Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Empty Nest

TigerBlog remembers visiting Jonathan Zucker on the day he was born and then continuing up to New England for Princeton's men's basketball weekend at Brown and Yale.

The Tigers swept that weekend to build a four-game lead in the Ivy League race. Sean Jackson, Rick Hielscher and Matt Eastwick were all in double figures in the 79-54 win at Brown, while George Leftwich had 12 to lead Princeton in the 46-35 win at Yale.

Those four names should be enough to let any Princeton fan know that the year was 1992, the only year that Hielscher played with Eastwick, Jackson and Leftwich. Princeton would win its fourth straight Ivy title (losing to Syracuse in Worcester, Mass., in the opening round of the NCAA tournament), Jackson would be the Ivy League Player of the Year and Eastwick would become the first (and still only) player in program history to start an NCAA tournament game in all four of his years.

TigerBlog remembers stopping to see the newborn and then heading to the basketball games like it was yesterday, as opposed to more than 6,700 yesterdays ago. And he thought about it last week, when Jonathan went to Ithaca to join the rest of the Cornell Class of 2014.

Jonathan's parents are like many other parents at this time of year who drop their kids off at college for the first time. It has to be somewhat surreal, especially when it's the oldest child in the family, and Jonathan's dad Corey was certainly emotional about the whole situation

TigerBlog works with someone here in the Department of Athletics who, when TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog were born, said these profound words: "Your job is to get them to age 18; after that, it's up to them."

The concept of having your kids grow up and leave home is sometimes called "empty nest syndrome." FatherBlog, back when he had two kids at Penn, referred to it as "empty wallet syndrome."

The whole experience was captured Monday in the New York Times, which ran a story about parents who take their kids to college and then stay for a few days. It even mentioned one case where the mother and father attended the first day of classes with the "child" and then made changes to their kid's schedule. TB is sure the kid was thrilled by that.

Princeton earned a mention in the story:
Formal “hit the road” departure ceremonies are unusual but growing in popularity, said Joyce Holl, head of the National Orientation Directors Association. A more common approach is for colleges to introduce blunt language into drop-off schedules specifying the hour for last hugs. As of 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, for example, the parents of Princeton freshmen learn from the move-in schedule, “subsequent orientation events are intended for students only.”
The language was added in recent years to draw a clear line, said Thomas Dunne, the associate dean of undergraduates. “It’s easy for students to point to this notation and say, ‘Hey, Mom, I think you’re supposed to be gone now,’ ” he said. “It’s obviously a hard conversation for students to have with parents.”
For evidence, consider a chat-board thread by new Princeton parents on the Web site College Confidential. “Do parents hang around for a day or two after orientation in case their kids need something?” one poster, mrscollege, asked. “I say no, but we have a friend who is planning to hang around for a while in Princeton for her son just in case.”

TigerBlog and the rest of the people who work in Jadwin have spent the summer coming to work without giving any thought to anything other than when construction projects have impacted road access. Even now, TB can look out his window and see the empty Weaver Track and empty Princeton Stadium, which are just part of the scenery around here.

At the same time, there are more than a thousand freshmen on their way to Princeton University in the next few weeks, and several of the members of the Class of 2014 are already here practicing with their fall teams. Some will play in games more than a week before they take their first class.

TB will spend the next two days in meetings to frame some of the key issues that the department in general and the OAC specifically face for the coming school year. During the course of those meetings, the idea that what is done here is done in the name of "enhancing the experience for the athletes" will come up many times.

In fact, it comes up so much that it's easy to take it for granted. And yet, that's something that shouldn't be forgotten.

Regardless of the agenda item, whatever is done here impacts the athletes directly. Perhaps it takes several layers to get there, but it has a big impact nonetheless.

There are so many different areas that touch the athletes that the athletes quite frankly aren't aware of and yet are so important to them. Friends' Groups. Princeton Academic Athletic Fellows. The Princeton Varsity Club. Compliance. Event management. Marketing. And many others.

As for the OAC, before the start of each season, the contact for each sport meets with the members of the team to give them an idea of what it is that is done for them out of this office.

Again, those who work here might know full well what is done and why it is done. Still, it's important to keep in mind who it is done for and the impact it has on them.

After all, parents are dropping off their most precious commodities here. With Princeton Athletics, they're doing so at a place committed to the student-athlete experience.

Those who work here should always keep that in mind.

And those who do the dropping off can take their time saying goodbye, as long as it doesn't run into a few days.

Oh, and good luck Jonathan. Hopefully your four years in Ithaca will be filled with a great education, great new friends, a lot of great times - and plenty of losses to Princeton.

1 comment:

CAZ said...

Hey TB -- words fail me. Thanks for Jazzy's well wishes. While I'm sure that on Oct. 30th he'll be cheering on the big red machine his father will be pulling for the Tigers (especially since RU has a bye that weekend).