How Hawkeyes from Iowa show Heart

Iowa Hawkeye fans wave to patients of Stead Family Children’s Hospital after the first quarter at a recent game. Photo by Jeffrey Becker, USA TODAY Sports Images

There is a new tradition happening in college football and many may not be aware of it. But on Saturdays in Iowa City, Iowa, more than 70,000 fans wearing their beloved Hawkeye black and gold (and probably even the visiting fans too), turn to the east and – if during the day – begin waving, and – if at night – wave and even include their lights on their mobile phones.

However, they’re not waving their team onto the field or participating in a school fight song. Instead, they are waving to those who are already doing battle without any pads on, but with courage in their hearts. The Iowa faithful are waving at patients and their families in the newly opened University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital next door.

A Facebook fan suggestion has turned into one of the coolest, most sincere, perhaps most touching and gentle traditions for a sport where opponents crash and collide into each other with brute force. But at the end of the first quarter, there it is … tens of thousands waving to the tenth floor of the hospital, where the children and their families are watching the Hawkeyes from above. For these children and families, their daily battle may involve cancer, cystic fibrosis and diabetes (read more about some of these brave patients), but for just a moment, they are able to feel like normal kids, joining in with thousands of others on Saturday in the fall, rooting on their favorite team.

Given the theme of the blog, what communication tips can be taking from this sentimental sports story? Three important ones:

  1. The Big Picture: While they play a game below, the patients above are fighting for their lives. Instead of pretending they have a bubble inside the stadium, they realize there are those facing more serious situations right over their shoulder, and pausing during the game day festivities to recognize those brave individuals above. In the workplace, it’s easy to get caught up in just your individual task or what your team is doing. But taking a step back to see how your contribution can be part of the larger picture, or how you help solve a bigger problem, will ensure you always have a profound perspective.
  2. Inclusion: It would be easy for the football program or even the fans to forget about what building is looming over them or the tenants inside. However, instead of turning their backs, they turn their hands back and forth, helping to include the children and their families as part of the larger game-day family, providing a brief bit of normalcy in their daily fight. At work, don’t forget those who may be on the periphery as well. Ensuring the broader team is updated and feels they are part of the project will help ensure that everyone is not only on the same page, but an invested part of the process – and success.
  3. It’s Never Too Late: Usually traditions have been something already occurring over time. However, Iowa’s new tradition is just a few weeks old and one that is sure to have staying power. In our jobs, just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean something new cannot be created with a lasting impact. Stay innovative and keep thinking of new ways to enhance any experience. The best traditions may be ones waiting to be discovered at any moment.

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