Female athletes from Iowa are special in many ways; here at the IGHSAU we work to recognize the “Iowa Girl” and share our enthusiasm for the good that she represents. There is something unique in every Iowa Girl, whether that be leadership, dedication or compassion. Each one has a story worth sharing.
Welcome to the Iowa Girl Project. Join fellow Iowa Girl Mia Laube as she shares the stories of Iowa Girls who are taking the skills they learned through their education and athletic career above and beyond. These women are making a positive impact on their communities, big and small. They inspire the next generation to compete in sports and conquer the challenges ahead.
Proud to be an Iowa Girl!
Iowa Girls CAN AND WILL.
Jennifer Dunn proves that females can excel in any field they choose, and they’ll do it better, too.
If you play a sport that includes officials, odds are, the majority of those officials are male. Soccer referee and Iowa Girl Jennifer Dunn rejects that norm with a Mia Hamm vs. Michael Jordan-like attitude:
“I can do everything that you can do, and I’ll do it better,” Dunn said.
Dunn, who played soccer and basketball and ran cross country for Linn-Mar, has been officiating soccer since she attended St. Ambrose University. She looked to officiating as she didn’t have time for a full-time job while playing college basketball. She started so she didn’t have to “bug mom and dad for money,” but in the process, she’s proved that females can excel in whichever field they choose.
“Being able to say I’ve worked every state championship with a whistle in my mouth for both boys and girls at every level, I’m pretty proud of that,” Dunn said.
She faced many obstacles to get there. When she officiated semi-pro soccer, she had to deal with foreign players from cultures that don’t respect women as equals.
“That’s a huge challenge, where they’ve never seen a female on a soccer field before,” Dunn said.
She described a moment last year at the boys soccer State Championship when a male coach doubted her abilites because of her gender.
“I went and introduced myself and said, ‘I’ll be your official for today,’ and he’s like, ‘So you’re the center (referee)?’” Dunn said. “I said, ‘Yep.’ And he just kind of looked at me, and I just had a smirk back like, you didn’t just do that to me."
“After the game, he came up to me and was like, ‘You’re one of the best officials we’ve had all year.’”
Dunn takes her job seriously. She stays in such great shape from working soccer games that she ran a half marathon this time last year without doing any extra training.
She’s been sidelined by COVID-19, but she keeps busy by working in insurance, farming, raising two daughters, sitting on soccer committees in Iowa and helping organize the Linn County Fair.
COVID-19 is just another obstacle.
“Not every game is a good game,” Dunn said. “Not every situation is a good situation. But we can take those obstacles and learning moments and become better off from those.”
She teaches that strength to her daughters when they watch her on the job. One of her favorite moments is when they saw her ref with an all-female crew at a regional championship match.
Dunn says Iowa Girls are lucky to grow up in a state where there’s nothing girls can’t do.
“That’s pretty Iowa proud,” she said.