Sunday during the day we had our Annual Swimming and Diving Awards Banquet, and Monday evening I had the opportunity to attend the Iowa Athletic and Academic Awards Banquet, along with the Senior I-Ring Presentation. These two events involved dresses and heels, plenty of photos, and the recognition of the many achievements Iowa student-athletes have accumulated. I was asked to stand a few times along with many others, for making the All-Big Ten Team for Academics and for qualifying for the NCAA Regional Championships. The Seniors got recognized with a procession to be seated, and then individually Monday evening to receive our I-Rings and induction into the National Varsity Club.
Sunday, at the annual team awards, my coach stood at the front of the room and talked about how the team has grown, how this was the first time he had seniors graduating in the three years he’s been at Iowa, and told the story of my broken foot. I didn’t know he had planned to say anything about it. He admitted to many behind the scenes conversations that I wasn’t aware of, where the coaches and staff didn’t know if competing was going to be possible, and shared what struck him from my Big Ten meet; telling him I needed to finish what I started and finish with the girls I started with. He shared with the group that was the kind of individuals we had on this team- those who compete for the team knowing winning was out of the question.
My coach, in the past, has said that we need to be striving to leave the program better than we found it. We even had a specific conversation at the beginning on the season about what being a senior on this team would mean- mentoring the underclassmen through the difficulties of being an NCAA D1 athlete. Not just surviving, but thriving. I know my fellow seniors and I took that to heart, aiming to be the positive role models we thought the team needed. I thought by performing well and competing with heart I was demonstrating what our coach wanted us to do, but what I missed was the bigger picture. Our coach didn’t need us to be athlete role models, but role models for the ideals and values he taught us every day in the pool. He wanted us to demonstrate the life lessons he had taught us over the years. What I didn’t realize was that he was just as proud if not more so, of the example I set when injured, than when I was not. I didn’t know anyone was paying attention when I spent hours doing therapy and icing. I do know that I could not have made it through that time without the life lessons we had been taught through the past three years:
You need to fall in love with the daily grind.
If you don’t love what you’re doing, every second of it, it’s not worth doing. You have to fall in love with every miserable minute. Every practice you feel like crap. Every day you’re stressed and tired and hate everyone. You need to fall in love with the bad days because if anything is guaranteed it’s you WILL have bad days. Embrace them.
Good is the enemy of great.
Do not settle. Do not give in to satisfactory, do not be “okay” with decent. Strive for more. Strive for better. Hold yourself accountable to be great. Belief that you CAN be great. Good is good but good is JUST good- don’t ever be satisfied with only good when there is the potential for greatness.
Do not despair. Do not give in.
Never, ever, ever, give up. Never give in. Like the daily grind, train through the bad days. Train through the negative self-talk. Don’t let the bad day win. Don’t let the bad day mask the bigger picture or alter your perspective on the ultimate goal.
Have the heart of a champion.
Having the heart of the champion is more than training and competing for the win. It’s about competing for the team, and training with a purpose. It’s about keeping a positive attitude above all, and rising up when we smack or fall (or break bones). Having the heart of a champion is never giving in to adversity, and fighting for your greatest potential.
I didn’t think about my I-Ring much over the past five years. The significance of it just didn’t register with me while going through the practices and the travel and the competitions. And for someone who didn’t give it much thought, I can’t describe the feeling of pride in my chest when I slipped it on.
“Once a Hawkeye, Always a Hawkeye,” has never meant so much to me. No matter where I go in life, I will always be a Hawkeye, an Iowa alum, and a member of the Iowa National Varsity Club.