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By Tucker Glass
NCAA Division III SAAC, former lacrosse student-athlete, Plattsburgh State University of New York
Discover, Develop, and Dedicate – the three cornerstones of the NCAA Division III Identity Initiative and intercollegiate athletics model. In a time when the concept of “student-athlete” is often poked, prodded, and parodied, I find myself reflecting on those three D’s and what they truly mean to me as a former men’s lacrosse student-athlete at SUNY- Plattsburgh.
Being a student-athlete starts with beginning to discover who you are from the moment you set foot on campus. For many this orientation phase includes choosing a major or field of study, learning about their new campus and surrounding community and building a bond with their new teammates and coaches. The Division III student-athlete experience goes well beyond that initial acclimation, though.
During the four (or five) year experience, Division III institutions encourage students to discover not only who they are but also who they wish to become. My combination of academics, athletics, campus involvement and community service at SUNY-Plattsburgh helped to shape what I truly valued and who I wished to become at the end of my time as a Cardinal. This discovery period of my collegiate experience led me to realize that I had a strong desire to help others and to give back to the education system, with ultimate aspirations of becoming a social studies teacher.
Former United States President Bill Clinton once said, “Character is a journey, not a destination.” I can personally attest that developing skills, smarts and leadership as a student-athlete takes a tremendous amount of character. Along the way, student-athletes overcome many hardships, whether it may be breaking the “dumb jock” stigma, a season-ending injury, learning the art of time management or academic challenges. But it is those student-athletes who seek continual self-improvement and progress who fully utilize what Division III has to offer.
Division III institutions afford student-athletes a variety of avenues to develop that character, allowing them to pursue other passions and interests. My journey was fueled by becoming a better leader on my team, in the classroom and out in the community. This journey had its obstacles, including a balancing a rigorous academic schedule with lacrosse and other extra-curricular activities, but all the opportunities in my well-rounded experience prepared me with the confidence and prowess to be successful in my career.
The key to these opportunities were the people. It’s the relationships that are built and the lives that are influenced along this journey that truly builds character and makes this experience important. Whether it’s the bond of brotherhood that develops at early morning conditioning or the smile on a child’s face at a Special Olympics softball game, it’s the lives you impact, and those who impact yours, that make being a student-athlete in Division III worthwhile.
At the Division III schools, dedication and commitment to achieving your goals and aspirations is the norm. Is it a coincidence that the past two NCAA Woman of the Year Award recipients have been Division III student-athletes? Laura Barito a swimming and track and field student-athlete from Stevens Institute of Technology in 2011, and Elizabeth Phillips, a cross country and indoor/outdoor track and field student-athlete from Washington University-St. Louis in 2012, are exemplar models for who Division III student-athletes are and what they can achieve. The commitment to becoming the best “you” is what drives many people’s focus today, but it is the commitment to creating the best “us” that drives the Division III student-athlete and what ultimately drove me to take advantage of the Division III experience.Last Updated: Jan 24, 2013