11 NCAA Div. III national team championships
PELLA — As the NCAA observes Division III Week April 8-14, many Central College student-athletes agree that Division III is a better way to play.
Too often, fans identify Division III for what it doesn’t do: award athletics scholarships. It’s much more. The Division III Identity Initiative is built around the themes of “Discover, Develop, Dedicate,” highlighting the fact that Division III student-athletes can “follow your passions and develop your potential.”
Division III student-athletes participate in highly competitive intercollegiate athletics and have opportunities to play for national championships. Yet they don’t have to sacrifice their academic preparation.
NCAA officials also note—
--Academics are the primary focus for Division III student-athletes.
--Student-athletes are integrated on campus and treated like all other members of the student body.
--Athletics participation provides life lessons for student-athletes, which often translate into becoming a better student and more responsible citizen.
At Central, that means that student-athletes can spend a semester off campus at one of Central’s study abroad sites around the globe, participate in semester-long programs in Chicago or Washington, D.C., or complete an internship, without sacrificing an opportunity to participate in nationally competitive athletics programs.
Some Central student-athletes offered their thoughts about what they value in the Division III experience and their time competing for the Dutch:
Junior, Eldridge, Iowa
“Division III achieves the perfect balance of academics and athletics. I feel privileged to be able to pursue my dreams and dedicate myself to the sport I love. Division III athletes are driven by their passion for the competition--we devote our time and efforts expecting no more reward than our own self-satisfaction. I value competing at this level because it provides me with an opportunity to improve myself as an athlete without sacrificing my education and my future.
“The Central College family provides a community of support for its student-athletes. I am constantly pushed by my coaches, my professors, and my classmates to perform at a high level both on the field and in the classroom. Central creates an environment where I can strive to reach my potential and continually better myself as a student, an athlete, and, more importantly, as a person. Throughout my experience as a student-athlete, I have gained essential skills such as time management, teamwork, communication, responsibility, dedication, and accountability--which will carry through to all of my future endeavors in life and have made me a better person overall.
Men’s track and field
Senior, Jefferson, Iowa
“Division III means a lot to me because it has given me opportunities that I would not have received at a bigger school. What I learn about myself and about others as an athlete is at times more important than what I'm learning in the classroom as a student. DIII is the only place that could have given me these extra opportunities to learn
“At Central, I have certainly found a second home. Any college you go to, you'll expect to make friends and have people to be with, but the camaraderie I have found at Central I think is one of a kind. Nobody has tried to limit me at Central. I have been encouraged to be all that I can be and more, and that has helped me reach a feeling of fulfillment with my time at college, and has me looking forward to my future after Central.”
Kelsey Van Tasell
Sophomore, Pella, Iowa
“Being in DIII means a lot of different things to me. It means that I am able to accomplish all of my academic goals, while also competing in a sport that is important to me. I am able to be involved in several different tasks/projects, not just those pertaining to my sport, allowing me to be a well-rounded individual. It also allows me to develop as a person, not just an athlete.
“I’ve gained so much from my Central experience that I couldn’t have gained elsewhere. I have gotten to know so many wonderful teammates, travel with them, and have some of the best memories with them. Experiences elsewhere would have been different and I don’t know if they would be nearly as fulfilling. I’ve gained amazing support from an excellent coach and I have also worked with great faculty and staff. All of this has allowed me to grow into a better student-athlete.”
Men’s cross country/track and field
Senior, Cinncinati, Iowa
“As a student-athlete, I value the emphasis put on building a versatile self. By emphasizing academics and athletes, we create a stronger campus that prepares us for the future.
“Being a Division III athlete shows how dedicated we are to succeeding on the field and in the classroom. I think it shows the level of commitment that we bring to the table and offers distinct relationships that only a Division III school could offer.”
Freshman, Muscatine, Iowa
“What I like about Division III is that it is competitive but it also allows for players to devote time to studies and other activities on campus. I can be a good student as well as be an athlete who gets better, faster, and stronger. I don't have to dedicate my life to a sport, but I can make it an important part that keeps me physically fit and mentally strong. Central also allows me to get individual attention. Because Central is smaller, the coaches can help improve anyone's game, no matter what level of skill they have compared to the other players on the team. The coaches are able to build personal relationships with their players, allowing them to give encouraging and meaningful feedback.”
Women’s track and field
Senior, Ankeny, Iowa
“To me being in Division III means that I am a true student-athlete. My coaches emphasize schoolwork along with athletics. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a coach say, you need to be working hard in the classroom and at practice.
“I have gained many great memories at Central. I was able to compete in both indoor and outdoor national track and field meets. But I was also able to participate in many different experiences as a student. I was able to attend education conferences that would not have been possible without the support of Central professors. I was also able to get to know my professors and coaches on a one-on-one basis. I do not believe I would have been able to do this anywhere else.”
Junior, Burlington, Iowa
“I personally believe that the coolest part about competing in Division III is the knowledge that you are competing for your teammates and your own personal enjoyment.
“I've gained so much from the Central experience that I know I wouldn't have received if I had chosen to go somewhere else. I originally came to Central for football, but I stayed because of the relationships that I've developed over my two-and-a-half years.
“If I had gone to a large university, I wouldn't have gone on mission trips to Texas and New Orleans with Campus Ministries and I wouldn't have been able to extend my athletic career an extra four years. Coming to Central has enabled me to experience things that I just don't think big schools can offer their students.”
Women’s cross country/track and field
Senior, Britt, Iowa
“Competing at the Division III level has been an incredible blessing for me. Division III is unique in that we get the true experience as collegiate-athletes. To me, this is the biggest thing that this level has to offer. My coaches understand that I am a student first, and they make sure that we all stick to that. At a Division III school, we are passionate about our respective sports, but we also have interests that go beyond athletics. There is a wide range of talent, but everybody wants to be there. We aren't competing against each other for scholarships, we're competing together...FOR each other.
“At Central I've learned what it is to be a balanced, well-rounded person. Not only am I a two-sport athlete, but I am also a leader in both Campus Ministries and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a health and exercise science major, and a mathematics minor. I've been to the Division III national cross country meet and ran at the Drake Relays in track, but I've also gone to New York, Texas, New Orleans, and Alabama on mission trips, done service learning twice, and met some pretty incredible people. My team has become my family, but I can also say that I have been extremely blessed to have several groups of friends outside of my athletic teams. This is something that you don't get many other places.
“Other schools offered me a lot more money, but they couldn't offer me everything that Central has. And my experiences here are worth every penny!