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Hardin Simmons 2010 National Championship

Great Athletes Avoid Division 3 Schools. True or False?

Great Athletes Avoid Division 3 Schools. True or False?

Over the years numerous parents and players have told me they will not consider Division 3 schools. Club coaches have told me the same thing. These coaches tell their players not to entertain a call from a Division 3 coach. Players, parents, and coaches cite two major reasons:

“There are no athletic scholarships in Division 3.”

“The talent level in Division 3 is not good enough.”

I want to give you the opportunity to reconsider. Step back and take another look at Division 3 through the eyes of two former players and one incredible coach.

You can see my thoughts here: Is NCAA Division 3 a Good Option Athletically?

Carlyn Powers, Graduated from Hardin Simmons in 2010.

In her own words:

Hi, I’m Carlyn Powers. I played at Hardin Simmons University (HSU) from 2007-2010 and was a part of the 2010 National Championship team.

I had the opportunity to go to a Division 2 school that was close to home on a full ride. I tried not to look at the money side of things when I was picking between the two schools even though my parents really loved the idea of a full ride. However, after visiting Hardin-Simmons, there was no way that I could have seen myself anywhere else. I have played soccer for 19 years, played other sports, and visited a number of colleges and their soccer programs. Never before in my life had I experienced such a remarkable program as that of HSU.

As a coach, Woody focuses on recruiting the right players, not necessarily always the greatest or most talented ones. He looks for girls with a hard work ethic on the field and in school, good character, and strong Christian values. I believe that this is one of the biggest reasons why our program has continued to succeed. You are not just a part of a soccer program. It is so much more than that. You are a part of something bigger than yourself. You are a part of a family.

I went to a very small private school in Plano from first grade all the way through graduating high school. I had 29 people in my graduating class. Because of it being such a small school, I was able to play volleyball, soccer, basketball, and run track. I was also involved in many school councils and clubs. So being a part of a close knit group and community was something that I had experienced my entire life and was looking to continue that in college. Since HSU is a smaller school, you have opportunities to be a part of many organizations and become friends with most people on campus. Also, you are able to have personal relationships with the teachers instead of just being a number like you would at a big school. The teachers encourage you to come in and ask questions. They want to get to know you on a first name basis and help you succeed.

The cost of HSU was a bit intimidating, especially since I turned down a full ride. However, if your grades and SAT/ACT scores are high, you will be able to receive some academic scholarships. Also you are able to apply for scholarships within the program that you wish to major in. For example, I was a Bible major. I applied for a scholarship within the Logsdon School of Theology and received a scholarship my senior year. There are many scholarships that can be found online.  If money is still a concern, applying for loans is not as scary as it sounds. Since I am still taking some classes and planning on going to Dental Hygiene school, I was able to defer payments of my loans for another 3 years.

Choosing HSU was the best decision I have ever made. It wasn’t just the success of the soccer program but how I grew as a person that made my choice worth it. I know it sounds super cheesy but the memories and experience that I have from being at HSU off, and especially on, the soccer field are priceless. Yes, paying back loans isn’t fun but I would never change my choice for anything. For 4 and ½ years I was a part of a soccer program that rose above everyone’s expectations.

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Player two, Graduated from Hardin Simmons in 2014.

  • (We have removed the name of this player so that we don’t disparage a good coach at the D2 program mentioned.)

In her own words:

I played at Hardin-Simmons University in 2013 and 2014. I originally went to a Division 2 school with a full ride for my first two years as a college athlete. Of course the deciding factor for my decision was money. Unfortunately it was the biggest mistake I’ve made during my years as a college student/athlete. The atmosphere of the team was not a team, it was all about ME and not the team. The players recruited by the coach at this particular school were solely based on athletic ability, and not based on the person’s character off the field as well. I am not saying that is what you will experience at every D2 school, but it is what I experienced at the school I chose.

After two years, I decided to transfer to HSU and figured out a way to pay for the school one way or another (there are multiple academic scholarships and loans you can take to help). The difference between the two schools was like night and day.

Coach Woody is big on the team atmosphere and the character of a player he recruits on and off the field. I made life-long friends at HSU that I still keep in contact with today after I graduated. We have a really strong alumni group which is awesome to be a part of.

The atmosphere at HSU is really positive and I experienced the best two years being a part of the team. My biggest advice when it comes to picking your school is pick where you fit in the best and where you will be happiest. Look at the team and the type of players that are a part of that team (character) and the financial worries you have will work themselves out. I don’t regret my decision at all switching from a full-ride to D3 because money can’t buy the experiences I had at my time at HSU. If I could do it all over again, I wish I was at HSU all 4 years.

The following comments are exerpts from an interview I did with Division 3 Coach Charlie Dobbins of William Peace. For the full interview click here: Interview with William Peace University Softball Coach

There are no athletic scholarships in Division 3.

The emphasis on getting the coveted “college scholarship” should not over shadow the main reason for attending college. It should be to create a path of success through the education for the rest of your life while giving you a chance to continue your athletic career for another 4 years.

The NCAA regulates the number of scholarships that Division 1 and Division 2 are allowed to award. The distribution of these monies changes yearly as kids graduate and new players cycle into a program. The number for Division 1 is around 12, and Division 2 is around 7. Most teams carry 24-28 players. This is assuming the programs are fully funded, which means their University supports them with full scholarship dollars. Athletic conferences can limit the amount of scholarship dollars per sport in an effort to maintain competitive balance. Division 3 does not award any monies based on athletic potential. All of their monies merit and need based.

Division 3 schools are not limited in the amount of financial aid they can grant to individuals. The monies are academic performance based, and do not discriminate between athletes and non-athletes. 98% of the students (athletes and non-athletes) receive financial aid while attending college. Other monies can be awarded after the parents have completed the FAFSA and the family EFC (estimated family contribution) is generated. This is where need-based monies are awarded (i.e. Pell, Stafford, etc.), based on a family’s income.

Athletic scholarships are limited on availability and renewable every year. Merit based awards are for 4 years and are renewed every year as long as the student meets the minimum grade point average determined by the school. If you eliminate all schools without athletic scholarships, you eliminate nearly half of your options for college softball. Start the process early when looking at schools…ask hard questions to the coaches involved. Understand the requirements of attendance and those of eligibility.

One last point, Division 1 is only an athletic level, not a measure of the quality of academic programs. Secondly…are you really good enough to play Division 1 sports, or will you be stuck on a bench or practice squad when you could be playing at another school at the Division 2 or Division 3 level? Take time to honestly assess your talent against the level of play on the field.

Last but not least, take care of the academics in high school. A 3.0 GPA in high school usually means a 2.0 the first semester of college, which means you are barely eligible to play at any level. Take the time and look at a list of Division 3 schools; (M.I.T., Emory, NYU, Williams, Tufts, etc.) They all have 2 things in common: high academics and high athletics.  Also, forget about Division 1 if you want to major in any medical field, education or other time sensitive major. They want liberal arts psychology majors.

The talent level in Division 3 is not good enough.

Honestly, when I hear this, it usually means that that dad or mom doesn’t have a clue about the level of play and they have not done the hard work to look at all options.

Bryan’s Final Thoughts

Division 3 often gets a bad rap. It is too bad, because a lot of players miss out on exceptional opportunities, both in athletics and academics. Division 3 is not for everyone, but give it a chance during the recruiting process. You may be surprised by what you find. 


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