June 29, 2015
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
BY MEGAN ROWLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa City native Joey Woody led the Hawkeyes to 11 All-America honors and four Big Ten titles in his first season as University of Iowa director of track and field and cross country.
Woody led the Hawkeye men to a third-place finish at the 2015 Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships — their highest finish since winning the conference title in 2011 — and the Hawkeye women set four school records.
Since arriving on campus, Woody has led Iowa to 14 Big Ten individual titles, three conference relay titles, and 44 All-America honors.
Prior to earning his director title, Woody served as associate head coach for two seasons and an assistant coach/director of sprint and hurdle events for seven seasons.
When his first season as UI director of track and field/cross country came to a close, Woody sat down with hawkeyesports.com to reflect on the previous year and his long-term goals for the program.
This was your first season in the director’s chair, but your 10th on the Iowa staff, how did your first season as head coach meet your own personal expectations?
“When you’re an assistant coach you don’t think about all the demands the head coach takes on. You assume you know what it is, but there are a lot of things that you have to take on, and one thing I’m proud of is that I was still able to maintain my coaching abilities and make sure the student-athletes didn’t see a change or negative effect on them while I was overseeing the entire program. That was probably my biggest fear. Instead, they saw a positive change with more attention and they were able to perform at a high level. Overall, both the men and women improved considerably from the indoor season to the outdoor season, moving up four to five spots from the indoor season. So that is a good kick-start moving into the next year.”
You entered the season with a lot of excitement and optimism, what is the key to sustaining that next season?
“We need to continue to have that excitement. At the end of the season some of the athletes were already thinking about next year. Not that they weren’t thinking about what they were going to accomplish this year, but they were already excited about next year because we probably have the best recruiting class we have ever had, both men and women. They already have the mindset that we can be a much better team next year. The key is to keep that mindset that we are going to win a championship and it comes down to the work that they put in this summer and moving into the fall. This time of the year is huge. We have about 12 weeks until we get back and those 12 weeks can be used for gain and growth or it can be used to move backwards. I think the student athletes have sensed that message and realize if they go to work this summer we can be extremely good next year.”
You have a lot of talent returning next season, including eight All-Americans and three Big Ten Champions, what is the ceiling for this team in your second season?
“I am a big believer in not setting limits for what we can achieve individually and as a program. We could be as low as last and as high as first. That depends on the commitment that the athletes have and the sacrifices that they are willing to make to be great. They have to do a lot of work on their own and they have to be committed 100-percent. It is a mindset, too. They just have to have the belief that they can win. Once you start believing it, you can accomplish it; if you don’t believe it, you’re never going to get there. The biggest thing I have tried to instill in these athletes is that they have to believe bigger. The more they set their mind to being champions the closer they are to accomplishing that goal.”
When you were hired you put a lot of emphasis on power and speed with track and field meets, how did your first season reinforce that philosophy?
“Definitely. If you look at the points that we scored at the Big Ten Championship, a lot of it came from those event areas. But again, that doesn’t mean we don’t need distance runners and the middle distances to step up. We are going to continue to build from the inside out with the speed, power, and relays, buut we need developmental athletes to step in throughout their careers and score points at the Big Ten meet. That’s what is going to put us over the top. We want to be a comprehensive team that has athletes in every event area with the opportunity to score points.”
No matter how long you’ve been here, there is always a learning curve with a new position, what do you know about this job today that you didn’t know 12 months ago?
“It is always going to be a daily occurrence where new things come up and I will learn from those. As far as a program goes and leading this team, they are looking to me for the overall vision. So I have to continue to put that vision in front of them and our vision is always going to be about success. We are looking for success individually, academically, socially, things like that. We continue to educate ourselves as coaches to be better coaches, but we need to continue to educate ourselves to be great leaders and mentors. The same thing goes for our athletes. We need to put obstacles in front of them to help them become better leaders, better teammates, to write better resumes, whatever it is that is going to allow them to be more successful in their life. Greatness doesn’t just happen overnight. Greatness comes from commitment and dedication to being great. It is a daily process. We live for the process and that’s the reason I do this job. I don’t do this just for what happens at the Big Ten meet or the national meet. I love the daily process that goes along with it because that is the reward and that is what you have to love. You have to love that if you want to have success.”
The end of the season is still pretty fresh, but what was your message to the team as you send them into the offseason for the first time?
“We want them to get some rest and enjoy life outside of track because sometimes when you get away from it you’re hungrier when you come back. We want them to be hungry. I remember when I got back from the (1996) Olympic trials I walked off the plane and went straight to the weight room because I realized that I needed to get stronger. I placed seventh at the Trials and I knew my goal was to make the Olympic team. I think that has to be the mindset. You have to continue to work harder and harder every day and get better every single day because you have a limited amount of time to do this. You have a window of opportunity and you have to take advantage of it every day. I think the more athletes we have that share that mindset and have those goals, the more success we will have on the track.”
A year ago Aaron Mallett placed sixth in conference, and this year he placed fifth in the nation. How do you feel when you see a young person take such giant strides from one year to the next?
“I always knew Aaron had the talent. For him it was more of his mindset and just being able to realize how to focus on himself. Once he figured out how to focus on himself and stop worrying about everyone else in the race, he just took off. It makes you proud of the athlete because they realize what it takes. He put the work in and he was committed to making sure he gave himself a chance to be an All-American. It is a daily grind that you have to love and Aaron does. I think a lot of our athletes do. He is a great example of what happens when you are committed on a daily basis. Next year we will have the most talent that we have ever had in this program for both men and women. With the proper work ethic and level of commitment, the sky is the limit.”