — and how hard they’re working.
It’s also about how the kids think — that’s so very important.
That really goes back to inheriting a program and changing a culture.
Once you’ve been losing, you accept losing. When it gets to crunch time, you start questioning yourself on whether you can win.
Whenever you have those questions in your mind, you really don’t have much of a chance to be successful unless the other team beats itself.
How you go about your day-to-day business is also a part of changing a culture.
That entails holding everyone accountable and responsible for things on and off the court.
I’ve visited a few times with Bobbie this season and I’ve tried to keep her encouraged.
I’ve gone through some of the same things with Paula Wilkins and Yvette Healy when they first came in because, like Bobbie, they inherited soccer and softball programs that were down.
We had a head coaches meeting last year and someone said Yvette had changed the culture on the fourth floor of Kellner Hall just with her enthusiasm. That’s all important.
Over the years, I’ve had a number of head coaches call me and ask how I dealt with the pain that comes with losing. In case you’ve forgotten — and I haven’t — we were 1-10 my first season at Wisconsin.
I always tell them the same things. Don’t take any shortcuts. Don’t let anybody get away with something just because you’re not winning. If you cut corners, you’re in trouble.
Most importantly, you have to build a foundation around what you believe in.
One of the things that I liked about Bobbie during the interviewing process were her ideas on recruiting and going out and finding the right kids for the program.
She had valuable experience doing it before — nationally — getting high-quality kids into Stanford.
And I’ve got the sense and feeling that she’s doing the same things now.
If you want to get better as a program, you’d better bring in better players.
Bobbie has that kind of track record.