Monday, July 27, 2015

A Day At The Beach

TigerBlog sat on the beach, Point Pleasant Beach, to be exact.

It was Friday, midday. His chair was under a fake palm tree, in a patch of shade on an otherwise sun-drenched beach, on a beach day that can only be described as "perfect."

TigerBlog had been on this beach many times before. His parents had moved him not far from this beach when he was just two, and he'd live there until he left for Penn, shortly after his 18th birthday.

His earliest memories of the beach include bad sunburns, as this was before anyone figured out that the idea was to block the sun, not to expose yourself as much as possible to it. His earliest memory of this particular beach was when he was there shortly after a hurricane, and the surf wasn't too far from the boardwalk.

He's spent more days and hours on the beaches of the Jersey Shore - from Belmar and Avon by the Sea and Manasquan and Point Pleasant south to Avalon, Stone Harbor, Ocean City and Cape May - than he can remember. Interestingly, he's never been to Wildwood and has been to Long Beach Island only once.

He's been to the boardwalks, first as a kid, then as a teenager (especially in Seaside, much of which was wiped out by Sandy), ultimately as a parent. He's walked for miles and miles along the water's edges.

And yet, for all of that time, he'd never seen anyone on the beach in a bathing suit and socks. Until Friday, when he saw Ryan Yurko in a bathing suit, a Superman tank top and black socks.

In fairness, were it not for Yurko, TigerBlog would not have been at the beach at all on Friday. Yurko, Princeton's Assistant Director of Athletics for Finance and Administration, is the one who organized the trip, which saw TB, Yurko and five other colleagues - softball coach Lisa Van Ackeren, Assistant Manager of Ticket and Business Operations Brendan Van Ackeren, assistant softball coach Christie Novatin, Director of Track Operations Mike Henderson and Assistant Director of the Princeton Varsity Club Carolyn Cooper - head to Point Pleasant for the day.

The premise was to play volleyball and hang out for the day. TigerBlog bailed on the volleyball and was all-in on the hanging out.

What it really was about was bonding with co-workers.

The teams for volleyball were Yurko, Lisa Van Ackeren and Novatin against Cooper, Henderson and Brendan. Cooper was a four-time letterwinner in volleyball at Notre Dame, and TB's sense is that had she played as hard as she could, her team would have shut out the other team. As it turned out, both sides claimed victory, and TB was hardly paying enough attention to say which team was right.

Oh, and Yurko and the socks?

The sand was really, really hot. And he brought socks to wear to protect his feet from how hot the sand was.

There was logic to it, even if the sight of a nearly 30-year-old man wearing a bathing suit, Superman tank and socks on a public beach was a little odd.

But hey, TigerBlog doesn't want to say anything bad about Yurko. After all, it was his idea, this whole beach day.

Yurko and Henderson joined TB for pizza at Joey Tomatoes on the boardwalk. There's no pizza like boardwalk pizza.

There was also a corporate outing going on near where the Princeton people had set up. TigerBlog watched them interact, and it didn't seem the same as how it is with the people from Princeton Athletics.

It was much more, well, corporate, right down to the water balloon toss.

When you work in college athletics, you are more than just an employee in a staff directory. You're a representative of the department, part of a team. You wear the same clothes that the coaches and athletes do. You say "we" when you talk about wins and losses.

About an hour before the volleyball game began, TigerBlog pointed out to Yurko that he's been around Princeton Athletics longer than the other six combined. Yurko then asked TB what keeps him going year after year.

TigerBlog then looked out beyond the outdoor area at Jenkinson's Inlet, out across the sand that covered a beach way longer than TB remembered it from that time after the hurricane and then at the ocean before he answered.

What keeps TB going, and everyone else, is the idea of being part of a team that can work so hard to help such remarkable student-athletes have the best possible experience, all while checking their egos at the door. And that that same team can do things like head to the beach on a July day to play some volleyball.

TigerBlog loves the beach. He especially loves the Jersey Shore.

He's had some great times there in his life. This past Friday?

It was a lot of what makes the Shore great. It's close. It's a relaxing. It has its own personality. It has great pizza.

This past Friday was also a lot of what makes working at Princeton Athletics great. It's being part of a team, a great, dedicated, hard-working team, one filled with great teammates.

A handful of those teammates took the day off Friday for a day at the beach.

It couldn't have been a much better day.

No comments: