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The Game of Failure

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The game of softball is pretty straightforward, right? Someone throws a ball at you, you maybe hit it it (probably not if you're me), and then you run until you have to stop, unless someone stops you first.


Most of us, I'm assuming, know how to play. But, just because you know that much does not mean you really know the game, which is something I quickly found out this past Monday.


I'm not talking about technique or batting form or defensive strategy or anything. I openly admit I am not fluent in these things but that doesn't mean I can't watch the game without understanding it. I'm talking about really knowing the game of softball.


Bring a Friend to Practice Day is a tradition that the Notre Dame softball team started three years ago to share their sport with their friends. (Friends = roommates, baseball coaches, the leprechaun, David Robinson, etc.)


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I was lucky enough to attend this year even though I technically don't have any friends on the team but, being the @NDSportsBlogger, I get these kinds of perks.


I wasn't shocked to find out that I sort of sucked at hitting the ball and the accuracy of my throws was... Inconsistent at best. After all, I've lived with myself for 22 years and my career on the diamond ended with T-ball when I was 5.


But, if the goal of Bring a Friend to Practice Day was to show us outsiders what the team goes through in this sport, that was accomplished.


As I swung and missed on yet another ball flying (not very fast) at me from the pitching machine, I thought to myself and proceeded to say out loud, "This really sucks."


Not as in, 'this game sucks' or 'this is the worst time of my life' because I really was having a lot of fun. It was more like, 'this is really frustrating that I can't hit the ball and I have to sit here swinging at it over and over again.' Needless to say, my confidence, which was already low to begin with, was being crushed further and further down with every swing and a miss.


That's when one of the players responded, "Yeah, it's definitely a game of failure."


A game of failure. I had never heard that before but it was perfect. In softball, the average college player literally fails about six or seven out of 10 times at bat - and that's considered good! Think about it, you step up to the plate, either strike out completely or hit the ball but fail to get on base. Sometimes you do get on base or, in the very unlikely case, hit a homerun but, more often than not, you just fail.


Failure exists in all sports but not to the extent that it does in softball and baseball. Decent hockey goalies make more saves in a game than goals they allow, a good quarterback completes his passes at least 6 or 7 times out of ten, and while basketball field goal percentages fall more in the 40-60% range, at least you have a lot of other opportunities to create successes in things like free throws and assists. In softball and baseball, you can be an extremely good player yet still fail overall more times than you succeed.

I've never considered myself a softball or baseball fan. Sure, I'm American. And I like sports. So, if someone offers me tickets to a game, I will go without hesitation. The truth is, though, I've always found it more boring to watch than other sports. Did I maybe not appreciate it that much? Sure. Until now.


The most obvious response to committing yourself to playing a game of failure is committing yourself to positivity.


It is suddenly clear to me why there's constant [positive] yelling coming from the dugouts at softball games - there's literally no other answer. You have to stay positive and uplifting because the game can be so defeating.


(So, wait. First you're telling me I have to put myself in situations where I'm going to fail the majority of the time and now you're saying I have to remain positive through it all? Yup. That's softball.)


Softball, and baseball alike, is the perfect metaphor for life.


To achieve success (hits, runs scored), we inevitably will face a large amount of failures (strike outs) along the way. Ultimately, then, it becomes entirely about how we respond to those failures. Letting them get us down will only keep us further away from possible successes. And it is really hard to want to keep swinging at that ball when you keep missing.


I know that I'm not some brilliant philosopher who has just uncovered a brand new concept. We've all heard the quote, "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." This idea has been around forever.


But, the point is, I never really saw it at the core of softball until now. Softball is such a strong representation of the above phrase yet I never really looked at as more than just a game where people swing at a ball and miss most of the time.


I spoke with Senior Megan Sorlie and Coach Deanna Gumpf after practice and they both said that they started Bring a Friend to Practice Day to show their friends what they go through on a daily basis. I'm sure they mostly meant in terms of drills and camaraderie but, I came away with a whole new mindset about the game.


Now I'll admit, it's not surprising that this happened because I'm always the one looking for a deeper meaning behind sports. But, this one was too applicable to pass up.


So, what did I learn at Bring a Friend to Practice Day? Softball players are some of the most unbelievably positive and mentally strong athletes out there and I should probably get some actual friends on the team because they're a pretty fun group of girls to hang out with.


Sidenote: One of the girls brought David Robinson as her friend. So, if nothing else, it's impossible not to stay positive and have fun when you're watching a 7'1 guy round the bases.


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A New Home

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While our student-athletes have been working hard in preparation for the start of the fall season, we've also made a few improvements in anticipation of the new school year.

From this point forward, Irish UNDerground will be utilizing the Wordpress platform powered by NBC Sports.

Here's a look at our three new blog websites:

UNDerground: Notre Dame Athletics

Strong and True: Notre Dame Football

Irish United: Notre Dame Men's and Women's Soccer

Go ahead and bookmark these now. With features, videos, photos, commentaries and news from inside the athletic department, we are committed to bringing you coverage of Notre Dame athletics unlike any you can find elsewhere.

Get ready. 2012-13 is going to be an exciting year to be Irish.

Welcome to the Club

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The alumni "club" that is... Congratulations goes out to Notre Dame softball seniors (from left) Alexa Maldonado, Kasey O'Connor, Kristina Wright and Dani Miller, who graduated this morning in a ceremony at Club Naimoli in the Purcell Pavilion.

The four newest graduates in the class of 2012 missed Sunday's commencement ceremonies while their team was playing in the NCAA tournament regional in Tucson, Ariz.

After their degrees were conferred, each of the student-athletes delivered a few heartfelt words to the audience, fighting back tears, but also adding some humor, while reflecting on all they have learned and thanking those who have helped them along the way.

Chuck Lennon ('61), former executive director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association and Rev. Tom Doyle, C.S.C., Vice President for Student Affairs spoke at the event, along with Rev. Paul Doyle, C.S.C., rector of Dillon Hall and Monogram Club chaplain, who delivered the invocation and a final blessing.

Much like the men's lacrosse ceremony I was able to attend on Saturday afternoon, this was a nice gesture recognizing all that the graduating student-athletes accomplished academically and athletically during their time at Notre Dame. While it was unfortunate that they did not get to participate in Sunday's events, being away from campus meant two things - their teams were still playing and their college athletic careers were still alive.

I'm sure if you asked the twelve lacrosse and four softball student-athletes, a small graduation with the people closest to them - teammates, parents and coaches - was just as meaningful as the one they missed out in Notre Dame Stadium.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Irish Strike Out Cancer (and Syracuse)

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It was all Orange this afternoon at Melissa Cook Stadium. And that's not to say Syracuse got a big victory. In fact, it was Notre Dame that emerged with a 4-3 win in the first game of a BIG EAST conference doubleheader.

Orange was the color of the afternoon because Syracuse was decked out in it from head to toe, but also because the Fighting Irish uniforms were accented with orange for leukemia awareness.

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Notre Dame held its second annual Strike Out Cancer event to help raise money for the South Bend Memorial Hospital Pediatric Hematology / Oncology Program.

Pediatric leukemia is a disease that has closely affected Irish softball, as head coach Deanna Gumpf's daughter, Tatum, was diagnosed in 2010. Now six years old, Tatum is on her way to a full recovery.

Among the activities at this afternoon's event were balloon animals, facepainting, and a silent auction.

2012-04-14_13-33-39_139.jpg Some of the items being auctioned off include two pre-game sideline passes and game tickets for Notre Dame football game against Michigan, replica commemorative Strike Out Cancer jerseys and game-worn commemorative helmets and gloves.

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After trailing for much of the game, the Fighting Irish tied the score in the bottom of the sixth on a solo home run from Katey Haus, before walking off with a win in the seventh when Kelsey Thornton scored from third on a wild pitch.

Notre Dame and Syracuse return to the field in a few minutes for the second game of the afternoon.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Strike Out Cancer

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This Saturday, April 14, the Notre Dame softball team is hosting its Second Annual Strike Out Cancer for Pediatric Leukemia event. The Fighting Irish host Syracuse for a BIG EAST conference doubleheader beginning at noon ET at Melissa Cook Stadium, but there will also be various events throughout the day.

A pre-game ceremony will honor Memorial Children's Hospital patients battling cancer. During the games, a silent auction will be held with items including 2 pre-game sideline passes and game tickets for the Notre Dame vs. Michigan football game on September 22nd. Other items include replica commemorative Strike Out Cancer jerseys (the Irish uniforms will feature orange, the 'color' associated with leukemia awareness), game worn commemorative helmets and gloves.

There will be balloon animals, face-painting and a dunk tank during the game, and after game one, a 'Chuck-a-duck' competition in the pitcher's circle. After the doubleheader, any fans in attendance can register for the on-field home run derby, with the winner receiving a flat screen television.

All proceeds benefit Memorial Children's Hospital Pediatric Oncology Clinic. Pediatric leukemia is a disease the Notre Dame softball team holds close to its heart. The Strike Out Cancer event was started last year in honor of Tatum Gumpf, head coach Deanna Gumpf's daugther who is battling cancer. Coach Gumpf's story was recently featured in the athletic department's 'Strong of Heart' book, which is available online and at the Hammes Bookstore.

For more information visit, UND.com. Come out on Saturday to support the cause, and the Irish, as they seek to improve upon their 4-1 BIG EAST start and 7-0 record at home.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

The Season Starts

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After what seems like years of practice in Loftus, we are officially starting the 2012 season.

As I sit here in the airport waiting to board our flight, preseason seems like a distant memory. These past five weeks couldn't have gone any more smoothly. We pushed our limits and we found out what we were made of and what we wanted to accomplish this year ... the national championship!

We also made some interesting connections in regards to our very distinct personalities. For example, we related the players of the team to movies that most represent them as a person. We concluded that the movie that represents Kasey O'Connor is Little Giants, Amy Buntin is Ol' Yeller, The Sandlot represents Kelsey Thorton, Laura Winter represents Star Wars and Emilee Koerner is representative of 50 First Dates.

However, there are some things we still haven't figured out such as our songs for our walk out and spotlight. These are big decisions that can make or break a career. Luckily, there is time before our home opener so we have some time.

Despite getting outside on a couple of the warmer days, the team is so excited to play some ball and enjoy the warm weather. San Diego natives Kristina Wright, Laura Winter and Katey Haus could not be more thrilled that they are home. Kristina tweeted from her airplane window seat, "I can see the lights! I love San Diego!" While Laura Winter admits, "I am excited to be home!"

On our trip, we will be having dinner at the Winter's and the menu item is ... tacos! We could not be more grateful to our families who help out the team every way they can. On a another note, many of the girls will be seeing their families for the first time since going back to school.

Speaking for myself, I cannot wait to see my mom! Our parents are our number one fans and are more than willingly to sign autographs after each game. They are the best!

We open the season facing Boise State, San Diego State, San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and Oregon State. We are one the only teams left in the nation that has not started its season. Many colleges started playing last weekend. Despite that fact, we can not be more excited to be here in San Diego and start the season off right!

Go Irish!

- Cassidy Whidden ('15)

Twas the Night Before Christmas ...

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Ask Us Before You Ask Them

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Are You Experienced?

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Irish In Australia

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The Notre Dame softball team (@NDsoftball) recently returned to campus after spending fall break in Australia. Several players and staff members kept a journal of their encounters in the 'Land Down Under' for Irish UNDerground throughout the excursion ...

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Sunday, Oct. 16 - Freshman Cassidy Whidden

G'day mates!

After countless hours on an airplane, the team has made it to the Land Down Under.

However, we were only in Australia for a matter of minutes before Australian officials quarantined us.

The customs officials suspected us of trying to sneak "foreign" substances into the country through the soles of our shoes, but what really happened is that multiple girls had clay from Melissa Cook Stadium on their cleats ... therefore our cleats had to be sanitized of this "foreign" substance.

Despite being quarantined for a while, this did not stop our excitement and from the airport we made our way to Coogee Beach where the sunshine, the beach and an Australian barbecue welcomed us.

Many of the girls joked that we would be eating kangaroo for lunch, but it wasn't a joke. The barbecue had a variety of chicken, sausage and kangaroo meats along with various salads and rolls. While some of the girls enjoyed the 'roo meat, the majority of us thought it was a little bit too "gamely".

One must have an acquired taste for kangaroo meat; otherwise you might just spoil your entire meal.

Along with learning what kangaroo meat tastes like, the team also learned how to throw a rugby ball and enjoyed a pick-up game with some wallabies "natives". For several hours, we enjoyed the sunshine and conversations with our new Australian friends. Our Australian friends taught us more than how to throw a rugby ball, the also informed us that certain American words do not translate into the same word down here.

For instance, a fanny pack is not a fashionable waist bag but rather an inappropriate body part. It's a learning experience down here!

I think I can speak for the whole team and say that jet lag has finally caught up to us, so this is all for now from down under! We miss everyone back home and we love you all!

Cheers!

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Event Calendar

October 15
6:30 PM
Intrasquad Scrimmage
Notre Dame, Ind. (Frank Eck Stadium)
October 16
5:15 PM
Intrasquad Scrimmage
Notre Dame, Ind. (Frank Eck Stadium)
October 16
5:30 PM
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Va. (Thompson Field)

ESPN3/RSN
WatchESPN
October 16
7:00 PM
Wake Forest
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)

ESPN3
Watch ESPN
October 16
12:00 PM
Wisconsin Invitational
Madison, Wis. (Thomas Zimmer Cross Country Course)
October 16
7:00 PM
Duke
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

WatchND
October 16
7:00 PM
Penn State
University Park, Pa. (Pegula Ice Arena)

Live Stats
October 17
7:30 PM
USC
Notre Dame, Ind.

NBC
Game Week Central
October 17
9:30 AM
Intrasquad Scrimmage
Notre Dame, Ind. (Frank Eck Stadium)
October 17
3:00 PM
Penn State
University Park, Pa. (Pegula Ice Arena)

WatchND
October 18
1:00 PM
Wake Forest
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

ESPN3
Watch ESPN
October 19
All Day
Cardinal Cup
Cardinal Club, Louisville, Ky.
October 20
7:00 PM
Northwestern
Bridgeview, Ill. (Toyota Park)
October 20
4th, 286
Cardinal Cup
Cardinal Club, Louisville, Ky.
October 21
7:00 PM
Louisville
Louisville, Ky.

ESPN3
Watch ESPN
October 22
7:00 PM
North Carolina
Chapel Hill, N.C. (Fetzer Field)

ESPN3
October 22
All Day
ITA Midwest Regional Championships
Notre Dame, Ind. (Eck Tennis Pavilion)
October 22
TBA
ITA Midwest Regional Championships
Ann Arbor, Mich. (Varsity Tennis Center)
October 22
All Day
Notre Dame Invitational
Waterville, Ireland (Waterville Golf Club)

St. Joseph Health System Medifast Delta Canon Visit South Bend Mishawaka