Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Meet The 17ers

Had TigerBlog not overheard a casual remark about how early this year's freshman student-athlete orientation was going to be, he would have assumed it was at noon, just as it has been every other year going back as far as he can remember.

Instead, it was at 8 a.m. this time around. Were it not for that little moment, TB would have missed it completely.

Instead, he was there bright and early, along with more than 200 members of the Class of 2017, freshly arrived on campus, about to pick their classes later today and then actually start them tomorrow.

TigerBlog didn't realize that freshmen hadn't picked their classes yet. He tried to remember back to his first semester of college and when he picked classes, and he thought it was done long before he arrived on the Penn campus.

Maybe it wasn't. No, he's pretty sure it was. So then he started to think about what classes he took his first semester freshman year, and he's pretty sure it was this: Economics 1A, German, some political science class and calculus.

That particular college, by the way, was tied for seventh in the U.S. News and World Report rankings that came out today.  Along with MIT and Duke.

The No. 1 school on the list is, again, Princeton, followed by Harvard, Yale, Columbia and then a tie for fifth between Stanford and Chicago, whose athletic director is Erin McDermott, who worked at Princeton for more than a decade and was earlier at Columbia.

The fact that Princeton had been named No. 1 again drew a nice round of applause from the freshmen.

It was Gary Walters who mentioned the new rankings, mentioned them in his opening remarks, which included the fact that minds like Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer lectured in McCosh 50, the same room where the orientation was taking place.

TigerBlog had two thoughts when Walters said that.

First, this was the first time since Walters made his announcement last week that he is stepping down as Director of Athletics at the conclusion of this academic year that it dawned on TB that this would be a year of lasts with his boss, and this was the first "last," as it were, his last freshman student athlete orientation session.

It was a weird thought.

TB's second thought was that, as he looked around the room, he wondered if the group of young people assembled in it realized the great good fortune they have to be part of something like Princeton Athletics. Just to get to that room, they all had to excel athletically and academically far above the norms of both.

He hoped that they appreciated it. Maybe you don't when you're 18 or 19 or however old they are. Or maybe you can't when you've always excelled at everything.

Or maybe you do. TB isn't sure.

What he is sure about is that this event is always fascinating to him.

He writes this every year, but he can't help as he sits there but to look around and wonder what's in store for everyone.

Some will get hurt. Some will quit. Most won't. Most will have great four-year experiences.

And some will win the Roper Trophy and the von Kienbusch Award - as the top senior athletes - at the end of their four years, when the same members of the class gather at the senior awards banquet.

It seems so far in the future, that day. And yet it'll be here soon enough.

The program at McCosh 50 started with a video (TB's lone actual contribution) of some Princeton highlights, along with some Princeton Athletics facts - and the Angels and Airwaves song "Call To Arms."

Then there was a video of a speech Adam Berry, the former football receiver, gave a few years back on diversity at Princeton. Berry is very, very impressive.

Then came the speakers. The students heard about the McGraw Learning Center, about the medical staff and its policies and procedures, from the Office of the Dean of the College. Lastly, they heard from Jack Berger, the captain of the hockey team, about his own experiences here, as a student and an athlete.

Mostly what he said is to enjoy it, because it won't last forever.

TB's advice?

Reach out when they have questions, need help or feel alone. There are people here to talk to, people whose job it is to make their experiences better.

Make as many relationships as they can on campus. Take advantage of your time here.

When it was over, TigerBlog left the building and made his way back to Jadwin. As he walked, he thought about all the times he's gone from that side of campus back to his office and yet for all these years, he's never figured out the absolute best path to take.

After all, there are so many different ones.

As for the members of the athletic Class of 2017, they too left the room, headed down their own individual paths.

TB wishes them all the best.

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