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Don’t Hate on DIII Athletes

I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to be both a Division II athlete and a Division III athlete throughout my college years. I started as a division II athletes at American International College in Springfield, MA and transferred to a division III school, Utica College. From my experience, being a DIII athlete is more of a commitment than being a DII athlete. With that, I have gotten better at the DIII level and have experienced better competition than I did at the DII level. Here are my reasons why people need to stop hating on DIII athletes.

1. There is not a big difference in competition level

For my sport of track and field, I have noticed no difference in competition level between DII athletes and DIII athletes. I have actually noticed that I have competed against much better girls at the division III level than I did at the division II level. Are there a couple stands outs? Yes, but the overall competition level is the same. The events I compete in are the pentathlon and the heptathlon. Currently, the top ten girls in DIII for pentathlon would qualify for nationals at the DII level and would rank pretty close to the same order they are in at the DIII level. While there may be differences in competition for other sports, I have noticed that for track there is no difference. One reason is because you get more of an opportunity to compete against any division. Many meets that our team goes to compete against DIII, DII, and even DI schools.

2. Division III Athletes are competing for the love of the sport, not the scholarship

To give clarification on how athletic scholarships work, you CANNOT get an athletic scholarship as a division III athlete. Only DI and DII offer athletic scholarships, NOT DIII. There is the option to compete in NAIA which is another athletic organization which offers athletic scholarships for DI and DII athletes. NAIA DI is compared to NCAA DII and NAIA DII is compared to NCAA DIII. With that, there are many rules in which students cannot make extra money by competing in road races if on athletic scholarship.

As a division II athlete, I was on both an academic and athletic scholarship. One of the reasons I chose to go DII was because I did not have to pay for school. However, money does not mean happiness. I was miserable as a division II athlete. I felt like I was trapped because of the money and really did not have any motivation to compete, because I felt the only reason I was running was because of the scholarship I was on. With that, I felt like I did not have a voice in my event choices. My coach would have me run many events that were not my races, rather than having me compete in events I could accel in, like pentathlons or heptathlons. My first indoor college race was the mile and let me tell ya, it was a disaster.

Being a division III athlete has given me more motivation to compete in the sport I love. I go to practices and meets not because of the money, but because of the love of the sport, my coaches, and teammates. Seeing all the division III athletes competing because they love the sport is incredible and really shows the type of person they are.

 

                   

3. There are more academic commitments as a Division III athlete than a Division II athlete

The academic commitments I had when I was a division II athlete are no different than the commitments I have as a division III athlete. For example, as a division II and division III athlete, I had to complete study hours. Even after completing study hours for a full year and getting a 3.95 and 4.0 my first two semesters of college, I still had to do study hours at the division III level. While study hours are the same, there are more academic commitments as a division III athlete than a division II athlete. Professors are not as understandable if you are a DIII athlete compared to a DII athlete (unless you are a football player). Track and field athletes in general are not respected compared to other athletes. When I have had meets on weekdays, my professors at my division II school understood those commitments. At my division III schools, I have had numerous issues with some professors because of my commitments to both academics and athletics. I had a professor that took off participation points for being at AARTFC Championship (regionals, the meet below nationals; but this professor did not take off points for a hockey player). Division III athletes do not get the acceptance as “athletes” even though many are the same, if not better, than division II athletes.

4. In fact, there are more overall commitments as a DIII athlete compared to a DII athlete

I have done more volunteering as a division III athlete than I ever did as a division II athlete. During my year at American International College, my track team did not do any community service projects. When I transferred to Utica College, we immediately had a sign up sheet to volunteer at the Humane Society and the Utica Zoo. I volunteered for both and it was a blast. At the Humane Society, we would walk to dogs, clean bowls, fold towels, and play with cats. At the Utica Zoo, we raked leaves. There have been other volunteer opportunities like raking leaves for older adults in the area. As a fundraiser for t-shirts, we work high school track meets that are held at our facility. I have learned more about the other side of track, officiating, and how hard it can actually be through that experience. Other commitments that I did not have at the division II level that i now have as a division III athlete, was working part-time. I was on scholarship at my old school, so I did not have to worry about money. When I transferred, I needed to work because I was not on a scholarship and needed money to pay off schooling and for my personal needs. I used to work as a waitress, at a nursing home, and the past two years, I have been a teacher’s assistant for anatomy and physiology lab. It was already hard being a student athlete, but adding in working part-time really helped me get great time management skills.

 

5. Division III Athletes do not get the luxury of Division II Athletes

As a division II athlete, I did not realize how lucky I had it. First off, I got free gear. This included practice gear, competition gear, warm ups, and accessory gear such as gloves, hats, mittens, bags, extra shirts and tights. As a division III athlete, the only thing we get for “free” are our competition clothes and a warm up jumpsuit. We have to pay for other things such as rain jackets, sweatshirts, shirts, tights, sports bras… With track and field, we compete indoors and outdoors, so you need gear for the outside to keep you warm. On top of that, our coaches do not allow us to wear other schools gear when at competitions (which makes sense). Also, when it comes to food for competitions, when competing at my division II school, we never had a “budget”. We could get whatever we wanted for a meal. Although you could not go crazy and get a $50 meal, we could get ourselves a fish and broccoli if we wanted to. At Utica College, the track team is given a $12 limit. Most of the time we go to either Wegmans or Walmart for a meal. Sometimes we go to panera or chipotle. When you compete at higher competitions, our budget gets bumped to $16 and we usually get to eat at a restaurant, but it is not the same. You can not always get the best meal to have before you compete. You have to choose from the options you have on the budget.

A lot of people hate on division III athletes, with a lot of that hate coming from division II athletes. Division III athletes not only have the same athletic capabilities, but they are athletes on and off the field, court, track, doing the little things like volunteering, working part-time, and having to worry about academics more. Division III athletes need to be appreciated and thanked for the amount of work they put in. They are motivated by the sport, not the money.

 

Utica College 2019 Health Studies PT Pentathlon/Heptathlon Athlete for Utica College Track and Field HSSS NSLS
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