Thursday, September 13, 2012

Getting Oriented

TigerBlog was on his way to McCosh 50 when he saw two athletic-looking young men with confused looks on their faces.

Seeing that TB was wearing a "Princeton lacrosse" shirt, the two figured out that they were headed to the same place. One of them began to ask where McCosh was, though this was after TB figured out what was going on and simply said "yes, this way."

TB and one of the young men walked together for the last 50 yards or so. As it turned out, his name was Chris, Chris Bodurian, a freshman on the Princeton baseball team, fresh out of St. Alban's.

As TB spoke to Bodurian, it was immediately obvious how excited he was.

And why wouldn't he be?

Here he was, a freshman at Princeton, one day removed from the start of classes, ready to embark on his career as a college student and college athlete at one of the top universities in the world.

As an aside, that'd be the fifth-, seventh- or ninth-best university in the world, depending on which ranking you believe in. TB's alma mater came in 12th in the world in the same ranking where Princeton was ninth, a fact for which TB is willing to take none of the credit.

TB, Bodurian and enough others to essentially fill the giant lecture hall in McCosh were all headed to freshman student-athlete orientation.

It is, as TB has said before, one of the most fascinating events of each year.

The messages that come from the athletic administration, the Office of the Dean of the College, athletic medicine and the McGraw Learning Center are all basically the same. It's a message that can't be repeated often enough, and hopefully the new athletes are paying attention.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Study what you really want to study, not what you think you should study to get a specific job some day. Be prepared for the challenge. It's different than high school. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

To be a freshman athlete at Princeton, it goes without saying that it's been 18 years of overwhelming athletic and academic success. Perhaps in many cases it's been easy to use the natural gifts that each has been given.

Now, the bar has been raised substantially in both arenas. It can be intimidating, TB supposes, and it's probably reassuring for the freshmen to hear the messages and realize that they are not in it alone.

TB's contribution is a small video that is intended to give a sense of the athletic department, its historical successes and its desire to afford each athlete the best possible experience. It's also intended to make each kid sitting there think "I'm part of something cool now."

None of this, though, is the fascinating part for TigerBlog.

For starters, there's the idea that these people have come from such wildly different backgrounds and have played such varying sports, and now they've been thrown together somewhat randomly on a college campus. At the same time, they also have the immediate benefit of being teammates, not only with those on their actual teams but also under the larger umbrella of Princeton Athletics.

And then there's the chance to look around the room and see their faces and wonder who is going to be All-Ivy League, All-America, win the Roper Trophy or von Kienbusch Award as seniors.

Not all of them will still be athletes when they graduate, as every class has a normal level of attrition. Some will struggle through four years fighting injuries; others will start every game and never have even a minor strain.

The entire athletic class is hardly ever in the same place at the same time. There is freshman athlete orientation. There is a barbeque for freshmen and sophomore athletes. And there is the Princeton Varsity Club senior-athlete banquet.

When the orientation was over, TB met three men's lacrosse players, all of whose names he'd heard a million times during the recruiting process. If the next four years (hopefully) are the same as the last four, then TB will see every game they play in their Princeton careers.

And then it'll be late May of 2016, under the big tent at the grad college, for the senior banquet. And this current group will be together for the last time.

TB told Bodurian that it would fly by, and Bodurian laughed and agreed.

Then TB told him to make sure he took full advantage of his time here.

There are so many people who would love to trade places with him.

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