The Iowa Wave – the greatest new tradition in college football

In a previous post, I took a look at some of the great traditions in sports.  Since that time, a new tradition seems to have taken off:  “The Iowa Wave.”  If you’re an avid college football fan like I am, then you’ve likely seen the heart-warming story from Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.  Whether you’ve seen the story or not, it’s one worth sharing again.

The tradition of The Iowa Wave was said to have started when an Iowa fan made the suggestion on social media that that the team should think of something that would cheer up the the children in the hospital located less than 200 yards away from the stadium next door.  The hospital founded in 1919 is a teaching hospital with a standalone structure that opened in early 2017 next to the University of Iowa Hospitals and clinics.  The building overlooks Kinnick Stadium, which is the home of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.  The stadium has a seating capacity of 70,585 and is full on home game Saturdays.

The hospital ranks as one of the best children’s hospitals and treats children with chronic illnesses.  On the top floor of the hospital is a “press box cafe,” where patients and families can watch the Hawkeyes play on home game Saturdays.  Many children began taping posters and signs to the windows in support of their team.

Following the suggestion of a fan on a Facebook page, at the end of the first quarter of last year’s opening game, the in-stadium announcer asked all 70,000 plus fans to turn around and wave to the children watching from the hospital windows above…and a tradition began.

Now fans turn to the hospital at every home game.  During night games, they turn on the lights on their cell phones to illuminate Kinnick Stadium so no one misses the Iowa wave.

The tradition seems to be growing and has even made it to away games as well as ESPN’s College Game Day show.


Gwen Senio, manager of child life at the hospital shared about the impact this has had on the children there.  Many of the young patients suffer from chronic illnesses which often leave them bedridden.  Simple tasks (things that most of us take for granted) can be exhausting.

However, many of the children will fight through the pain and do whatever it takes to make their way to the press box to experience “the wave.”  Senio shares “they’re not thinking about how they’re feeling…they’re just thinking about what’s happening beyond that window….being a part of that is good medicine.”

While most of us take for granted such simple things in life, others can only get a peek through a window and use their imagination.

What started with an idea from a single person and a simple gesture…a wave…has taken off as a new tradition.  More importantly, it’s a good reminder and lesson about how a simple gesture can make a difference to others.  “The wave” recognizes special people, unites them with those outside of the hospital and inspires hope.

<watch the ESPN story here>


About Mark Williams

Mark is a 50 year old sports fanatic, who lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. He's a passionate sports fan, who loves FSU football, the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Bucs! He has written as a Correspondent for the Florida Panthers on The Hockey Writers and enjoys blogging about sports and inspirational stories. When not busy following sports, Mark works as a licensed psychotherapist. His dream is to combine his passion for sports and helping people through his writing. Email:

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