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Does Division Really Matter?

by Laura Flynn

When I was in high school I was pretty naive. I admit it. And as great as my parents are, they knew nothing about having their kid play sports in college. I assumed that if I didn't get into a DI school, my next step would be to look at DII programs, and then after that...a DIII school. I thought little about the specific program but heavily on its NCAA division classification. I wanted to play for the best! And DI is the best, right?

Well...not always.

What's best for YOU is certainly not the same as what was best for me, and it won't be the same as your teammate either. Also, just because a DI school is interested in you, doesn't mean you should discount the Division II and III schools who have contacted you. Bigger is not always better.

So, let's break it down...

By a show of hands, who can tell me the difference between Division I, II and III schools?

I can tell you that when I was in high school I had no clue. What my high school self would've said is that "DI schools have more money, better facilities, better talent, and more scholarship money." While some of that might be true, it is not the case across the board. Especially regarding that whole "talent" thing.

So, first things first...

Here is the breakdown from the NCAA regarding the difference between its division classifications.

After reviewing the divisions, I'd then ask you to consider this simple question --

Do you want to make a career out of playing (insert your specific sport here)?

Playing for a DI program is similar to having a full-time job. Seriously! It's a phenomenal experience, but a HUGE commitment. On the flip side, most Division III programs don't ask the same time commitment (practices, team meetings, offseason training, etc) of its athletes. I just read a great article on the pros and cons of the three divisions. Though it's geared toward runners, it provides some terrific points to consider.

Next, instead of focusing on the division, focus on your specific sport within the school's athletic program. Look at their track record of success. When given the choice between a Division I school with a sub-par record, or a Division III school who has won back-to-back championships, I'd think pretty hard. Look at the current team, as well as former players and coaches that have come from the program.

On top of that, think about your education. (This is VERY important!)
What do you want to study, and does your potential school even offer that program?
If they do, is it even any good?

Sure a DI school could have a great swimming program, but if they don't offer Marine Biology (and that's what you want to do after you graduate) it's probably not the best choice for you.

Consider class size, what you can afford financially, and your priority - athletics, education, or an equal combination of both.

Lastly, don't limit yourself to just NCAA programs. Don't forget about NAIA and NJCAA schools!

The NAIA offers a great education and opportunity to play college sports with smaller class sizes, while the NJCAA can serve as a launch pad for athletes to transfer to 4-yr NCAA schools. Sometimes students choose this direction to get their grades up, finish developing as an athlete, and at times, it offers a more affordable option for getting general credits out of the way.

In the end, just remember that while division is important, it's not everything. There are so many programs out there and so many factors to consider. Choose the one that works best for YOU and meets ALL of your needs.

If you enjoyed this post, read a similar post HERE!

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