Back where it all started.
Between friends, family, or employers, I get asked all the time, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Answer is easy, but the response is rarely understood – Division III Head Coach.
DISCOVER | DEVELOP | DEDICATE
This takes nothing away from the student-athletes at the Division I and II level. Institutions across the board provide advantages and disadvantages creating a unique experience for each student-athlete. Division III is the only level of competition where financial aid is not offered based on athletic ability or accomplishment. It can be a challenge from a coaching standpoint, absent of the financial incentive anchoring down the “scholarship athlete.” Thus, the attrition rate tends to be a lot higher.
We have a saying here that we coach based on the understanding that “you want to compete and (playing here) is where you want to succeed.” We want kids that had ambitions of playing at the Division I level. We want kids that aspired playing at the highest level. But, the reality is not everyone is tall enough, quick enough, or good enough. I am a firm believer in former Princeton Head Coach Pete Carrill’s quote, “The strong take from the weak, but the smart take from the strong.” Bare with me as I attempt to breakdown the semantics of this quote. The incentive to succeed at this level comes from within. We discussed the attrition rate, why? Despite the void of athletic scholarships, money and sports are hardly mutually exclusive in Division III. The margin from good-to-great is not as substantial from a skill-set standpoint as opposed to other levels. Rosters are comprised with the tallest front-court player standing at an average of 6’5 and athletes (with an ability to dunk) being counted on 1 hand. Division III is saturated with spot shooters and blue-collar post players. Separation stems from the foundation of intangibles to develop the tangible skill-set. Do you understand angles? Are you identifying weakside assignments on ballscreens? Are you more effective with 1 to 2 dribbles to create space? That is from the X’s and O’s aspect. What about during the fall, spring, or summer when workouts are not mandatory and coaches are not allowed to be present for lifts – will you show up? What you are doing when the coach is not looking takes on a whole new meaning. The individuals with the desire to be better than you will take from the weak. Yet, when you combine effort with intelligence therein lies the separation for success.
In my opinion Division III remains to be the purest environment for student-athlete competition – the epitome of what collegiate athletics are supposed to represent. Discover what it takes to succeed. Develop as an individual, a student, and as an athlete. Dedicate yourself to the experience.
The Division III student-athlete is its own fraternity/sorority. I always take a special interest in the coaches that have a background from Division III – Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich, Shaka Smart, Tom Thibadeou, Tony Shaver, and plenty more deserving of being mentioned. Those that have participated or coached at this level have a mutual understanding and respect for each other. The conversation tends to revolve around the challenges your program faced, or constant struggle bus you rode on returning late from a road trip and making the 8 o’clock class the next day because you know the professor takes attendance since there are only 20 students in the class. But, the experience molds you. The Division III student-athlete experience transforms you from being an impressionable prospective high school student to a battle-tested graduate prepared to embrace the next level in life. It forms an identity, and as a coach, there is not one aspect where you do not get to witness the transformation from beginning to end. When asked where I want to be, it’s an easy answer really.