Why Division III?
by Peter Green, 29 July 2013
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Dan Greenberg, coach of the national champion Williams College men's tennis team, says, "'When someone asks me, 'Why D-III?,' I honestly say, 'Why not?'"
"Financially, many schools in Division III can provide need- and merit-based aid that exceeds the money available for D-I athletic scholarships. D-III seems like a great option for the majority of high school athletes looking to take their games - and their lives - to the next level.
"From a tennis perspective, the landscape of D-III tennis is rapidly evolving. The level at the top schools is getting higher and higher, and the depth across the board is growing every year. Whereas 'going D-III' used to mean sacrificing top-notch tennis for academics, it now means going to a school where you can maximize and thrive in both arenas.
"Perhaps most importantly, the experience belongs to the student athletes. The coaches provide guidance and leadership, but ultimately, looking back at my own college career and the careers of my players, being able to compete for national championships with your best friends can fuel your entire four years - and inspire you to achieve more well beyond college and college tennis."
Emory's Amy Bryant also comments:
"In Division III tennis there is something for everyone. With over 400 schools to choose from, there is a wide spectrum of levels and resources. But, generally speaking, in Division III athletics the overall student-athlete experience is emphasized. So, for example, a D-III student-athlete can typically study abroad, where in D-I or D-II an extended period away from training may be frowned upon."
"Most students who choose Division III programs are primarily interested in the school first," says Conchie Shackelford, Women's Tennis Coach for the Sewanee Tigers
. "They like the academics, the setting, the campus atmosphere, and the opportunity for balance in their daily lives. Many Division III programs are among the very best academic schools in the country and offer students the chance to participate in a world class education."
"D3 colleges are amongst the top academic institutions in the country," notes Curt Speerschneider, women's tennis coach at Skidmore College. "The student-athletes are there to obtain one of the best degrees they can get so that they can go on to have a successful career."
To get a player perspective, I talked to Charlie Cutler, Captain of the 2008 National Champion Washington University Bears:
"Having played four years of D-III tennis before traveling on the futures circuit, earning an ATP Ranking, and eventually coaching D-I college myself, it seems that D-III is a great option for American players who are looking for more than what many D-I programs can offer them. For me, this was the chance to truly compete for a national title and have a large influence on the national sphere. I made the choice to play for a top D-III program where I could help lead them in fighting for the title rather than playing No. 3 or No. 4 on a mid-level D-I team that was hoping to finish in the top half of their conference. Given the nature of D-I tennis in particular - with the multitude of foreign players coming over on large scholarships - as good a player as I was, it was unlikely that I would have been able to experience the types of accomplishments I had in my D-III career. And many of those memories will stay with me the rest of my life."
Our collection of NCAA Division III coaches and players commented on scholarships, commitment level, competition, and the benefits of playing college tennis at the D-III level.
On Scholarships and Commitment
Speerschneider: When there is an athletic scholarship involved, that coach essentially owns the student-athlete's time. That scholarship is the coach's investment. If a player doesn't conform to what they want or underperforms, then they take it away because most athletic scholarships are renewed yearly.
I can say that coaching Division III student-athetes is much more enjoyable. The players are there to get the most out of their experience. They work hard and are excited for practices and each match. D-III is what college athletics should be.
Cutler: For the most part it is true that D-III programs will not spend the kind of time or energy training as D-I programs, which through scholarships are literally paying their student-athletes for their time. For many this allows them the freedom to put into their tennis what they want and to get out what they deserve. Not everyone is interested in treating their sport like a full-time job at the expense of their academic and college experience. So for many, D-III allows them to find the right balance in their lives which will give them the more rounded life that they are looking for.
The important thing is D-III makes it about choice. There are no athletic scholarships or rewards to muck up individual's motivations. It is simply a matter of how much they want it and how hard they are willing to work to reach their goals. In essence, one can say that D-III athletics is about personal ownership because it is up to each individual athlete to decide where they want to be and what they are willing to do to get there.
D-III affords any experience one is looking for - from the casual player looking for the enjoyment of being part of a team, all the way to an elite level of players sacrificing and giving their all to pursue lofty and rigorous goals. D-III is really the purest form of NCAA athletics in that it is the one division that truly has it all and includes a place at the table for everyone.