Iowa women’s basketball’s freshmen staying motivated through COVID-19

The freshmen on the 2020-21 Iowa women’s basketball team had to deal with new regulations when transitioning from high school to Division I basketball.


Nichole Harris

Iowa associate head coach Jan Jensen rallies the Iowa Hawkeyes during a timeout pep talk during a women’s basketball game between Iowa and Nebraska at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska on Saturday, December 28. The Hawkeyes fell to the Huskers 78-69.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

Iowa women’s basketball’s freshmen class came to campus under conditions like no other recruiting class in program history.

The Hawkeyes started practices over the summer, and freshmen Shateah Wetering, Caitlin Clark, Lauren Jensen, and Sharon Goodman got their first taste of Iowa women’s basketball.

The freshmen had to adapt to a multitude of changes, including wearing masks inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, weekly COVID-19 testing, and living in single dorms for the summer instead of a double with one of their teammates.

But the many changes didn’t deter the freshmen. Clark, a point guard, said she thinks the changes are actually tougher for upperclassmen to adjust to.

“I think that almost in a way it’s been easier for the freshmen than anyone, because we don’t know any different,” Clark said. “This is our first year in college, but for the older girls, they’ve kind of had that set routine, and were used to that routine of classes … obviously we know it’s really different, but we’re just learning to go with the flow.”

Associate head coach Jan Jensen has been impressed with how freshmen have handled the pandemic’s adverse effects.

“I don’t know if there could be a better freshman class that has had to handle an ending to their high-school senior year that was abrupt and different and certainly sad,” Jensen said. “It was less than exciting and fun and easy, but I cannot speak highly enough of their positive attitude — their fortitude. Not once, not one time, from any of them have they said ‘Wow, this stinks’ … not even in jest.”

Along with the COVID-19 regulations, freshmen have had to acclimate to the pace of Division I women’s basketball.

Lauren Jensen said everyone is “better, faster, and stronger” at Iowa, and she already feels like her game is on a different level from the practices over the summer and into fall.

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Clark thinks the freshmen’s transition has been pretty seamless because they played AAU basketball before coming to Iowa. Clark has the most experience of her fellow freshmen, playing in multiple international tournaments and winning two gold medals with Team USA.

“All of us freshmen have played AAU and have played against really big competition our whole lives,” Clark said. “So, I think that that aspect has been pretty easy to adjust to, but I think that the coaches and the other girls on the team have made it really easy for us to transition, especially during these hard times.”

Throughout regulated practices, shutdowns because of COVID-19 cases, and the previous uncertainty of even having a season, the freshmen needed to find a way to stay motivated.

“The team had to bring the energy, and just remember that it will all come back, and we’ll get there sometime, so you have to be ready when it happens,” Goodman said.

Goodman added that the upperclassmen have been making a point to include the freshmen and build more teamwork and team bonding into practice because the team can’t do such activities outside of practice.

Whenever the season gets underway, the freshmen are confident that they will be safe playing basketball because the Big Ten’s extensive protocols will sufficiently protect them.

“If they have those guidelines set in place, we just want to play basketball,” Goodman said. “I guess that’s not something that I’m overly worried about, but we’re going to follow the rules and follow the guidelines and hopefully get to play teams.”