While many high school athletes dream of being crowned a NCAA champion, winning the Heisman Trophy, or hitting a buzzer beater during a March Madness game, the honest truth is that only a select group of athletes receive athletic scholarships offered by Division I or II programs.
Although Division III programs do not offer scholarships, they provide a competitive athletic environment and a first-rate educational experience. Attending a Division III school guarantees athletes the opportunity to play the sport they love while earning a valuable degree.
Division III is the NCAA’s largest division, making up approximately 40 percent of total membership. Eighty percent of active Division III institutions are private, while 20 percent of institutions are public. There are around 180,000 Division III athletes spread across 36 different sports.
Next week, April 8th– 14th marks Division III week. As a student-athlete of Whitworth University, a Division III program, I greatly appreciate the opportunities the NCAA has given me.
Throughout high school my dream was to receive a full-ride volleyball scholarship to a Division I university. After a tragic ACL injury my goals and aspirations disappeared. There were days in which I thought I would never play competitive volleyball again in my life. Division III has given me the opportunity to continue my passion.
The reason I chose Division III is because of its intimate setting. When you’re out there on the court and you look up to your fans you see your family, your friends, your professors and your classmates; all people you know. You’re playing for them, people who know who you for more than your athletic ability.
When you miss that game point serve, that game winning penalty shot, that field goal to tie the game, you’re not letting down an entire state. Your fans support you through the undefeated seasons and the rebuilding years, because you’re more to them than just a public figure.
As a Division III athlete, you’re not playing for a scholarship; you’re playing because you love the game. All of those bruises, sprains, and strains are evidence of the endless hours put in at the gym, on the court, or on the field. We do it because we love competing, we love the game, and we love our school.
Division III athletes take pride in the title “student-athlete.” Although I might not be playing next to future Olympians, I’m playing side-by-side with women who will become teachers, nurses, and physical therapists, women who will definitely make an impact in this world. Being a Division III athlete here at Whitworth allows me to receive a high-quality education, while competing in the sport I love.
Florida, Texas, Michigan, Ohio State, UCLA, you watch their games on ESPN and follow their seasons closely. Although known as the powerhouses of Division I athletics, the chances are that even these student-athletes will not make it to the pros.
While we all fantasize of the fame, fortunate, and success of being a professional athlete, the harsh reality is that in the end having a good education will pay the greatest dividends in life.
A common fallacy is that Division III means lesser quality athletics; this is a completely false statement. Division III provides outstanding athletics, some programs even rivaling some Division II programs. High school and junior college standouts often choose Division III colleges for a guaranteed starting spot rather than being lost on the bench at a Division I university.
Overall my experience at the Division III level has been nothing but rewarding. I have fully recovered from my ACL surgery and since then have won two Northwest Conference titles, been an all-star, and have made two NCAA Division III tournament appearances.