Whenever you ask a player or parent to list their dream schools, they almost always talk about the big time, powerhouse Division I programs. While I understand where this thinking comes from, for many players this is not a realistic goal.
So if I can’t play Division I softball why would I want to play?
That might be a logical question except for one simple fact. College athletics offer many different opportunities and many of those “smaller” schools are a much better fit for the vast majority of players.
Too many people discount Division III athletics and we are here to set the record straight. Why would D-III be the right choice for many kids?
1. Fewer sacrifices. Most DI programs expect their athletes to be totally committed to their sport. Now don’t get me wrong, D-III is also a commitment but nowhere near the same level as at the powerhouse schools so many kids dream of. A D-III athlete might be encouraged to do more than one sport, or have time for clubs and organizations, or have time for a part-time job or an internship. And no D-III athlete has ever been told you can’t do nursing or engineering or medicine or whatever so they can be at practice every day!
2. You get to be a student athlete. More emphasis is on student. About a dozen of the 50 greatest academic institutions in the country compete at the DIII level. You have the opportunity to get a great education and still play the sport you love. Pretty cool!
3. Great competition. The level of play at the DIII level is really good. There are many D-III schools that would hold their own on any field with almost any higher-level program. There are great coaches at the DIII level where they are still focused on being educators and coaches. If you look through the NFCA Hall of Fame you are going to find a bunch of greats who spent their career in DIII.
4. College life. Having a social life and getting to be a college kid is something that many kids want in a college experience. Athletes at the DIII level still have responsibilities and rules with their teams, but they also have much more time available to allow them to enjoy their college experience much more.
5. Less travel. There are two sides to this coin. If you love to travel then many D-III programs will leave you wanting. The typical DIII school is playing a more regional schedule and big trips are a big deal when they happen. The other side of the coin is that you miss much less class time due to softball travel. If you are aspiring to be successful is a very demanding academic area the idea of less missed class time is a jackpot.
Being able to play college softball is a great thing. Please be sure to consider all schools as you look for an opportunity to continue your softball career. All levels have pluses and minuses but never sell the Division III experience short.
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.