May 12, 2014
• Healy News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin softball coach Yvette Healy talked with the media Monday about the Badgers going back to the west coast to compete in the Eugene Regional hosted by Oregon.
Video of Healy's media session can be found above, and a complete transcript of her remarks are below.
Coach Yvette Healy: Excited to be back in the postseason. As a staff, we said that was our biggest goal is just to put together back to back postseasons coming off of last year. It's a big accomplishment. We're really excited.
Going into the Big Ten Tournament, we said it was déjà vu all over again, getting the 4 seed and then matching up with Northwestern again. The déjà vu just continues. We're going back to Oregon.
Little bit tougher this year in that Oregon's the No. 1 overall. They were pretty high last year, and they were the Pac 12 champs. But now there's a 1, so even more compelling.
But the team's playing good softball. Everybody is staying loose. We're in finals right now. Just kind of enjoying the ride. I think everybody was laughing when they saw that our matchup is against Albany, which, you know, their mascot is the Great Dane. It's a name that everyone knows in Madison.
It's all about just being in that first game, and everybody is excited to go out there and try to get some more NCAA wins.
Question: Coaches’ emotions vary when it comes to selection time. What was your initial reaction to seeing that you had to go out and face the No. 1 overall seed potentially?
Coach Healy: You know, usually if you see a No. 1, you see everybody dropping their head. But I think we all just kind of laughed and smiled. It's a team we played before. There seems to be this whole year has felt like there's a little bit of fate working in a good way for us. Although we haven't had any huge rolls on our side where things have just all worked out yet, there's a lot of things that just seem to be so coincidental.
So we all really just laughed and smiled and said, all right, we've been there before. Now let's just figure out how to get to Eugene. Because it's a hike from Madison. It's probably one of the toughest regionals to find your way to get to. I think that's the first thing that everybody said, okay, let's figure out how to get there.
But the team's excited.
Question: Yvette, you have, by my count, eight teams that you've played that were ranked in the top ten at the time that you played them. I'm assuming that was by design. I'm curious to what degree will that experience maybe pay off in this type of an experience, even though you're going back out to a familiar place.
Coach Healy: I'm glad how the schedule worked out. There were times this year where I questioned the decision making because you come up with a master plan, and then when you actually live it and see how hard the schedule is, midway through the season, I said, all right, maybe we overdid it here, because it was a bear in the middle of the season.
But it all wound up the way that we wanted it to. And for how good the Big Ten is, I think that's probably what prepared us the most. For the Big Ten to get five teams in, it makes me really proud to coach in this conference and to be a part of it.
That's what I feel like has really prepared us the most. We've seen phenomenal pitching from Purdue from that series, then you see Northwestern, you see Nebraska, and you see Michigan, and there just has been no relief. But that's probably a good thing because I don't know if there's any other way to get prepared than to play the best teams in your conference and in the country. If you had to go face the No. 1, you might as well schedule that way.
Question: A huge senior class with four girls, all four names are a huge part of your team. Is the sense of urgency kind of raised at all at this point knowing what you lose after this year?
Coach Healy: I don't know about the urgency, but it's just a great class. I think what I love about it is they've got a lot of composure. They're a group that really cares. And as coaches, you always want kids that are emotionally invested, and those four are highly emotionally invested.
So you're going to get talented kids all the time, and you work to make kids more talented, but to get a group like this with such big hearts, I think we're excited about that side of it.
I don't think they've all peaked at the same time, which I would just love to see it. If they came together like that, it would be fun. Because you've seen great moments from Steph Peace, you've seen Michelle Mueller tear it up for a weekend, and the same with Mary Massei. Cassandra Darrah, from a pitching standpoint, has really come on in the last couple weekends, and she's and starting to show good signs.
They're a fun senior class. We really appreciate them, but I think that they're the class that really they kind of they're the ones that have to do it for us to make a run here against this kind of competition.
But they've got the experience, they've got 200 games under their belt. If there was ever a group to lead the way, it would be this four.
Question: From whenever you got here to now these last two years making it to the NCAA Tournament back to back seasons, what does that do for the future of this program?And did you expect to see this much growth this fast?
Coach Healy: We're really proud as a staff. You come up with a master plan when you get hired and you tell everybody, okay, here's what we're going to do. But I think it takes a tremendous amount of hard work. It takes a great staff. It takes the support of the whole university.
So we've really drawn on a lot of our resources to get coaches from every single sport kind of helping us and lending a hand and telling us how it's done. You realize at a place like Wisconsin people win, but you've got to figure it out.
We definitely couldn't do it without how strong the coaching staff is with Tracie Adix and Randy Schneider. They have just grown the kids tremendously. And then you get coaches like Mike Eaves and then you get Coach Alvarez coming out and giving you advice at practice.
This place is just a powerhouse of great coaches and players. We just have to find a way to tap into it.
Question: Yvette, you sound a little wary about how you've scheduled this year. Do you rethink how you're going to handle next year? Do you add more? Do you continue to have the pace or the quality of schedule that you had this year? Do you back off a little bit knowing what the Big Ten is about?
Coach Healy: I think the Big Ten schedule is different every year. That's part of it too. For as strong as the conference is, you don't play the same teams every single year. You've got to look at that, depending on with adding more teams and who you've got. You look at how old your team is and your pitching experience. So we bring in two freshmen pitchers next year, so it's going to feel different next year.
But I think every year is its own animal. Next year's schedule won't look the same, but it's got its own unique challenges, and it will give us what we think that group needs.
Question: What one thing carries over from last year's experience at Oregon that you think will benefit you the most? Having been there, having seen it, having been a part of that whole atmosphere, what's going to help you the most?
Coach Healy: You know, everything was so new last year that you're just kind of absorbing it and you're trying to soak it all in. And you're trying to win games. I think everybody went out there hoping we could beat Oregon and hoping you could make it to the regional championship but not really knowing if we had the ability to play against teams like that.
And now going into this year, I just think everybody feels a little more comfortable. There's not that insanity of, wow, we have to just play out of our minds to be on the field with them.
I think, if we play good softball, it could get exciting. Not anybody just being crazy, but if we did just did the basics and played the way we've been playing all year, I think we've got the ability to do some good things.
Question: You come across as very bubbly and smiley, whether you're up there or you're doing interviews for Big Ten or something like that. My guess is that you don't get to coaching softball in the Big Ten by being bubbly and smiley 24/7. How do you think your players would describe your coaching style? Because you've done a heck of a job the last couple years.
Coach Healy: Thank you. Our goal is always to get them playing the best softball they can. So I think our goal as coaches, we're just supposed to go there and figure out what we've got, plus your pluses, get everybody playing at a high rate when it counts.
This year was harder because at the beginning you're telling a lot of kids what they can't do in the fall and early on, telling them what they need to do to get better. Those are hard conversations, and it's intense. As you get towards the end of the year, now you're just trying to get everybody pumping on all cylinders. So this is when you're revving them up and you're just trying to get them to believe and buy in.
I think we're a really thoughtful staff. Most people would probably describe us as nerdy. We are just crazy about scouting and detail and reading books and strategizing and doing things outside the box.
But our staff probably are more like players' coaches; that Tracie Adix has been to the World Series, and I was fortunate enough to coach some great teams and play at that high level and play in the World Series myself.
We try to keep it in perspective; that you don't make it more than it is. Tracy Adix, our pitching coach, likes to say: See the sign? Throw the pitch. See the ball? Throw the ball. Hit the ball. Just keep it simple.
For as brainy as we are in our preparation, then when it gets to game day, it's just usually fun. So you guys probably see more of the by product of that. We're extremely prepared. We work really hard. On game day, it's just about rolling out there and having a good time and keeping it loose.
Question: Give me an example of the furthest you've been outside the box.
Coach Healy: Things that we've done strategy wise?
Question: Preparation wise, strategy wise, something you would define as being way out there.
Coach Healy: I think Randy Schneider probably brings the most outside of the box thinking that in creativity with drills, that we're not just out there fielding grounders, but he's got them doing things with body and balance and kinesthetic awareness and jumping over medicine balls and running into tackling dummies which don't tell football, but we're borrowing their stuff sometimes.
You know, trying to make it fun and get them just being more athletic. So from a prep standpoint, you've got that.
And then strategy. We're doing spray charts and arm bands and trying to figure out where they put the ball and then what count, understanding the percentages. You do as much prep as you can so you have an idea of what's going to happen, and then you try to just go with your gut and your flow when the time comes.
I don't think a lot of people are probably putting as much time against that specific side because how do you know where someone's going to put the ball?
But we're trying to really work on our positioning and our strategizing of where's the best, where's their strengths, how do we kind of stay away from their strength and put our kids in a position to succeed.