Thursday, May 26, 2022

The New Lead Singer

The task that Jenn Cook is undertaking is a daunting one.

It was announced yesterday that Cook has been named the successor to Chris Sailer as the head coach of the women's lacrosse team. When TigerBlog first heard the news, he thought of Cook's most daunting task:  

Can she read the Lawrenceville Home Improvement spot on the podcast as well as Chris always did?

TB is kidding of course, but as in all jokes, there are kernels of truth. He doesn't wonder if Cook can actually do the live read obviously. He just is aware of the difference between being the associate head coach and the head coach.

Jenn Cook is now the lead singer. She's going from being Steven Van Zandt to being Bruce Springsteen, as it were. The E Street Band wouldn't have been the greatest ever without Van Zandt, but it's still Springsteen's show.

It's Jenn Cook's show now too. That means making the ultimate decisions. That means being the face of the program. That even means doing the podcasts.

When any assistant steps into the head coaching spot, it's a big jump. In case's like this, it's a bit different.

Cook is mega-prepared to run the Tiger program. She's been a part of it for 10 years, the last five as the associate head coach. The team has won seven straight Ivy League championships, and Cook's fingerprints have been all over every single one of them. 

She's recruited. She's coached. She's scheduled, games, practice times, fields, all of it. She's made sure there were uniforms. She's worked in player development. She kept the team culture going during a pandemic that saw 19 of the 32 players take the year off.

There are no surprises within this program for her. She knows exactly what to expect. She understands the details.

It's just that now she's the one with the mic at the center of the stage.

TB is happy for her. She's earned this, and she's clearly ready. 

What's different about this move is that Cook is taking over for Sailer, who spent 36 years as the former lead singer. Just seeing "Princeton head women's lacrosse coach" and not following it with "Sailer" seems a bit odd.

There have only been three head coaches in the program prior to Cook: Penny Hinckley in the early 1970s, Betty Logan after that and then Sailer, whose first season was 1987. Sailer coached Princeton for seven seasons more than Pete Carril coached the men's basketball team.

It is never easy to take over for the legend, but Cook knows what she's getting into. She had her official introduction yesterday, and she addressed that. She spoke about her friends all told her they'd be big shoes to fill, and she understood that.

She also smiled broadly as she started her remarks, which was a dead giveaway about how invested she is in Princeton women's lacrosse and how much she wanted this opportunity.

The team she inherits has a lot to replace. The Tigers graduated 10 seniors, five of whom were four-year starters. She has to replace Kyla Sears, the program's all-time leading scorer, and then four others on the other side of the field, with three starting defenders (Mary Murphy, Olivia Pugh and Marge Donovan) and the goalie (Sam Fish) all having received diplomas Tuesday as well.

It will be a team that returns a great deal on offense and some young defenders who will have bigger roles. Cook talked about that as well.

John Mack, the Ford Family Director of Athletics, spoke about how he wasn't looking for another Chris Sailer. He was looking for someone who understood Princeton and what the athletic department is about and was her own person.

He mentioned a meeting he had with Cook when he first started last fall and how she felt that she could be the next head coach. 

He just didn't realize how soon he'd have to make that call. 

There's a new lead singer with Princeton women's lacrosse. She hit all the right notes yesterday at her introduction. Now the real work begins.

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