December 2013

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The Significance of the Tiger Hawk Logo By Darren Miller I As a freshman in 2010-11, Swank was limited to three matches, but he excelled as a confidence-booster to teammates. As a sophomore he played nine singles and 28 doubles matches, but Swank was struggling to keep That is the situation for Michael Swank, a senior on the his emotions in check and it was affecting his perforUniversity of Iowa men's tennis team. Swank has worn mance. "My actions on the court have taken the longest to maseveral hats during his four years on campus: walkon, Mr. Optimism, leader. But while it was easy to put ture," Swank said. "My freshman year I couldn't control labels on Swank, he wrestled with what it really means my anger; after a meeting with the coach I realized just how stupid my actions were making me look. Still, this to wear a Tiger Hawk on his polo. realization didn't mean I was perfect on the court — it's "It means being part of a family," Swank said Nov. 20 a roller coaster battle of being overly excited with sucat a UI athletics department all-staff meeting. "Everycesses and moping during my failures." one in this room, my teammates, and other studentt might not be as philosophically speculative as discovering the meaning of life, but understanding the meaning of being a Hawkeye can require selfanalysis as well. athletes, have been there to help me through the tough times, helped me celebrate the successes, and helped me learn and develop into the person I am today." Swank's journey made a stop at the UI because of recruiting pitches from Hawkeye head coach Steve Houghton, as well as from his mother, Julie. Swank's parents moved the Iowa City from Lawrence, Kan., and since they were not yet immersed in the community, Swank said his mother bribed him with free laundry service and meals if he became a Hawkeye. He joined the tennis program as a walk-on where Houghton and his staff hoped Swank's 6-foot-6 frame would eventually make him a contributor. The first few practices took Swank back to his days of junior tennis, where players were eerily quiet, focusing solely on their own development. He watched as the Hawkeye women's tennis team celebrated achievements and wondered why that atmosphere wouldn't fly during men's practices. After four years, Swank and his emotions seemed to have reached a healthy settlement. "My role on the team has shifted from simple morale guy to a doubles specialist with a prominent voice within our team locker room, trying to lead by example for the few underclassmen on our team," Swank said. Swank is one of six seniors on a Hawkeye team that includes eight upperclassmen, one sophomore and one freshman. In his final season, there is still plenty for Swank to learn. He posted a record of 4-6 in singles and 5-6 in doubles in the fall. After a tough loss, Swank said he experienced an epiphany. It was the first time newly-hired assistant coach Ross Wilson had seen him play. "(Coach) asked me what happened out there," Swank said. "Embarrassed, I responded that I hadn't shown up to play, trying to convince myself that it was the truth as the words came out of my mouth. Ross just looked at me and pointed to the Tiger Hawk on my shirt and he asked me, 'What does that mean to you? What does being a Hawkeye mean?'" "For my freshman year that is exactly what I did: yelling during practices, cheering my heart out during meets," Swank said. "I did care that I wasn't playing, but So Swank began his quest for the meaning of life…as a I was happy that I found a role within the team. The Hawkeye. Did the Tiger Hawk represent toughness and funny thing about roles, though, is that they are always hard work? Not entirely. evolving. To Swank, wearing the Tiger Hawk means representing "I found it is important to always know what your role a circle of people who are 100-percent invested in the to be, but even more important to act how you want UI and its student-athletes; in other words, representyour role is. Because your actions and decisions will ing his Hawkeye kin. determine how you are viewed by your peers, coaches, "I couldn't have chosen a better family," Swank said. and the public. This goes for both on and off the court." 51

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