Working with athletes the past 28 years, Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder has developed an appreciation for how the fusion of leadership and teamwork can lead to success.
Bluder focused on those themes and how they can be applied in everyday life during her keynote address Thursday at the Quad-Cities Young Women of Achievement awards luncheon hosted by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois and the Women’s Connection in Bettendorf.
“I believe so strongly that young women need to embrace opportunities to lead those who follow them, much like the women here today are committed to leading the young women being recognized,” said Bluder, who encouraged those in attendance to follow an acronym for WIN — Work hard with Intensity and No excuses — as they go through life.
Bluder did not need to look any further than her own team to find an example.
Since Iowa ended last season, injuries have ended the careers of two Hawkeyes — Virginia Johnson and Jade Rogers — and senior Jaime Printy and sophomore Kathryn Reynolds continue lengthy rehabilitations from ACL surgery.
Printy, who underwent surgery in February, remains on schedule for a return to full practice in October, and Bluder said it is likely she will be cleared to begin running at some point next week.
Reynolds, injured in April, likely will miss the upcoming season.
The loss of Johnson and Rogers leaves Iowa without its expected leaders at power forward, and Bluder said leadership and teamwork from the 12 players on the Hawkeyes roster for the 2012-13 season will be critical.
“For us to be successful, we need our returning players to step forward and lead during the offseason. It’s a critical time for our team,” Bluder said. “Our players traditionally do a good job of it, especially when it comes to acclimating newcomers to the program.”
Iowa welcomed three new players to campus this week.
Claire Till, Nicole Smith and Kathryn Thomas arrived for the start of summer term classes at Iowa, although Bluder anticipates that an ACL injury will lead to a redshirt season for Smith.
“They are in Iowa City, getting adjusted to college, and what you hope for is that the returning players bring them in as part of the team just as older players did for them when they were unpacking their bags that first time,” Bluder said.
“That has been one of the strengths of our program, that the players take the initiative to lead and take ownership in helping that chemistry and bond of team develop.”
Bluder views that as especially essential given the challenging nature of Iowa’s nonconference schedule.
The Hawkeyes will join perennial power North Carolina as participants in a Preseason WNIT event that will include at least two games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa will face LSU and either West Virginia or Florida International at a tourney in Miami and will later participate in a holiday tournament in San Diego that also includes Texas.
“By the time you throw in a road game at Florida State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, games at home with Iowa State and UNI and a game at Drake you see plenty of challenges,” Bluder said. “We return a number of key players, but we need a good summer of growth.”