On and off the field: Madeline Bittell’s inspiring path to success with NMU lacrosse

As women’s lacrosse gears up for the upcoming season, fifth-year senior Minnie Bittell tells her story.
Photo Courtesy of NMU Athletics
Photo Courtesy of NMU Athletics

The NMU women’s lacrosse team has emerged as a force to be reckoned with over the past couple of years and at the heart of that driving force is Madeline “Minnie” Bittell. A fifth-year student majoring in public relations and Spanish with a minor in accounting, Bittell’s journey through lacrosse is the perfect example of what a student athlete can strive to be.

From the town of Minnetonka, Minnesota, Bittell’s passion for lacrosse sprung up in her later years of middle school, as she initially played various other sports, including swimming, soccer, cross country and Nordic skiing. However, it was the dynamic nature of lacrosse that captured her heart, blending elements of teamwork, hand-eye coordination and strategic play from other sports like basketball and hockey which she was not able to play growing up.

“Lacrosse was the sport that brought together a lot of my sports that I enjoyed … that’s why I wanted to pursue it essentially,” Bittell said. 

Her decision to continue her lacrosse journey at Northern Michigan University was driven by a desire for personal and academic growth after she realized the “Division I or nothing” mindset was not for her. Despite the benefits of Division I programs, Bittell found Northern’s program to be the ideal environment to pursue her personal and professional growth while thriving as a student-athlete.

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“Realistically, there’s no lacrosse after college for most of us,” Bittell said. “I looked at a handful of schools and in terms of best fit of school … Northern was the best fit for me.”

Bittell’s impact on the Wildcats lacrosse program has been nothing short of remarkable. During the 2023 season, she shattered long-standing program records, becoming the all-time leader in career goals (147), assists (61) and points (208). However, as nice as the individual awards are for Bittell, they do not compare to the collective success she shares with her teammates.

“Working for my teammates is what drives me the most … I know that I work hard, I know that I work hard for my teammates, and that’s all that matters to me,” Bittell said. 

Off the field, Bittell’s dedication to her academics is more than impressive, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and most recently gaining recognition on the Academic Excellence Team for the 2023 season. Bittell credits her success to her parents and the values they taught her.

“School always comes first, then sports comes second, but on top all of that is being a good person,” Bittell said. 

Central to Bittell’s success is her dedication to habit building. Recognizing that success is built on consistent effort and attention to detail, she emphasizes the importance of creating routines that support her overall wellbeing. One of those habits she said is meal prep, a practice that helps alleviate stress and maintain energy levels throughout the week. Another is organization, another central key to Bittell’s success strategy.

“Organization, I think, is something that I struggled with growing up a lot, especially in high school,” she said.

However, having developed an organized system that works for her and her brain has helped her become more productive and check off her goals one by one. 

As Bittell enters her fifth year in the program, she is focused on leaving behind a lasting legacy of camaraderie, motivation and teamwork. Bittell aims to lead by example, emphasizing the importance of collective success over individual accolades.

“I really just want to have fun with my girls,” she said. “My lasting impact on this team to be team oriented as a collective, and intrinsically driven.”

Setting the bar high for herself and her teammates, Bittell hopes to inspire future generations of Wildcats athletes to strive for greatness.

“I want to be the best role model I can be,” Bittell said. “Hopefully, girls will try to have that intrinsic motivation to try to beat everything that I’ve achieved.”

With the women’s lacrosse team ranked second in the preseason poll and fueled by the disappointment of falling short in the GLIAC championship game last season, Bittell and her teammates are poised for redemption.

“Leaving that last game last year was so devastating because we did get so close,” she said. “But that loss gave everyone the motivation we needed to make the growth steps necessary for success.”

Focused on controlling controllables and elevating their game both physically and mentally, the ‘Cats are determined to make their mark on the upcoming season.

“We did put our best foot forward … getting in better shape, having better stick work, playing smarter,” Bittell said. “With this group and how much we all believe in each other, I’m just really excited to see what we can do.”

As Bittell embarks on her final ride with the ‘Cats, her legacy as a leader, teammate and role model is firmly cemented in history and is sure to inspire the next generation of Wildcats. The Wildcats will have their first game of the season at home on Feb. 10, at 2 p.m. against Aquinas College.

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