Friday, September 8, 2017

Reinforcing The Message

TigerBlog has been meaning to tell you this story all week.

So Miss TigerBlog went to the "Made in America" concert in Philadelphia last weekend. She came back like a "drowned rat" after the first night. On the second night, TigerBlog got a text message from a number he didn't know, saying it was MTB and she'd lost her phone.

What do you do in that situation? TigerBlog called MTB's number.

It rang. And then a male voice answered. It turned out to be Steve.

Who's Steve? No idea. Just the kid who answered the phone that he found.

Ah, but Steve did better than just say he had the phone. He told TB that MTB's phone had only five percent of its battery left, so he gave TB his number to call him back on. Sure enough, TigerBlog called and Steve answered.

TigerBlog then texted MTB on her friend's phone. She then coordinated with Steve, who returned her phone to her. How did TigerBlog find this out? Steve texted him. MTB? She replied about an hour later to TB's text.

Steve, on the other hand, said "no problem. I'd want someone to do the same for me if I lost my phone."

So how about a nice round of applause for Steve, the MVP of the "Made in America" concert.

Nice little story, right?

TigerBlog spent yesterday morning at the Department of Athletics "Welcome Back" staff meeting. It's an annual event, the first time post-Labor Day when the entire department assembles, even though games have already been played.

One of the best parts of the meeting is when the new staff members are introduced. Head coaches will introduce new assistants. Administrators will introduce junior members.

Matt Madalon, the men's lacrosse coach, introduced Jeremy Hirsch, the new defensive coordinator. Jeremy is a former Princeton defenseman, Class of 2010. Madalon mentioned that Jeremy is one of two Princeton alums who are currently full-time Division I men's lacrosse coaches.

At first, TigerBlog couldn't think of the other one. He's embarrassed to say that it took him probably two minutes until it came to him - Brian Kavanagh, a former Tiger goalie, who is at the University of Vermont.

In all, there were 20 new staff members. TigerBlog actually thinks that number was a bit low compared to most years.

That's a pretty good turnover from year to year. It's visible mostly in the photo collages that Phyllis Chase, the former travel coordinator, used to make of the holiday party each December, and now in the staff photo that is taken each year after the kickoff meeting. There was a 2017-18 version taken yesterday.

TigerBlog has been here for a long time. So have many others.

At the same time, there's always the new group. They're young. They're just starting out. For the most part, they won't be here for the long haul. Some will, but most will be here a few years and move on in their careers. It's the nature of college athletics.

As a result, it's important that Princeton do a good job of explaining to the new people what the values of the department are, and, at the same time reinforce them for everyone else. That's the main purpose of the meeting, other than it's also one of those rare times that the entire group gets together.

So what does Princeton stand for? The department operates on under the ideals of "Education Through Athletics" and "Achieve, Serve, Lead."

As these suggest, Princeton Athletics is about providing for its athletes the opportunity to compete at a high level, a championship level, while also understanding that there is more to college athletics than just winning. It's about the entire overall experience.

Princeton wants its athletes to be an extension of the student body as a whole. It wants its athletes to understand the incredible opportunity they have been given to attend a school like Princeton and therefore understand their responsibility as students, as well as athletes.

It wants its athletes to buy into the University's commitment to service. It wants its athletes to be invested in proper nutrition and sleep and other areas that aid in high performance.

Princeton is about learning lessons through athletics that extend well beyond playing a sport here. Teamwork. Leadership. Time management. Sacrificing individual desires for the betterment of the entire team, and organization.

When Princeton athletes leave here, the hope is that they had such a great experience that they'll stay invested in the programs for whom they competed for the rest of their lives. Not all will, but an incredibly high number do. That's something that should never be taken for granted. 

These are words that are easy to say. They're harder to live by. It's important, though, to set really high standards.

As Pete Carril once said, "when you lower your standards, they turn around and attack you." He's right about that.

That's why it's important to constantly talk about them. And to have a room full of people, like yesterday, who buy into them.

It's what makes Princeton special.

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