Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Keeping The Fire Lit

In the world of coaching, TigerBlog presumes that there have been a lot more David Moyes than Alex Fergusons.

David Moyes is out as the coach at Manchester United. He lasted less than one year - though he will be paid for five more, apparently. His record was 27 wins, 15 losses and nine ties. In the world of international soccer, that's written as 27-9-15.

As an aside, TigerBlog gets that in international soccer, the city name in the team is considered plural, so it would be "Manchester are winning," not "Manchester is winning." What he doesn't understand is why American sportswriters insist on writing it that way. To seem hipper?

Anyway, Moyes didn't quite last at Manchester United. Ferguson? He did.

Alex Ferguson was the coach at Manchester United for 26 times longer than Moyes. During his time at Man U, he won 13 Premier League and two Champions League titles and established himself as one of the greatest of all-time in his profession. He also made a trip to Princeton University, which was undoubtedly the highlight of his tenure.

Unlike Moyes, who lasted for 51 games, Ferguson coached 1,500 games for Man U, winning 895 of them. Apparently replacing him won't be so easy, as Man U will miss the Champions League next year.

TigerBlog still hasn't figured out which EPL team is his favorite, though he knows it isn't Manchester United or Chelsea. It would be like rooting for the Yankees.

He'd consider Liverpool, except you'd accuse him of being a front-runner, as Liverpool is closing in on its first EPL title since 1990. Besides, in the EPL, it's more fun to see who is going to avoid relegation than who will actually win.

Meanwhile, back at the idea of coaching longevity, it's not easy to be a successful coach for decades. First, you have to be successful. Then you have to avoid complacency.

The secret is to treat each year as its own challenge, TB supposes.

Princeton has six head coaches who coached for all 20 years that Gary Walters was Ford Family Director of Athletics and and presumably will still be there when Mollie Marcoux takes over.

Those six are: men's track and field coach Fred Samara, women's track and field coach Peter Farrell, men's swimming coach Rob Orr, women's swimming coach Susan Teeter, women's squash coach Gail Ramsay and women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer.

TigerBlog isn't sure who hired Ramsay, who started at the same time as Walters.

This past weekend, Princeton won two Ivy League championships. One was in women's tennis, whose coach, Laura Granville, who was born in the same year that Chris Sailer - who led the Princeton women to the championship - graduated from Harvard.

It's an interesting contract to TigerBlog. Sailer, a veteran of 28 seasons at Princeton, won her 10th Ivy title. Granville, in Year 2 at Princeton, won her first.

TigerBlog - also a veteran - first met Chris Sailer when she was already the head lacrosse coach and was also the assistant field hockey coach, back in the late 1980s. It was fairly normal back then for players to play both sports and coaches to coach both.

The world has changed considerably since then. The number of girls who play sports has skyrocketed, and with that has come greater specialization and way more women to fill college rosters. As a result, there are almost no field hockey/lacrosse players anymore.

Sailer has endured through that massive change in the culture of her profession, and she has thrived. She has won three NCAA championships and is the in the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

And, as each year presents a new challenge, she has shown that the fire still burns.

It's been an exciting year for Princeton, with more to come. The Tigers defeated Dartmouth 12-10 Saturday to finish the league season at 6-1, clinching at least a share of the Ivy title. Penn still has two games remaining, tomorrow against Columbia and Saturday against Cornell, and a pair of Quaker wins would mean a co-championship.

Regardless, though, the Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament comes to Sherrerd Field in two weeks. It's the first time Princeton - or any team other than Penn - hosts the event in its five-year history.

Princeton's lone Ivy loss came in its league opener March 8 at Brown, who knocked off the Tigers 14-13 in overtime to drop the Tigers to 1-3.

Since then, Princeton is 8-1, with a 9-5 win over Penn in the mix. The one loss was perhaps the most impressive performance of them all, an 8-7 loss to No. 2 Maryland.

The four teams for the Ivy women's tournament are set, with Princeton as the host and top seed, along with Penn, Cornell and Harvard in some order. The winner gets the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Princeton, in the meantime, finishes the regular season this Saturday at Penn State.

Chris Sailer, in addition to her 10 Ivy titles and three NCAA championships, has led Princeton to 20 NCAA tournaments, and the 46 NCAA games she's coached are the most by any coach in Division I history.

And each year she comes back looking for more.

Some coaches last. Others don't.

It's not an easy profession in general. It's even harder to have the kind of career Chris Sailer has had.

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