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Unity on the diamond

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | APRIL 20, 2010 7:30 AM

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The player-coach relationship is continually evolving in sport. Just ask Iowa head baseball coach Jack Dahm.

When he played at Creighton from 1986-89, players rarely questioned their coaches.

Now, athletes want to know the reasoning behind each decision. The Iowa baseball team’s Unity Council is one way the seventh-year head man facilitates his players’ need for regular communication.

“[When I was playing] it was, ‘OK, hey, we’re going to do what the coach says,’ ” Dahm said.

“Nowadays, players are a little bit different. We kind of call it the ‘whyer.’ Everything that you say — ‘Hey, we’re going to do this,’ everyone says ‘Why?’ ”

No solid schedule is set for when the council meets with the coaches. The frequency of meetings, which are very informal, Dahm said, varies from year to year.

A typical meeting begins with Dahm asking the council members if there are any immediate concerns in the program, which is then followed by a discussion of the topics Dahm wants to address. Afterward, the council has an opportunity to communicate its own topics of interest.

The head Hawkeye is interested in the players’ opinions on as many matters as possible.

“I want to know everything, from are the lines of communication open?” Dahm said. “As far as travel stuff, are the hotels all right, the meals?”

The current council consists of six members: freshman Dan Sheppard, sophomore Patrick Brennan, juniors Tyson Blaser, Zach McCool, and Kurtis Muller, and senior Michael Jacobs.

Two spots are reserved for the team’s two members on the Iowa Student Athlete Advisory Committee — Blaser and Muller. The remaining four spots are filled by a player from each class, as voted on by their peers — freshman players elect a freshman representative, and so on.

Dahm said he feels the players’ vote ensures those elected to the council are highly respected by their teammates, and Jacobs is a perfect example. Dahm called the left-handed hurler one of the best workers on the team and a leader of the pitching staff.

As a third-year member of the council who takes pride in his role, Jacobs said he makes a point to work hard every day in practice, knowing it pushes others to get better.

“It’s an honor to know that they respect and trust me with making decisions for the better of the team,” Jacobs said.

Many teams have similar leadership mechanisms in place, and Dahm said he thinks the benefits of such groups are important. The success of the Unity Council even carries over to the team’s success on the playing field.

Dahm said last year’s meetings were rare, and consequently, a lot of players weren’t on the same page.

But at the council’s most recent meeting a couple weeks ago, the Iowa skipper said his players spoke with a lot of passion and talked about coming together as a team.

“Ever since that meeting, I think the council members took it upon their shoulders to get the team on the same page,” McCool said. “And to keep looking out for each other, to keep the guys focused on the game of baseball, and to get better every day.”

The continued success of the Unity Council is a key to the team cohesion necessary for Iowa to reach its goals.

“Is everyone 100 percent happy right now? Probably not,” Dahm said. “Maybe they’re not playing as well as they want or playing as much as they want. But I’ll tell you what, we’ve got a lot of people on the same page trying to work for the same thing. And that’s making that Big Ten Tournament and ultimately winning that Big Ten championship.”


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