Barnett's vocal and on-field leadership guides the Field Hawks


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Jessica Barnett’s mindset works like a switch.

Before the senior takes to the pitch, whether it’s practice or a game, she gets into her zone. She said it’s her time to get mentally prepared to either get better or to compete with the best teams in the nation. This is something she carries with her at all times.

Prior to game time, though, Barnett can be caught jamming out on the sidelines to some of her favorite music. The artist that’s blasting through her headphones shares the same nickname, and home country, as the senior captain.

“I’m known on the team for listening to Justin Bieber,” Barnett said, chuckling in what could’ve been interpreted as embarrassment. “ ‘Baby’ or his new album — basically, any song by Justin Bieber.”

Iowa’s “JB” didn’t get the same big break as the teenage sensation. There was no YouTube involved in her rise to field-hockey stardom. Instead, it was her natural tenacity and competitiveness that brought her the well-earned accolades.

In high school, Barnett excelled in field hockey, basketball, and soccer. She initially thought she’d go to college in Canada to play soccer, but realized in 10th grade that field hockey held more opportunity.

She took a chance on the sport and landed in the States. Part of Barnett’s motivation to come to America and play field hockey was the challenges that came with the sport.

The other, she said, is because of her dad.

“He played professional football in the Canadian Football League before he got injured,” Barnett said. “He injured his hip. It was a career-ending injury.”

Bruce Barnett never got any looks from the NFL, meaning he never got the chance to explore competition in the States. Barnett labeled her journey to pursue field hockey as a “way to break away and be different.”

What’s been evident about Barnett since she first stepped foot on campus is her desire to win. But it doesn’t stop when she leaves a game or practice. Head coach Tracey Griesbaum said the senior’s will to succeed ranges anywhere from actual game-play to drills in practice to playing cards with her teammates.

“She does not shy away from competition,” the head coach said. “She’s a great example to the younger kids. Yeah, she’s talented, but she works so, so hard in practice and in every game.”

The younger athletes on the squad look up to Barnett because of her authoritative and take-charge attitude. They listen to her on the practice field as she shouts out instructions and critiques. She’s both vocal and confident in her abilities as a leader.

“All the seniors are really good [leaders] and bring a lot of experience for us,” freshman Natalie Cafone said during the team’s media day on Aug. 15. She mentioned Barnett as a leader that she looks up to while striving to better herself.

The vocal leadership wasn’t always there, though. Barnett admits she learned a lot this past summer while playing with the Canadian senior-level field-hockey team. She said she had to stop and listen to learn from the older girls, whether it was technical work at practice or live game-play situations.

Barnett was picked for the Canadian junior-level team after a tryout at Stanford last December. With a powerful showing on the junior circuit, she was invited to compete on the senior team, only to see how well she fared.

The big takeaway from the international experience, Barnett said, was to make quicker decisions and direct traffic while on the field. She has taken that insight and implemented it in her own way into the field Hawks regimen. Early in the season, Barnett’s leadership has helped take Iowa to a No. 12 ranking in the country and a 1-1 record.

With her national skills now translated back to the NCAA game, her play and leadership are constant. There is, though, one difference between home and Iowa: Her fellow Canadians don’t mock her playlist.

“They think it’s pretty funny,” she said and laughed. “They don’t make fun of me, and if they do, I don’t know about it.”

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