June 27, 2013
ATKINS, Iowa -- During the summer months the Iowa spirit squads have a time away from cheering on the Hawkeyes, but once a month, the squads reunite for a weekend practice to keep up on skills, work on items for camp and build team chemistry for the upcoming season.
On June 22, the spirit squad traveled to Bloomsberry Farms in Atkins, Iowa, for a unique opportunity to bond as a team. They participated in a "Farm Fun" team-building exercise where the squad was broken up into five teams with a mix of cheerleaders, dancers and mascots with each group dressing up in a particular way to represent their team.
"Team-building is important to what we do with the Iowa spirit squads," said spirit squad coordinator Gregg Niemiec. "We spend a lot of time together during the year, between daily practices, games, and hundreds of events, the team members being able to depend on one another is key. We are always looking for unique ways to pull the team members together."
The bus ride to Atkins was filled with questions (the team didn't know where they were going). They only knew the exercise would be outdoors, and they needed running shoes to participate. When the bus pulled up, a response from the back of the bus was `we are at a farm in the middle of nowhere.'
"It was a great way to get to know everyone in a new, unfamiliar environment. There was a lot of physical activity, but most of the activities also took some planning and logistics to get through. Going to a farm for team-building was something new for the whole team."
Senior Alex Andre
Somewhat true, Atkins is 35 minutes northwest of Iowa City, and the last mile of the ride was on a gravel road in the middle of cornfield. The team was greeted by the owner, Karen, and her staff, and the squad took a large group photo on a 20-foot rocking chair at the entrance.
Teams were assigned an activities director and were sent in different directions around the farm. There was a hay bale obstacle course, a tire flip race station, a bouncy pillow, water carrying station and a three legged race area.
"It was a great way to get to know everyone in a new, unfamiliar environment," said senior Alex Andre. "There was a lot of physical activity, but most of the activities also took some planning and logistics to get through. Going to a farm for team-building was something new for the whole team."
The bouncy pillow offered entertainment to the ISS as well, imagine a 100-foot long by 20-foot wide pillow filled with air. Bouncing was just the start, as teams worked on trying to bounce each other around the pillow and seeing who could bounce highest.
The activities ended with a team verses team tug of war in the sand. The competitiveness came out at this point and teams battled for the king of sandpit status. Points from all the activities were added up and the winning team had the opportunity to go zip lining over the fields from three huge wooden towers.
"Team-building at Bloomsberry Farms was a spectacular experience that offered a memorable way to get to know each other and build team spirit," said senior Kaitlyn Dornbier. "It was a fantastic starting point for an even better year."
A picnic lunch with hamburgers and hot dogs followed and then it was time to say goodbye to the staff and head back onto the bus.
"This was one of the best team-building activities we have done," said Niemiec. "I would like to thank the staff at Bloomsberry Farms for a great experience and the opportunity to bring our teams together."
The spirit squad returned to Iowa City and back into the gym for practice. With more confidence and trust in each other after their experience, they finished up the weekend looking forward to their season ahead.
The team will practice in July and camp in Wisconsin in August before the first game of the 2013 season will be August 31 when the Hawkeye football team hosts Northern Illinois inside Kinnick Stadium.