Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Peak Performance

The Princeton women's soccer team moved back into the national Top 25 this week, checking in at 24th.

The Tigers appear to have righted themselves after a 0-0 tie with Dartmouth and a 3-2 loss to Brown that seemed to derail the team's chances of an Ivy League title and a return to the NCAA tournament. As you remember, Princeton reached the NCAA quarterfinals a year ago, defeating 21-time NCAA champion North Carolina in the Round of 16.

The loss to Brown came on Oct. 6, and it left Princeton at 1-1-1 in the league. The Tigers rebounded to beat Columbia and Harvard - who had been unbeaten and tied for first - and so here's where things stand now in the league:

1. Penn 4-0-1 (13 points)
2. Princeton/Harvard 3-1-1 (10 points)
4. Columbia 3-2-0 (9 points)

Princeton has games remaining this weekend at Cornell, who is 1-11-1 overall and 0-5-0 in the league. On the other hand, no game is ever a gimme.

After that would be a regular-season ending game at home against Penn on Nov. 3. Penn is at home against Brown this weekend.

There are still a lot of permutations for the league championship and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, but this is a true statement: If Princeton and Penn both win this weekend, then the game in Princeton Nov. 3 would decide who goes to the NCAA tournament. It would be Princeton with a win; it would be Penn with a win or tie.

Harvard, in this scenario where Princeton and Penn both win this weekend, could still get a share of the league championship with Princeton or Penn (but not both). In either case, Harvard would not get the tiebreaker for the automatic NCAA bid.

Of course, as TB said before, no game is a gimme. If Princeton loses to Cornell, for instance, it has no chance at a championship unless Penn also loses, regardless of what Harvard does.

Princeton, with an RPI of 26, is still very much in the running for an at-large bid should it not get the automatic bid.

In other words, much like TigerBlog said about the men's team yesterday, the women's team has reached the fun stage of the season.

How do teams get to the fun stage? How do individual athletes put themselves in positions to win championships?

When TigerBlog started working at Princeton, there were no strength and conditioning coaches. TB wasn't paying that close attention to how it all worked, but his sense is that the team coaches were responsible for putting together some sort of program for their players to follow.

That seems laughable today, doesn't it? Princeton long ago added a strength and conditioning coach, and then another one. Today Princeton has six strength and conditioning coaches, and training has become as much a science as anything else.

The man who really built Princeton strength and conditioning is Jason Gallucci, who was that second coach hired in the department and who, TB believes, took over the department one year later. Now, 17 years later, he has taken on another endeavor, one that has taken athletic performance here and upped it a few levels.

Jason is now the Director of Performance for the Department of Athletics. Jason oversees what is now known as Princeton Tiger Performance, and the "PTP" section of was launched yesterday.

There's a lot to see on that webpage, and there's a lot going on in the area of performance science. You can read a brief description of the program and see the video announcing it HERE.

This is a top priority of Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan, and you can see in the video just how passionately she feels about the program and its benefits.

From the story:
With a values-based, holistic approach, the program integrates strength and conditioning, athletic medicine, sports nutrition, sports psychology, sports science, leadership development, and supportive campus resources. Based in Jadwin Gymnasium, PTP aims to create the environment and education platforms to help student-athletes reach peak performance in athletics, academics and in life.

As Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan says, the key to Princeton Tiger Performance is that it's not just about physiology. It's tying athletic performance to the values of the department, which are clearly outlined in the "Be A Tiger" program.

Princeton has 1,000 varsity athletes, all of whom benefit from the Princeton Tiger Performance initiative. The goal is to tie all of this to the umbrella of "Education Through Athletics" and "Competitive Excellence," which is really what this is all about.

For teams like the women's soccer team, who has two championship-defining games in the next two weeks, and all 37 of Princeton's teams, it's the latest in an evolution that 20 years ago didn't even include a strength coach.

Today, Princeton Athletics has peak performance down to a science.

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