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.

 Image

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.