When you sign up to be on a Division 3 sports team, you know there will be no Big House filled with thousands of fans, and your games will not be televised. No one is going to glorify you or buy jerseys with your name on them. So why do D3 athletes play? Here are what five athletes from Kalamazoo College have to say about the benefits of D3 sports.
1. The camaraderie will last a lifetime.
Cameron Crothers, a 2020 graduate of Kalamazoo College and former quarterback for the school’s football team, says that the biggest benefit of D3 sports is the support system his team created for him.
“Yes, I was passionate about the sport, but what kept me coming back each year were my teammates and the bonds I built with them. In tough times on the field and off the field I knew I had a good support system. Some of my favorite memories of college are from my sport, and it wouldn’t be memorable without the teammates I shared them with,” Crothers said.
When you join a D3 sport, your teammates become your family. You spend a lot of time with your team; at practices, on bus rides, in the locker room, at team bonding events, and at team meals, it’s impossible not to form a bond and friendship with your teammates.
Many fall sports have athletes move into dorms a few weeks early to start training, allowing them to create friendships and support groups before other students even start to move in. Starting at a new school where you do not know anyone is scary, but being a part of a D3 program can really help ease this transition and help you find your way.
2. Academics are always a priority.
Izzy Clark, a senior, starting shooting guard, and two-time captain of the Kalamazoo College women’s basketball team, states that the biggest benefit of playing a D3 sport is that it allows her to put her academics and career goals first.
“Since I first began playing my sport at a D3 school I realized it was the perfect fit for me. My academic and career goals are demanding and require me to put in a lot of time and effort in the classroom. At the same time, I know I could not be the student I need to be without basketball in my life. Participating in D3 athletics allows me to balance the sport I love with a rigorous academic schedule. I have never felt like I had to put my education aside to succeed in my sport, and vice versa,” Clark said.
According to Clark, her coaches and teammates constantly push her to reach her goals in the classroom as well as on the court. Therefore, she believes playing a sport at the D3 level has prepared her for the professional world. It taught her commitment, teamwork, effort, focus, and balance. Clark feels that she wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
While playing a D3 sports, you are not only able to put your education first, but you are expected to. Most coaches keep track of their players’ academic achievements and class attendance. They set a standard that they expect all of their players to achieve academically before they allow them to perform athletically.
It is very rare that you would have to miss class for a game, since coaches plan their practice times around their players’ academic schedules. Not only does playing at the D3 level not interfere with academics, but it actually pushes players to perform at even higher levels in the classroom and teaches them how to find the balance they need in order to reach all of their goals in life as well.
3. The player comes first.
Benjamin Krebs, a senior and defensive middle on the Kalamazoo College men’s lacrosse team, believes that the biggest benefit of D3 sports is that, because D3 teams are smaller, you can have closer relationships with your teammates and coaches, and the player always comes above the game.
“With D3 sports, the coaches care about the individual. No game is ever bigger than what is going on in our personal lives. Coach always wants to hear about how our families are doing. He wants to build relationships not just with us but with those we care about. We often have team potlucks after each game with the parents that attend. He knows us personally and cares about us each individually,” Krebs said.
D3 sports allow for more personal relationships between the coaches and the players. You will never feel like you are replaceable or just part of a business exchange. The individual comes before the game.
4. It doesn’t take up all of your time.
Rachel Madar, a senior, midfielder, and captain of the Kalamazoo College women’s lacrosse team, expresses that the biggest benefit of D3 sports is that she can continue to play the sport she loves while pursuing other interests and focusing on her future goals.
“In D3 athletics, you get to play the sport you love, while also bettering yourself for the future. You have time to join other extracurriculars that can help influence what you do after undergrad. School comes first, so you have the potential to set yourself up successfully in academics, but also play a sport at a very competitive level. Overall, it’s the perfect balance between school and athletics that you can’t get everywhere else,” Madar said.
Madar is not only a superstar on the field, often leading her team in points and assists and setting school records, but she also shines in the classroom. She is on a pre-med track at Kalamazoo College and is looking into attending dental school after graduation. A D3 athletic program allows Madar to put her academics first and focus on her post-grad plans, while also allowing her to play the game she loves. She has time for school, sports, family, and friends.
Madar was even able to attend a four-month study abroad program in Rome, Italy last fall without it interfering with her athletic or academic goals and achievements. D3 athletics allows you flexibility with your time and schedule that you would not have at any other level of play.
5. You will gain so many life lessons.
Mike Sweeney, a junior and pitcher for the Kalamazoo College men’s baseball team, considers the biggest benefit of D3 sports to be the many lessons that being a part of a D3 sports program has taught him, especially those that can be applied to all areas of life.
“The ability to pursue college athletics has benefitted me both on and off the field. Not only has it developed me as a better player, but it has also allowed me to take the skills I have learned and apply them to other aspects of my life. College athletics helped me form a strong work ethic and camaraderie that will prove greatly in my future endeavors,” Sweeney said.
Being a part of a college team requires dedication, commitment, and perseverance, all of which are qualities that carry over well into other areas of life. Playing a D3 sport builds character traits that are beneficial in all careers and areas of life. Athletes who play at the D3 level often take away just as much as they give to their programs.
Choosing the right fit for continuing an athletic career is an important decision every athlete has to make. Although the D1 and D2 programs may offer more flashy gear and more fans, there are a plethora of advantages that come with playing at the D3 level. Every athlete is unique, as is each athletic program, and there are pros and cons to playing at any level. These are just a few of the many benefits athletes have discovered come with playing a D3 sport.