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 DO IT RIGHT.
Danika Portz went from playing five sports in Remsen, Iowa (population 1,621) to playing music on tour out of Nashville, Tennessee (population 692,587).
Five days after graduating from Drake University, Remsen St. Mary’s alumna Danika Portz packed up and moved to Nashville.
A Facebook conversation with a college friend encouraged her to jump in with both feet or risk music being a side job.
“I don’t want music to be the thing I do on the side,” Portz said. “I want to pursue this. I decided right then and there, I’m going to move to Nashville.”
During her first year, she had five different jobs, seven days per week, and not a single connection, but she brought one thing that has served her well: her Iowa Girl work ethic.
“Growing up in Iowa, work ethic is No. 1,” she said. “Nothing is handed to you; you have to earn it.”
Determined, she met with anyone she could, whether that was musicians like her, pharmacists or random Nashville residents.
Now, she’s released several songs and an EP, and she’s played eight military tours overseas. Never mind COVID-19; Portz and her husband play video concerts from home.
Life has changed, but Danika has never shied away from change. In high school, she joined track to stay in shape for softball, which led her to run the distance medley at the state track and field meet as a senior.
In the fall, change was pretty quick for her— that is, running a cross country meet, jumping in the car, and changing into a volleyball uniform to rush to her game. For a graduating class of 32 aided by two foreign exchange students, that’s just how it is.
“If you were athletic, you were kind of out for everything,” Portz said. “We just went from one sport to the next.”
Now, she goes from one city to the next, one continent to the next playing her mix of country storytelling and “catchy, poppy melodies.” Portz is a musician, but with a degree in accounting and marketing, she runs her job as if it’s her own business.
“Marketing is constant,” she said. “That’s great because I’m a creative person anyway. My wheels are always spinning, and the industry is always changing.”
She still makes it back to her roots.
“There’s nothing like going home and playing for the people that I owe everything to,” Portz said.
Small-town Remsen gave her the opportunity to try everything from choir to student council, and big-city Des Moines presented her with people from different backgrounds than her. No matter where, though, Portz remains proud to be an Iowa Girl.
“It’s that mentality of, you get up early, you don’t stop working until it’s done. If something is worth doing, you’re going to do it right, and do it right the first time.”