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Commentary: Division III athletes thrive without glamor

Pui Lok Choi
Staff Writer

In NCAA Division III, there is no spotlight and no glamor.

There is no highly touted basketball player going into next year’s draft, no NCAA Final Four, no coach Pat Summit leading the women Volunteers with more than 1,000 career victories, no race for the Heisman, no home of the 12th man and no media circus.

However, there is the same hard work, dedication, academics and balance in Division III as any level of college athletics.

What stands out most in Division III athletics is the absence of athletic scholarships offered.

Student-athletes have to find more time to balance their hectic lifestyles consisting of sports and school work.

“In order to be a D-III athlete, you need to have passion for your sport, dedication in the classroom, weight room and the community,” Brandon Easterly, offensive coordinator of the football team, said.

Athletes need to be more committed because they do not receive athletic scholarship money and most athletes keep jobs during the season of play and the off-season.

While higher division schools entice athletes to stay at their schools because of virtually free tuition, Division III student-athletes need to be more committed.

Athletes at the Division III level stay at their respective schools because they want to, not because they are enticed by scholarship money.

The misnomer about Division III athletics is that it is not important.

“I resent the term ‘D-III athlete’,” Matt Durant, head strength and conditioning coach, said. “It all begins with NCAA. And either way, you’re playing in the NCAA. You’re a college athlete. Throwing a ball is the same here as it is at a Pac-10 school. We work just as hard as any Division I program out there.”

Being a college student-athlete is a demanding task, with classes, jobs, practices and taking care of their bodies.

“Grades tend to be higher for student athletes and there are achievers out there that do extra work in the classroom as well as the field,” head baseball coach Scott Winterburn said.

“Being at a smaller school, they have to work harder and learn to compete because when they graduate they will be competing with people with degrees from big schools like USC and UCLA,” he added.

Division III programs have more limitations than other programs and coaches have to work twice as hard to recruit athletes because they have nothing to entice athletes other than the school itself.

“It takes hard work at any level, I’ve always worked pretty hard to be successful on the field,” said Cedric Ho, junior wide receiver on the football team and former Division IAA athlete. “Either way, I’m a college athlete.”

Chelsea Sleight, a junior on the volleyball team has enjoyed her experience and loves everything about it.

“It takes a loving of your sport, you don’t come to a Division III school for money, you come because your sport is what you love to do,” Sleight said. “It allows you to play a sport and focus on academics at the same time. I’ve had amazing times and my teammates are like my sisters and have helped me get through many things. There are certain people you meet in college that will be in your life the rest of your life and that’s what my teammates are for me.”

Division III is more than just an NCAA subdivision. Division III gives athletes a chance at their dreams, a great college experience and a lifetime of great friends.

Pui Lok Choi can be reached at pui.choi@laverne.edu.

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