Motivation crucial aspect in lives of best athletes

By Katy Shult 2007

From football to trapshooting to all sorts of intramural sports, Cedar Falls athletes have a variety of sports to enjoy, but one aspect ties them all together. That aspect is the athlete’s competitive motivation to do well.

Motivation is the drive, the incentive to be one’s best, and athlete’s have many ways of capitalizing on this drive, sometimes even before they face their opponent.

Having pre-meet rituals can help build the confidence of an athlete and help motivate the athlete to do well.

CFHS senior Josie Itzen is a member of women’s swim team, and she has recently signed with UNI to continue her swimming after high school. At the state meet Itzen placed fourth in the 200-meter IM and 13th in the 100-meter freestyle race.

Regarding her motivation to do well in swimming, Itzen said, “Something I really like is the thrill of winning. When I train, I look forward to swimming my race and getting to the wall first. It feels so good in the end because you know that you’ve put all your energy into it, and you’ve trained really hard for a race.”

Some of Itzen’s pre-meet rituals include relaxing and thinking about how she is going to swim her races. She also drinks a lot of Gatorade and eats Spaghettio’s before the meet. All the while she just tries not to get too nervous.

While Itzen works to continue her swimming career after high school, she advises future athletes, “Work hard in practice because it definitely pays off. Go to as many practices as you can because it can really help you and your team. Don’t get too nervous at meets; instead, just visualize how you will swim and go for the gold.”

UNI sophomore Johnny Gray is the starting wide receiver for the Panthers. Last year as a freshman, Gray played a key role for the Panthers, playing in 12 of the 15 games.

Gray was named The Sports Network’s National Co-Special Teams Player of the Week and also received Gateway Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

Gray said he feels that his motivation in sports is “to get a degree and hopefully make it playing football, so I can take care of my family.”

Gray is currently majoring in business at the University of Northern Iowa.

A couple of Gray’s pre-game rituals include praying before every game and talking to his mom Gwen Kelly before every game.

Gray’s advice to future athletes is, “Make sure you leave school with a degree. That’s the main thing.”

University of Iowa junior Anna Steil is a member of the Iowa dance team. Steil has been involved in dance for the most part of her life, and she is working to improve and excel in college.

“My motivation to do well in athletics is that at the college level everyone is good or better than you. So to get noticed at the collegiate level you have to push and work hard to become better. Also, at this level Iowa has many opportunities for athletes; one that is motivating are the trips that the dance team is invited to participate in. First, we are invited to travel with the football team to a bowl game, and, second, we go to Nationals in Florida to compete against other college dance teams,” Steil said about her motivation to do well in dance.

The members of the Iowa dance team do many things before they perform their routine. “On game day we usually meet at the rec building and stretch together. Then we perform a pre-game show in the rec center for parents and fans. Than we all huddle up and walk over to the football stadium where we stretch some more and take pictures on the football field. When the dance team is getting ready to perform in a competition, the atmosphere is heightened with nerves. Our coach does our make-up, and we stretch and practice our routine. Our coach usually will count it out and make sure formations look OK. Before we take the floor, whether it is before a performance or a football game, we huddle up and chant,” Steil said.

Steil advises future athletes, “Make sure you know why you are in college. It is not all about the sport. You have to have a good education because when college is over, you may not have the opportunity to go on to play on the professional level. In conclusion, make sure you stay on top of your schoolwork and continue to strive to be the best athlete in your sport.”

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