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 JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — On April 1, 2017, the University of Iowa women’s gymnastics team looked up at the scoreboard and saw itself fall 1/10 of a point shy of qualifying for the NCAA Championships. It’s a feeling that has not been forgotten in the months since and it has given the Hawkeyes a newfound determination through their new motto — go to work.
The Hawkeyes had two individuals — Angel Metcalf and Clair Kaji — qualify for NCAAs but the whole team felt like they belonged. When the team returned to Iowa City, they knew what needed to be done.
“We felt like we should have been there,” UI head coach Larissa Libby said. “If we ever end up 1/10 again, we are not going to get outworked. It’s the idea that we need to go back home and go back to work.”
The motto came about naturally in the gym. Teammates always said it to each other without explanation; the team knew exactly what it meant.
“It was being said without talking about it,” Libby said. “Stop the excuses, stop this, stop that, and go to work. It’s a ‘no excuse’ label. The only thing we ask them to do is to push their potential. At the end of the season, I don’t want to look back and say ‘I wish I would have’.”
The Hawkeyes are reminded of this mindset every day through small tin lunchboxes they carry with them. When they arrive at practice, they place their lunchboxes on a ledge with their teammates’ as they go to work.
“You have to bring lunch when you go to work, right?” Libby said. “They were decorated by each gymnast at our team bonding event. They have little things inside to remind them about a practice that went well or notes that help remind them who they are and, at the end of the day, what the most important thing is and that is that the team comes first.”
Last week assistant coach Jennifer Green gifted every gymnast a bouncy ball to remind each one of them to remain resilient to whatever may come their way.
The motto isn’t just a mindset for the gym, but an idea that will help each Hawkeye succeed in life far beyond their time with Libby.
“We only get four years with them,” Libby said. “When they walk away, they are a constant representative of me, the program, the university, and the state. Their accolades alone will not be representative enough of our program. It’s about them being not only quality athletes, but quality people.”
Heading into 2018, the Hawkeyes have the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year in Libby, three All-Big Ten performers in seniors Melissa Zurawski, and Lanie Snyder, and Kaji and two freshmen of the week honorees in Charlotte Sullivan and Kaji. The accolades are there, but they mean nothing if the GymHawks don’t go to work.
“We feel like if we go hard and go to work right away then we can make it, but you have to go to work,” Libby said. “If you put in the work, then you don’t lose. You don’t.”
The Hawkeyes ‘go to work’ in their regular season debut Jan. 6 in Tempe, Arizona, against Arizona State and Iowa State. The meet begins at 5 p.m. (CT).