Message to the Division III Athlete

Last night I found some time to go to Rowan’s Rec Center to play basketball, and it reminded me how great of an experience it was to play for Rowan’s Men’s team the past three years. For anyone who hasn’t seen me play, I never had the most talent or athletic ability on the court, but I hustled my heart out. Being the shortest center in the NJAC at 6’2″, this is what I had to do to earn my spot. Going into some games, my goal was to wear down my opponents, get some easy lay-ups, and win the match-up battle. By my senior year (thanks to my great teammates), I was able to average over 10 points per game, 5 rebounds per game, and ended the season with the highest field goal percentage in the league. This is a modest stat line, indeed, but an over-achievement in my eyes. If there were a picture to describe who I was as a player, this is it.


I was a mean, gritty, defensive-minded player. I played an ugly, physical game, and built a competitive edge off effort alone.

But now my basketball career is over. An anticipated shift of lifestyle has occurred- from a sports career, into a professional career. Instead of filling up a stat sheet, I’m filling out applications. Instead of lacing up my Nike’s, I’m lacing up a pair of dress shoes. The basketball uniform- once called my “warpaint”- has been passed on to new talent.

The new warpaint is my suit & tie.

Last week, I was having my resume reviewed by an older, more experienced friend before I tested the free agency market called a job search. And though I’ve spent 23 years of my life playing basketball, he told me to take off “Division III Athlete” from my leadership section.

“It demeans my integrity,” he says.

“You’d have to at least be a Division I Athlete,” he says

One second…

What does it mean to be a Division III Athlete? To me, it means a lot of things.

1. Division III athletes are some of the most passionate, hard working athletes in college sports. Being a Division III athlete means that there are no extrinsic rewards for playing your sport. Besides going into coaching, most Division III Athletes have no career in sport after college. We take on the responsibility only because we want to. We play our sport because we love the competition, and we love our game. We are willing to go through a sleep-deprived college career if it means that we can compete a few hours a day.

2. Being a division III athlete means that we are responsible, dedicated, and well-rounded. Most people will think that our responsibilities as an athlete go like this: Family, school, sports, maybe a part-time job, and finally, friends…

Not so.

Taking on a sport at a Division III school is a tall order. Current and past student-athletes could agree that their schedule revolves around their sport. Athletes are responsible to dedicate copious amounts of time- in-season, and throughout the off-season- on developing their skills as individuals, and as teammates. Meanwhile, athletes must juggle these responsibilities with the most important reason they’re in college. Schoolwork.

Instead of sacrificing one thing over another, athletes simply find a way to make it all work. Many of us hit the books hard, play our sport hard, work hard at our part-time jobs, and party pretty hard too (when the 48 hour rule doesn’t apply). Hiring ex-athletes means that your company can benefit from a long list of transitive skills such as: teamwork, hard-work, dedication, strategic thinking, multitasking, prioritization, and many more.

3. Finally, being a Division III athlete means that we refuse to give up our position. In any sport, it is important to never give up your position- whether it means your proximity on the field/court/ice, or position on the team. If someone beats you to a position, it means that they wanted it more. If you lose, it means that the opponents either work harder, or more effectively to win. To the Division III athlete, winning isn’t important because it shows that they are better than the opponent. Instead, it shows that they’ve done something that the opponent couldn’t accomplish. This does not make one person “better” than the other. Instead, it means that you fought harder. Your ran faster. You made that final push and imposed your will more effectively. You shut the door on them.

Yes, being a Division III athlete means many things. And if someone tries to convince you otherwise…

They just don’t get it.

14 thoughts on “Message to the Division III Athlete

  1. Great article. Your advisor was incorrect. Most employers value college athletes and wouldn’t differentiate between divisions for many of the reasons you articulate. Many athletes are competitive, leaders, multitaskers, confident, and know how to read people. These are valuable intangibles to employers and the smart ones realize it. Good luck and send me your resume.

    1. Jason, excellent article, I also disagree with your adviser. As a former Army Ranger (and old friend of your dad’s) I can tell you that you possess the key quality for success and that is drive which includes adaptabilty. You understand that sometimes you have to change the game plan. I have boys aged 13 and 17 and you can be sure I will have them reading your inspirational blog. I look forward to hearing about your future success,

  2. I saw this link on a friend’s Facebook. Like you and I, he was a Prof. Like you and unlike I, he was a Division III athlete. After reading it, I felt compelled to comment.

    To be frank, if your adviser thinks it’s a good idea to delete “Division III athlete” from your resume, then he/she probably isn’t a fitting adviser. That’s just my two cents.

    Perhaps this is just my experience speaking, but “Division III athlete” certainly stands out. I got to see D3 athletics from the broadcasting front. In fact, I broadcasted many games you played in while I was at Rowan Radio. This experience opened up doors, and eventually led me to Division II Kutztown as a Broadcast GA. There, I got much more access (now being a university employee) into the student-athlete life.

    Like D3 athletes, most D2 don’t go onto a professional sports career. However, with D3 athletes not being allowed to receive athletic scholarships, you take on extra burden than many D2 athletes. You are in it 100 percent for the love of the game and the loyalty to the team/school. That can’t be overlooked.

    To me, if I was hiring, I would see “Division III athlete” as a great talking point… which is something to be desired from a resume. I would want to know what this applicant got from the experience. What you wrote, Jason, is something I’d want to hear in person during an interview.

    In general, being a student-athlete gives you a structured environment to handle a multi-faceted life, while put together the leadership and teamwork skills that can be applied to various work projects. THE DIVISION OF PLAY DOESN’T MATTER IN THAT REGARD, because those same tenets apply everywhere in the NCAA and NAIA. I know that’s something you don’t need to have told to you, but I hope this adviser (and any employer who falls under that camp) comes to understand that.

    Stay determined, Jason.

  3. Division III means working hard. No pass on anything. You are not
    on scholarship it is for love of team and sport that you participate.
    No special exceptions for anything. Not even beautiful facilities at
    times just grit and love of sport and teammates!!

  4. I personally wouldn’t work for that guy. I would say that being a D1, D2 player doesn’t mean you receive a Scholarship and I wouldn’t say they don’t work hard. I think you will find most D1 and D2 don’t receive a scholarship, the down side is they don’t get to play much unless there a standout. My Son played D 3 Badeball for the number one Conference in the Nation OAC , and we played D1 teams and lost to them and beat them as we’ll, you will find a lot of D3 players are for sure D1 players they just couldn’t get the Act score or they came out of a small High School. I was always asked why my Son wasn’t playing D1 and he just didn’t get noticed. It shouldn’t matter what division you played for , the fact that you we’re a College Athlete should be enough, it’s hard work in any Division and I have a lot of respect for any College Athlete. They are probably the some of the most driven people I’ve ever met. Just my opinion!

    1. Nick – Just want to reply to your comment about test scores/grades… Be careful with what you believe about NCAA Divisions and academics. Division III athletics have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of academics. In fact, DIII schools are some of the top schools in the nation, and the Division status has much more to do with the size of the school than anything else.
      Many DIII schools are extremely academically rigorous, many of which are more selective and have better quality education than DI schools. Athletes with DI capabilities often make a decision to go to DIII schools over DI because of the better academic opportunities and challenges, and smaller communities. I was a student-athlete on the women’s cross country team at my DIII school, a very selective (small) top university, and I ran with, and against, very competitive women with very, very competitive times, even on DI/DII standards.

      1. Thank you for clarifying, because I too totally disagree with Nick Newman’s statement. It’s false.

  5. So proud, of all of life’s accomplishments of my daughter, a Division III, 20+ year, record setting, wonderful mother, wife, and corporate executive. Very, very proud to be her father.

  6. The advise you received to remove this from your resume was poor. All in business, graduate programs and professional schools understand the commitment college athletes make. The teamwork, leadership skills and time management requirements are desired by all. I write letters for graduating seniors all the time and, if they were an athlete, it is often the first thing I comment upon.

  7. I am an athlete and a coach for 40 years. I used to believe what you said above with all of my heart, but after our horrible experience at a D III school in Wisconsin, I can’t agree. It is a run by a terrible coach and athletic director. You have to choose wisely, talk to PAST players and not go by win/loss record. Sports are our life and it is so much fun and I have life-long friends from it, but the D III experience we had, if not for our previous 13 years of great volleyball, would have soured us on just about everything related to the sport.

  8. Great post! We shared it with our members – over 155k current & former college athletes, as well as employers that value your traits and want to hire athletes! DO NOT remove DIII Athlete from your resume. Reach out to us anytime; we’re happy to help with your job search and/or connecting you with all the others that do “get it.”

  9. Loved this article … Being a D3 football player is such an honor and privilege. Trust me D1 and D2 athletes are on a leash and deserve much love but when your not on a scholarship and have to work part time to pay for school it does mess with you mentally as a D3 S/A… In the end what ever you play it’s still a commitment and a touchdown is still worth 6 pts and 3 point shot and home run is still the same score. Just the talent is slightly higher in D2 and D1 drowning on what school you play for. All Student Athletes are winners in my book!

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