Thursday, June 18, 2009

A not-so-long summer

When Michael Maag of the track & field team crossed the finish line last Friday night in the 5,000 meters of the NCAA Championships in Arkansas, the 2008-09 Princeton athletic season crossed the finish line with him.

After more than 700 contests between 38 sports, summer started in Princeton Athletics at the end of Maag's run. It started a break of 12 weeks before the women's soccer team plays Hofstra at Roberts Stadium Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. in the first athletic contest of the 2009-10 school year. Men's soccer (at Lehigh) and women's volleyball (at Delaware) will also start that evening.

It seems like a long time, but it's just 78 days from today until the official hibernation of Princeton Athletics ends. Fall sport student-athletes will be arriving on campus only a little bit before their first contest, beginning another school year and slowly descending into the cooler times of fall and winter.

For some schools, however, a 12 week break would feel like an eternity. Consider the five schools still alive in the College World Series, which is the last athletic event on the NCAA calendar. Two of the five teams -- LSU, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona State and North Carolina -- will end their seasons on June 23 or 24, depending on whether the CWS final goes to two or three games.

So, right there is a late start to the summer. Instead of June 12, it's almost two weeks later. But the other end gets trimmed as well for these schools. Of the four whose fall schedules were available, all four have a regular-season women's soccer game on August 21, another two full weeks before Princeton's first athletic event on Sept. 4. That August 21 date doesn't count the Aug. 14 exhibition games against other Division I schools that all four of those women's soccer teams have. There's another week.

Whether it's two months or three, the summer isn't necessarily downtime for coaches, student-athletes or support staff at any school, Princeton or otherwise. Coaches (at least some, and in certain periods of time) travel to see recruits compete on summer teams. Some student-athletes play their sports in the summer, like the baseball players who go to the Cape Cod League or any of the other collegiate summer programs. Others intern in their fields of study in preparation for a life after college, and others enjoy the time away from classes and practice to travel and do the same thing that those who never put on a uniform do.

For the support staff, it's a time of preparation. Those of us here at TigerBlog HQ spend time tending to, turning things over from 2008-09 to 2009-10. There are rosters to be changed, bios to be written for freshmen, bios to be updated for returners, new and innovative plans for our Web site to be implemented behind the scenes. We also take time to refresh from long hockey and basketball seasons spending Friday and Saturday nights traveling from rink to rink and gym to gym throughout the northeast.

So, that's summer around here. It may be shrinking, spring seasons creeping into June and fall seasons into August, two months with "summer" written all over them, but it's something. And it'll be gone before we know it.

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