When you think about college sports, your mind probably goes straight to the big-time football boys over at Alabama, Auburn, or Georgia. Maybe football isn’t your sport and you think of the NCAA Baseball World Series, or maybe you’re one of the very few who think of women’s sports, like the UCONN Husky Women’s Basketball team. Regardless, unless you’re one yourself, or you know someone close to you in a program, your mind isn’t going to wander to those D3 athletes you never hear about. For one, you never hear about them, so why should you know who they are? Well, life as a D3 athlete is a battle of constant work with little reward.
As a collegiate athlete competing in the NCAA, we practice just as much as those guy you bow down to on ESPN. It’s nothing against you, of course the people are going to love what the people get to see, but hey we’re pretty good down here too. Traditionally Division 1 teams are “better” than Division 2 and 3 players. We’re here to tell you, this just isn’t always true. Division 3 players practice just as hard, watch just as much film, and get injured just like the athletes on the big screen do.
When you’re playing Division 3 sports, you’re playing because you have a passion for the sport. That is the sole reason you’re playing, because you’re getting approximately no money towards your education, rent, books, or food plan in order to show up to practice everyday. Not to take anything away from those guys on a full-ride to a great school, but it is a little bit easier to get out of bed for your morning lift when you know you’re getting some sort of monetary reward. We do it because we love it, not because we have to. Oh and you know those snazzy jump suits, backpacks, dri-fit shirts, and matching sneakers the big time schools wear to their meets, team travel days, or for food after a game? Well, Division 1 players are given those things, well because they’re division 1. All of the other divisions have a much smaller budget, so if we want to look like we really have our lives together as a team, we’ve got to fundraise or fork up the cash.
We’ve got to give it to our coaches, athletic departments, trainers, and other staff though. They’re working with a non-division 1 program as well so they feel our pain everyday and still show up. We might not be getting sent to MOTUS specialists when we tear our ACL or rip apart our shoulder, but we do have dedicated staff that work just as hard as we do.
We have All-Conference players, All-Regional players, and even many All-Americans down here that pour their heart into the game for the honor. We’re not saying that our Division 3 player of the year is going to show up your Division 1 player of the year, but it would be nice if the concept of the Divisions weren’t so split. Maybe if we were in their shoes, we would think that playing on a Division 1 team was too stressful and would wish our Division 3 team back to us in a heart beat. But being able to miss class, be given tutors on the road, have our travel food, hotels, plane rides, etc. all paid for us sounds like a pretty good deal. All you have to do is play, and play is what we want to do. It’s the other stuff that gets in our way.
The four years you’re allotted as an NCAA collegiate athlete are the best four years of your life no matter what division you play for. You and your team might have lofty goals like winning a National Championship or contending for your Conference. Either way, we’re all the same, working hard with a group of girls or boys, staff and coaches that we thank.