(Check back later this week for the 2013 season preview video/story)
A one-way plane ticket, a rejected job offer and a rare ability to motivate at the deepest level — each and every one has played a role in the brilliant Princeton career of head coach Lori Dauphiny, who has established herself as a key figure of Tiger open crew for the majority of the program’s grand tradition.
About to enter her 18th year as head coach and 24th season as a member of the staff, Dauphiny has guided Princeton to a pair of NCAA championships and a multitude of Eastern medals, and she has seen her rowers leave Princeton to compete at the highest of levels. No coach of Princeton rowing — male or female, lightweight or otherwise, has ever won more races than Dauphiny.
It’s a tale, filled with both love and success, that you could never have sold to a young Washington graduate who bought a one-way ticket to New York City with a simple plan — “to explore the world.”
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Physical therapy was the original Plan A for Dauphiny, who helped the Huskies to a second-place finish at the 1984 National Collegiate Rowing Championships. But she still had a passion for the sport, and she took a job coaching at Green Lake High School shortly after her undergraduate years.
The coaching bug took a major bite out of Dauphiny, who decided to explore as many boathouses, campuses and cities as possible after a lifetime in the Emerald State. Hence, the one-way ticket to New York City, a city whose population at the time nearly doubled that of her home state.
Among the more than seven million residing in the Big Apple at the time was Ed Hewitt, the head coach of the Columbia women’s program. Dauphiny would apply for the position, but she’d end up with far more than a job.
“I was immediately knocked off my feet, which is more of a love story than anything,” Dauphiny said. “That was the first time that had ever happened to me, but he also offered me a job coaching the novice women at Columbia.”
While love would be the ultimate result from her Columbia years, Dauphiny knows that she learned plenty about coaching from her time with the novice Lions. Simply getting them all to practice could be a chore in itself, since the process began with subway tokens.
“Sometimes they would make it to the boathouse, and sometimes they wouldn’t,” Dauphiny recalled fondly. “I learned a tremendous amount handling freshmen in adverse conditions.
“Ed is a fantastic teacher and under his tutelage at Columbia I learned to coach,” she added. “His support, guidance and inspiration throughout the years has been the reason for my accomplishments.”
While Dauphiny enjoyed her time at Columbia, she had to take notice when the assistant position at Princeton opened. Even Hewitt, whom Dauphiny termed her “partner in crime,” encouraged her to apply for the job under then-head coach Curtis Jordan.
Dauphiny did apply and interviewed well enough to finish in the top two. Of course, when there is only one opening, that’s usually not good news.
“I didn’t get it at first, but the person who did get it didn’t end up taking it,” Dauphiny said. “So I was really lucky. I was Curtis’ second choice, which we laugh about often.”
That was 1989. It’s now 2013. The second choice is now the No. 1 coach in the history of Princeton women’s rowing.
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Dauphiny wasn’t the lone Princeton rowing hire at the time. Instead, she joined the Orange and Black staff at the same time as Mike Teti, the future U.S. Olympic coach, and Mike Zimmer, the current heavyweight head coach at Columbia.
All in all, it was a productive hiring season for Princeton, and it would also be a productive racing season for the Tigers. In Jordan’s final year coaching the open women, Princeton went 11-0 and won both the Eastern Sprints and National Championships grand final.
The Princeton novice eight didn’t win gold in 1990, but it did in 1991. And 1992. And every other year through 1996, which capped every year that Dauphiny worked with Jordan’s replacement, Dan Roock '81.
“My time with Dan was basically a fairy tale,” Dauphiny said. “We worked really well together. He was also a mentor, and we won three national championships together. We had years when kids never lost a race. That was under Dan’s instruction.”
Roock eventually left in 1997 to become the head heavyweight coach at Cornell, and Dauphiny was named the head coach.
“I wondered if I could ever match what Dan had done, and Curtis before him,” she said about her new role as head coach. “They were huge shoes to fill. But I had worked with Dan for a very long time, and had been part of the women’s program since 1989, so I felt confident in knowing the program and the people involved. So there was a comfort level, but I definitely knew I was following someone who had accomplished great things here.”
The first female head coach in program history, Dauphiny was also taking over the program at a critical point in the sport’s development. The 1997 season would be the first for open crew as an NCAA Championship sport, and Dauphiny led Princeton to the championship regatta.
She has done so every year since then, making Princeton one of only three programs to reach NCAAs every year.
The advent of the NCAAs and a championship format that rewards overall depth more than the best varsity eight, as well as the lure of scholarships in the future, led to an explosion within the sport.
“There was some momentum and excitement,” Dauphiny said. “It legitimized the sport, or it at least allowed some people outside the sport to understand it better. Along with it, there was the promise of
scholarships, which would get more women involved with rowing. There are more women rowing now than ever before.”
More rowers had more choices with more teams offering more scholarships. It seemed like more opportunity for Princeton to fall from the elite in the sport.
But Dauphiny would not let that happen.
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“I have unquestionably become the athlete I am today because of the four years I spent with Lori,” said Sara Hendershot ’10, former Princeton stroke and co-captain, as well as a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. “Throughout my Olympic selection and competition, when I was faced with an obstacle that seemed insurmountable, I tried to slow things down and remember the things I learned as a Tiger. Lori teaches her athletes how to become tough, strong women, and that being a Tiger is about being fearless and never letting anything get in your way.
"She has changed my life and the lives of many other women for the better because she acts not only as an amazing coach, but also as an incredible mentor,” Hendershot added.
Hendershot is one of countless women who achieved great success both on and off the water under the guidance of Dauphiny, whose numbers alone speak for themselves. Princeton has won 16 gold medals at Eastern/Ivy League Sprints since 1997, including four golds in the varsity eight (1997, 2004, 2006 and 2011). Princeton has three individual golds at the NCAA Championships, including 2006 and 2011 wins in the varsity eight, and her team finish has been in the top five eight times in 16 years.
Princeton has sent two boats to the Remenham Challenge at the Henley Royal Regatta over the last decade, and the 2004 squad reached the finals. She has seen rowers compete internationally on a seemingly annual basis, though nothing matched the sight of five former Tigers rowing in London this past summer.
The memory alone still makes Dauphiny emotional.
“It brings tears to my eyes,” she said, proving that assertion with actual tears while recalling the 2012 Summer Olympics. “I was crying watching those women race, and when I saw them on the awards dock. There were three Princeton women (Caroline Lind ’06, Andréanne Morin ’06 and Lauren Wilkinson ’11) standing on the awards dock with medals hanging from their necks.
“To see Sara, my gosh, clawing her way up and missing out on a medal by two-tenths of a second. To see Gevvie [Stone ’07] finishing up medical school and, at the same time, competing as the single sculler for the United States, with all the weight of the world on her shoulders and handling it with such poise. I couldn’t be prouder.”
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Somehow, Dauphiny has kept Princeton among the national elite while scholarship programs continue to expand throughout the nation. Her career record is 165-20, which calculates to an absurd winning percentage of .891.
Even in Princeton’s toughest year, a 2007 season when the Tigers had graduated the majority of a boat arguably remembered as the best in collegiate history, the Tigers went from a 7-6 regular season to a medal at Sprints and the grand final at NCAAs.
“I’m judged by wins and losses, and by my overall résumé,” she said. “Honestly, when I look at the accomplishments of Princeton women, I see it a lot deeper than the win-loss record. I see the hard-fought battles, some won and some lost. The thing I’m most proud of is that Princeton is always a contender, whether it’s a good or bad year. When anybody races us, there is an expectation that we will be fighters. That inspires me. I don’t know if that’s me. I think it’s from the type of kid that comes to Princeton, and the environment in which they are part of.”
Without question, there is truth to that statement. You don’t get to Princeton without a high level of self-motivation.
But it is also a statement with incredible humility, and one that her rowers — both past and present, as you can see from current seniors in the video above — will happily contradict.
“I’m a product of Princeton rowing, and I recognize that,” Morin said prior to her third Olympic competition this past summer. “One of the aspects that Lori got out of me was to be a racer. This idea that you have to fight like a Terrier, and you’re small and the odds are against you. You just go out there and row every stroke like it’s your last. There is so much emotion with Lori towards the racing. It’s an aggressive racing mentality, and I have carried that into my rowing in Canada.”
Her rowers recognize her gifts as a coach, but so do her peers both in and out of the boathouse. Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters ’67 hired Dauphiny in 1996, and he continues to be impressed with her leadership of the program.
“Lori possesses virtues in great abundance that are necessary to be a great coach: passion, heart, command, competitive toughness, analytical insight and an unswerving commitment to holding both her players and herself accountable,” Walters said. “Princeton University, Princeton Athletics and Princeton Crew are beneficiaries of her leadership and presence. I consider her to be the consummate professional, a great colleague and a good friend. She is a Tiger.”
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Talk with any rower in any of the four programs and ask what makes Princeton Rowing special, and you won’t wait long until you hear about the camaraderie in the boathouse. From men and women, to heavy, open and lights, there may be four teams in Saturday competitions, but they truly create one program during the countless hours of training.
That can’t happen if it doesn’t start at the top. While Dauphiny once looked up to the likes of Jordan, Roock, lightweight coach Joe Murtaugh and others, now she is on the other side.
"For me, Lori is Princeton Women's Rowing," heavyweight head coach Greg Hughes '96 said. "I have been here for 20 years, first as a rower and then as a coach. In that time, Lori has always been a coach here at Princeton. She has shaped the personality, attitude and intensity of the team. Lori's fire has led the Princeton women's rowing team to more wins than any other team out there. But with Lori, it is not just about the winning. It is about the work you put in every day and it is about character both at and away from the boathouse. Her women are always great athletes and great people."
“The biggest thing I have learned from Lori is the importance of tenacity,” women’s lightweight coach Paul Rassam ’97 said. “She is one of the most tenacious competitors I have ever been around. Lori always believes that she can get a bit more speed out of an individual, or out of a boat.
“As far as Lori’s contribution to the boathouse, it’s simple: A standard of excellence that is unparalleled,” Rassam added. “Her crews win. You do your best to keep your crews performing on a level similar to hers. Everyone gets better. It’s as simple as that.”
Like both Hughes and Rassam, men’s lightweight coach Marty Crotty ’98 rowed at Princeton while Dauphiny was a head coach.
“Over the course of 15+ years, multiple Eastern Sprints titles, NCAA Varsity 8+ championships, and the birth of a child, it doesn’t seem like Lori has aged one day,” Crotty said. “She brings such an effective energy to her team and the boathouse every single day. Her determination and resolve is legendary.”
Dauphiny and Hewitt had their son, Connor, following the incredible run of the 2006 varsity eight. Hewitt is the founder of Row2K.com, which has grown from a site for directions to Lake Warmug to the ultimate destination spot for rowing fans at every level.
Twenty-five years after Dauphiny decided to buy her one-way ticket to, well, somewhere, she has found her home.
“I never would have imagined it,” she said of the journey. “I came to explore because I was in one place all my life. I had no idea of the opportunities that would open, and the arms that would open. I have been well taken care of, which I feel very lucky for. It has been one hell of an experience, and one that has been full of love.”
by Craig Sachson