Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Fabled Darden Cup

In theory, the title of Darden Student Association President is the highest pressure position there is for a student.  There are others, though, who believe that social chairs in varying clubs and sections have it the worst.  Or perhaps the president of the Darden Capital Management Club feels the most heat, responsible for managing a chunk of Darden’s all-important endowment.

I, however, humbly submit a fourth option, that the highest pressure position on grounds is Athletics Representative for Section E.

It sounds crazy, unless you know about the legendary Darden Cup.  The Cup (yes, I’m capitalizing it for the rest of the blog entry) is awarded to the section that earns the most points during a series of athletic and community competitions held throughout the school year.   Sports include softball, basketball, dodge ball, a 5k race, and cricket.  Sections also can rack up points by volunteering in events like the Boys and Girls Club Bike Race.

All the sections take great pride in competing for the Cup, but none more than Section E.  Coming into the 2011-2012 year, Section E had taken home the trophy three consecutive years.  As the newly elected Athletics Representative, it was my job to motivate the section on to an unprecedented four-peat.

It wasn’t easy—Sections B and C quickly showed their superior athletic prowess.  They were bigger, faster, stronger.  Section D leveraged its close-knit bond to come up big in several community events.

Section E, though, stayed in the mix with its unbeatable ground game.  Time and time again, my classmates answered the bell. 

Can everyone pitch a few bucks in to buy a bat for softball?  Done.

Are you able to stop by the game to sign in for participation points?  It’s out of my way, but I’ll do it with a smile.

Second years, can you take some time to participate in the cup for us, even though you’re busy looking for jobs and enjoying your last months at Darden?  Absolutely.

As the year progressed, we stayed at or near the top of the standings with pure heart and organizational grit.

That wasn’t to say we didn’t have our great feats of “athletic” heroism.  A thrilling, last-second “Final Jeopardy” style question catapulted us to victory in trivia.  Sublime performances by two second year students carried us to a dominant win in bowling.  And, an improbable rally in dodge ball saw us rise from last to first in a true underdog story that rivals Vince Vaughn’s.

This year’s competition was the closest in recent memory, with four of the five sections still in striking distance with just two events to go.  After a rousing cricket tournament, Section B pulled ahead of Section E by the slimmest of margins.

The last event was the Darden Cares 5k race—an all too perfect time to shine for the section with the unbeatable ground game.  Section E mates Lauren Byrne, Chris Short, Caroline Burns and I spent hours planning out a comprehensive game plan to maximize our point intake. 


It paid off.  Everyone had a hand in it, from winning a costume bonus to bringing out students and faculty (thanks, Professors Weiss, Snell and Wicks!) in droves to run the event.  John Cote led a pack of Section E runners to the finish (earning the top 5 times) and it was enough to push us to the victory.

The cup was ours again.  Oops, I meant The Cup.

And while I’m obviously joking about my job being the highest pressure one at Darden, the victory took the weight of the world off my shoulders.

 I know this may feel like a one-sided view of the Darden Cup, but I believe it carries takeaways for all of us.  At Darden, we all want to win and we want to be the best.  In some ways, the Cup is an outlet for our competitive spirits.  However, I’ve also been extremely impressed with the sportsmanship and class the vast majority of my classmates showed throughout the year.  We’re not whiny 15 year olds sitting in the dugout crying about playing time anymore.  I hope we learned that we can still compete at 100% effort while having great attitudes and affinity towards each other.  Even better, we raised thousands of dollars for great causes in the process.

The Cup also taught me values and challenges of leadership, organization and motivation.  Bringing 64 people together for a common cause involves loads of hard work, lots of collaboration, an extra heavy dose of humility, a positive and enthusiastic culture, and most importantly a great group of colleagues.

I don’t know how, but Section E has been blessed with all of those elements four years running.  Being a part of such a wonderful group has been a total joy.

That being said, I don’t envy my replacement for next year—the pressure is already on to continue the legacy.

1 comment:

  1. Incredible work Jeff! I'm so proud of what the FYs in Section E were able to accomplish this year -- watching you all congeal during the year into a group capable of winning the Cup was a treat to watch. You all showed that there are many ways to reach Darden Cup greatness (you'll see that last year wasn't nearly as dramatic:

    It's a case study in organizational culture how the tradition of Section E gets passed along from year to year, and now you all get to pass it forward to the 2014's. Congrats!!