Division III: Telling Our Story
The six attributes of Division III
By Brett Halvaks
Brett is a NCAA Division III National SAAC member, former cross country/track and field student-athlete at California Lutheran University and current assistant cross country coach at Chapman University)
While Division III is generally known for not providing athletic scholarships and not playing on national TV, it is so much more about what it is, than what it isn’t.
Division III is in fact the largest division in the NCAA, both in number of institutions and number of student-athletes, representing 40% of all NCAA student-athletes. Also, Division III is built on an opportunity for your education to be multi-faceted – to compete at a high level, obtain an excellent education and be fully-integrated into campus. But being Division III has meant so much more to me.
As a retired cross country/track and field student-athlete at California Lutheran University and now assistant coach at Chapman University, I appreciate how much the Division III student-athlete experience has to offer and has impacted my life.
The six attributes of Division III used to be just words on poster in the athletic department, but now these have come full circle to help me realize the value of being a DIII student-athlete:
- Proportion: While completing my last year of eligibility, I was also enrolled in the teaching credential program – a true testament that I was able to successfully balance athletics, extra-curricular activities and academics. My coaches understood that graduate school came first to running and were always flexible with my training schedule because they knew the importance of not only preparing for the next meet, but also preparing for life.
- Comprehensive Learning: While a member of the CLU cross country/track and field teams, I learned so many things beyond just becoming a better distance runner. I learned how to be a better teammate and friend; how to more effectively manage my time; the importance of community involvement and giving back; and most importantly, how to lead. I was able to strengthen myself in numerous ways – all because the combination of school, athletics and developing as a person were all at the core of my experience.
- Passion: Although Division III sports might not be the most publicized and might not have the biggest fan base, DIII student-athletes play because they truly love the game. They play for the thrill of victory; the agony of defeat and the incomparable feeling of hard work paying off. We want to win for ourselves, teammates, coaches and institutions – regardless of who is there to cheer us on.
- Responsibility: “You have to love what you are doing to go out there and do it when the bleachers are empty.” (Greg Noll) I believe this quote epitomizes Division III student-athletes because, in a sense, the bleachers are always empty. There are no scholarships forcing you compete and no professional contracts at the end of your career. DIII student-athletes understand the responsibility competing for the love of their sport and for their teammates. All of the early morning lifting sessions or captain-led team runs show dedication to their sport and to making their respective teams as good as they can be.
- Sportsmanship: I was lucky to experience sportsmanship at its finest during the SCIAC cross-country/track and field seasons. The institutions race each other so frequently throughout the year that you develop a bond with student-athletes from the opposing schools. Rivals, yes, but we would always wish each other well before races then ask how the race went immediately after. These “rivals” were also the first congratulate each other after good races and give a pep talk after poor performances. This mutual respect is one of the highlights of my college career.
- Citizenship: I see the attribute of citizenship through two lenses. First, community service really completed my student-athlete experience. This attribute of giving back also translates into being a good teammate and role model for others. Teammates should be there to laugh with you, listen in times of struggle but also push you to excel. I’ve had some tremendous teammates in my four years at California Lutheran University – ones that have been significant in helping me develop as a leader both in the community and on the track.
It is my hope now that I can continue to pass these attributes on through my coaching endeavors and ultimately help my student-athletes fully embrace what the Division III experience has to offer.
Last Updated: Sep 23, 2012