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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The phrase doesn't exactly sound cliche, but UF coach Amanda Butler might have created some new coach-speak when she said it.

For her team to achieve its goals this season - specifically, a return to the NCAA Tournament - Butler wants her players to "live a lifestyle of winning."

When asked to define what the saying meant, the second-year coach smiled and said she could talk all day about what it means, but she wasn't sure if all of the media present wanted to sit and listen to her talk endlessly about it.

So she summed it up pretty simply.

"A daily lifestyle of winning transcends the basketball court," Butler said.

The coach wants her players to get in the mindset of doing things they wouldn't normally do on and off the court, things that the coaches aren't imposing on them.

Drinking more water than normal, eating breakfast when you don't normally, taking care of your body - all are some of the ways to live the winning lifestyle Butler mentioned.

Those ways carry over to things like trying harder in practice, working out an extra 15 minutes in the gym and getting 100 extra shots a day.

"It's every minute of every day looking for ways to improve," Butler said. "That is the lifestyle of a champion."

This type of coaching approach helped bring the Gators success in Butler's first season. They won 19 games and earned a postseason bid into the WNIT a year after losing 22 games.

Butler is continuing to instill a winning mentality in her players in year two, something she said has not been a problem heading into this season.

"It's almost scary how much they believe that they can do well," she said.

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UF's confidence has grown so much since last season that Butler said her team has to be careful of not being overconfident and realize how hard they will have to work to win games.

In the Southeastern Conference, where living "lifestyles of winning" and collecting championships seem to be a regular occurrence (see Tennessee and LSU), Butler's squad will get a pretty good gauge on where it stands with the nation's best.

"The first step is getting your team to believe, and I think we already have that," Butler said.

"Preseason last year, they didn't hear a lot of positive comments. There wasn't a lot of hopefulness and expectations coming from the outside; it was all being generated from the inside. So for this year for there to be a little bit higher expectation, we hope to see the level rise even more in them."

That means continuing to put in the extra effort in the weight room, staying longer after practice or maybe just eating Wheaties every day.

Showing that level of commitment outside of the O'Connell Center, Butler thinks, will go a long way in the Gators' success this season.

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