Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Welcome 2022ers

Today is the first day of classes at Princeton University.

It signals the end of all of the orientation activities that have dominated the landscape here of late, for students and non-students alike.

Princeton's orientation structure is very familiar. For the students, it means getting acclimated with the University. For TigerBlog it means attending a few events each year - the welcome back staff meeting for the athletic department, the new staff orientation and the freshman athlete orientation.

The last of those is among the most fascinating events TB goes to annually.

He's mentioned the reasons why before several times, but he'll do it again now.

Somewhere in McCosh 50 during Monday's freshman athlete orientation sat the future von Kienbusch Award and Roper Trophy winners.

Yeah. Yeah. TigerBlog says that every year. He knows.

It's true, though.

Freshman athlete orientation is an annual event, held the Monday prior to the start of the first day of classes. Each year, the freshmen athletes file into McCosh 50 - the largest lecture hall at Princeton - after their week of Outdoor Action or Community Action and a few days of other events and hear the athletics part of their orientation period.

TigerBlog goes ever year. He looks around and, as he always says, imagines who will be the big award winners in nearly four years.

He also thinks more than that.

There are roughly 225 athletes in the Class of 2022. Together they filed into the big room to hear about what the Department of Athletics wanted them to know about being a athlete here.

It's a necessary part of the transition. There are parts that they'll learn from their coaches and teammates, but it's also good to know what the department you are representing values, expects and want for you during your experience.

It's also amazing to TigerBlog how 225 athletes who compete for 37 teams and come from all over the country and even the world can assemble under the same orange and black banner. They're individuals with their own stories and paths, and yet they feel an immediate kinship as Princeton athletes.

The bonds that you see each year at Reunions start out in these first few days together on this campus. And then they last forever.

Is that a cliche? A bit of one, yes. But it's true.

The amount of time that athletes spend together sharing experiences that are unique to that specific team leads to those kinds of bonds. It's something that people who don't go through that can't really understand.

TigerBlog wasn't a college athlete. He's seen it up close here for 30 years now, but even that isn't enough to fully appreciate what it's all about.

Yes, it's important to have a well-rounded experience, and TB wouldn't want the only friends that the athletes have to be their teammates. But there, in McCosh 50, there's no denying that this is the early stages of something very special. 

As TigerBlog looks around the room each year, he'll randomly pick one face or another and wonder what their story is, how this one or that one made it Princeton. For that matter, he'll wonder what sport they're playing, since very few are actually wearing their Princeton gear yet.

And as always, he'll also think ahead, to the Gary Walters ’67 PVC Senior Awards Banquet, the one that will be in just short of four years. Some in the room the other day won't stay with it, but the overwhelming majority will get to that night having completed four years as a Tiger.

They'll have all kinds of varying experiences. Hopefully they'll be great ones.

The goal is a championship experience on the fields. Of Princeton's 37 varsity teams, there were 26 who won at least one championship in the last four years. That's extraordinary.

Of course, these aren't successes that are guaranteed. Princeton has an incredible legacy of competitive excellence, but the challenge of each new year and with each new class remains the same.

At the same time, it's very exciting.

TB wishes every one of them the best.

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