Monday, December 12, 2016

Guest TigerBlog - Tradition, And Susan Teeter

TigerBlog opened the middle console of his car last week, the one that TigerBlog Jr. had for six weeks, and found M&Ms. You know, those little packs they give out at Halloween.

TigerBlog took it as a sign that the universe was trying to tell him something. As he does whenever the universe is trying to tell him something, he went with it. 

And so he ate them. 

There were four of the packs, which translated at the time to the number of head coaches at Princeton who have been there longer than TigerBlog. Now, that number is cut by one, unlike the M&Ms, which was cut by four.

Susan Teeter, the head coach of women's swimming at Princeton, announced over the weekend that she'd be retiring at the end of the 2017 season. With Teeter's retirement, the three remaining head coaches who predate TB will be Fred Samara (men's track and field), Chris Sailer (women's lacrosse) and Rob Orr (men's swimming). Gail Ramsay (women's squash) started on the same day as TigerBlog.

To best represent what Susan Teeter has meant to Princeton Athletics, TigerBlog has turned again to his colleague Craig Sachson, who has been the swimming and diving contact for about half of Teeter's 33-year run at Princeton and who knows her as well as anyone.

Here's what he had to say:

Tradition.

It isn’t a catchy tagline for the Princeton women’s swimming and diving program. These Tigers don’t slap a hashtag in front of it, Instagram out a fun picture and go on with their day.

Tradition is a mantra, a way of life for this 22-time Ivy League championship program. It is a culture, developed for you to experience the highest level of success, demanded upon you to both put in the work to achieve, but also to leave a little piece of yourself that enhances the journey for those who come next.

Susan Teeter may be retiring, but so long as that tradition lives, she will never fully leave DeNunzio Pool.

Teeter announced that she would retire at the conclusion of the 2016-17 Princeton season. Her resumé — 222 wins, 22 All-America honors, 17 Ivy League titles — speaks for itself, but it also holds only a fraction of Teeter’s importance to generations of women who swam and dove in Orange and Black.

What so many of the Tigers who competed for her — and those of us fortunate enough to work with her — will remember most is what happened outside of the pool.

Alyson Goodner ’00 graduated the year Princeton began a five-year Ivy League championship streak. The night they clinched the title is one probably neither will ever forget.

Twelve years later, Goodner and Teeter shared another unforgettable day. This time, it was at the former’s wedding, which Teeter officiated (read the Alumni Weekly story HERE). Goodner is one of countless Tigers who continued to seek Teeter’s guidance — or simply her opinion — well after they traded a swimsuit for a diploma.

Make no mistake — Teeter is a fierce competitor. Swimming is a tough sport. You have seniors worried about theses and freshmen dealing with their first years away from home, each often training together twice a day during the winter — nothing like a frigid trek to DeNunzio before most of campus is even awake — with one target weekend marked on all their calendars.

You have different swimmers competing in different strokes, some who will never compete at Ivies, and others whose points you are absolutely dependent on that championship weekend. They must do more than co-exist for countless hours, going back-and-forth-and-back-again inside DeNunzio.

They must make each other better.

They must make the tradition better.

Since 2000, the work Princeton accomplished leading up to that weekend culminated in a championship twelve times. The rest of the Ivy League — all seven teams combined — has done it five times.

Teeter has coached both great teams and great individuals. None was better than Alicia Aemisegger, the 13-time All-America and 12-time Ivy League individual champion. Teeter didn’t make Aemisegger a great swimmer — she came to Princeton that way — but she mentored Aemisegger the way she did every other member of the program before, during, or after.

It made a difference. Just ask Aemisegger, whose experience here was so profound that she remains a leader of the PUCSDT Friends Group.

By the way, Aemisegger’s first collegiate meet for Princeton came 10 years and one month ago. It took place at the University of Michigan. You couldn’t find the results on GoPrincetonTigers.com that weekend. The Princeton football team won at Yale that same weekend — en route to a bonfire and Ivy title — and the volleyball team played for the Ivy title itself.

I covered both teams as well, and simply never posted the swim results. I got caught up in the moment and figured it could wait until Monday.

At 9 am that Monday morning, Teeter called me. She calmly, honestly and directly expressed her disappointment. Her team competed — including this freshman who would quickly rewrite the DeNunzio record board — and its efforts should have been shared.

No email, copied to others. No lingering anger. No talking behind my back.

A simple, honest phone call with a clear, direct message. After that, it was never mentioned again.

That was 121 months ago, and I can assure you that I’ve never posted a recap even a single day later than the result. Not just swimming — any team, any sport, any result.

That’s a small part of the impact Teeter made on me, though it made me better. I’ll remember the laughs, the strategy talks, the life conversations, the post-Ivies hugs before she jumped into the pool for yet another championship celebration.

Teeter will do great things next year and beyond. She’s a mentor, and she’ll make lives better. She took on that role recently with the women’s volleyball team — even dressing as the Tiger for one of their home matches during the past championship season — and she’ll continue to do so. She’ll make lives better. It will be her next victory.

It is Princeton’s loss, of course, but Teeter left a road map to success — in the pool, in the classroom, in your life.

Her legacy is Princeton’s tradition. It started before her, it will continue after her.

But it doesn’t happen without her.

Congratulations, Susan.

2 comments:

J Yellin said...

Dear TigerBlog, if you ever get a sign from the universe and you think there is even a remote chance that the universe is telling you that C. Rob Orr is hanging it up, please take that sign, put it the middle console of your car, slam that console shut and drive your car into Lake Carnegie! Seriously.

Teeter's legacy will absolutely live on in DeNunzio. She may not be on deck every day, but those of us in the PUCSDT family aren't going to let her get too far away!

Alisha thomas said...

Teeter, All the best for your bright future. Do great things as mentor that role recently you took with the women’s college volleyball team.

I agreed, Tradition is a mantra, a way of life for this 22-time Ivy League championship program. It is a culture, developed for you to experience the highest level of success, demanded upon you to both put in the work to achieve, but also to leave a little piece of yourself that enhances the journey for those who come next.