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By Brenna Myers
As the NCAA celebrates its inaugural Division III Week, most college sports fans probably would be hard pressed to explain the differences among the three NCAA divisions.
Many people are familiar with Division I being the highest level of intercollegiate athletics competition, but Divisions II and III have launched branding campaigns to hone their identities, as well. Division II’s “I Chose” theme resonates with a strategic-positioning platform that emphasizes “Life in the Balance” for student-athletes who earn athletics grants-in-aid and also excel in the classroom.
Division III’s “Discover, Develop, Dedicate” mantra is designed to reflect a proportioned experience for student-athletes who compete on the fields and courts without athletics scholarships and who discover their passions by participating in all the college setting has to offer.
As part of that campaign, the NCAA declared April 9-15 the first “Division III Week” during which schools are celebrating their student-athletes’ athletics accomplishments and academic achievements, as well as the connection to their campuses and communities.
At Monmouth College, a 1,500-student Division III school in Monmouth, Ill., track and field student-athlete Amanda Streeter is a good example of the Division III identity initiative. Streeter, a senior, returned from a fall semester in Scotland to earn her first All-America award at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships this season.
A native of Port Byron, Ill., Streeter is a business administration and economics double-major. This all-around athlete, who was a three-sport athlete in high school, has concentrated her collegiate athletics experience on track and field. In March, she placed in the top eight in the weight throw at the NCAA championships. Streeter attributes her success to years of steady and dedication to practice.
“My skills have been progressing since I started my college sports career at Monmouth,” said Streeter. “Becoming an All-American is something I could not have done as a freshman, but I was able to achieve it after a long-term devotion to my training and the sport itself.”
Streeter spends a great deal of time practicing for track and field, but being a double-major also requires an incredible amount of time and energy. She claims her grade-point average has thrived because of her commitment to athletics. Streeter said that reflects a demand from the Monmouth College athletics department for athletics participants to be students first and athletes second.
“Formal study hours must be completed before we are even allowed to practice with our team,” Streeter said of the rules in place to keep athletes on the straight and narrow path toward academic and athletics excellence. “The academic demands of my coaches really help keep me focused. I want to be at every practice, so I always make sure I stay on top of my studies.”
Streeter also points out that when she does require scheduling or academic exceptions from sports, her coaches are always willing to make accommodations.
Many Division III student-athletes take advantage of study-abroad opportunities, as well. Streeter’s excursion to Scotland provided a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit another country and learn that culture.
She took business classes (her major), but she said, “It was nice to study something outside my major, too. I felt like it made me a more well-rounded person.”
Her experiences involved a lot of physical activity, such as rock climbing, canoeing and kayaking. “We did a lot of exploring the countryside,” Streeter said.
Whether playing for a large university or at a small institution, each athlete at the collegiate level makes the same prevailing commitment to their sport. The athletics work ethic of the Division I athlete is well-known through television coverage and media exposure. Yet, the DIII athletics experience is often less visible to the general public.
But student-athletes at the DIII level also face a daily challenge to improve. The blood, sweat and sometimes tears are a familiar routine for each and every athlete from the all-stars and the All-Americans to the rookies waiting for their time to shine. The passion for play and the grueling commitment is no different in Division III.
Kari Shimmin, the head volleyball coach and the physical education department chair at Monmouth, echoes Streeter’s passion for sports and education. Shimmin, a 1997 graduate of Monmouth and a Hall of Fame inductee, is adamant about protecting the reputations of Division III players.
“Our athletes demonstrate true dedication to their sports because their efforts and commitments are not monetarily compensated,” Shimmin said. “Athletics scholarships can create professional athletes, but this is not the goal of Monmouth College. We’re here to educate students and prepare them to be clear-thinking and honorable individuals in all their future endeavors, whether it’s performing a sport on a professional level or commanding a classroom of fourth-graders.”
The potential benefits of athletics participation stem from the individual’s commitment. It’s what he or she makes of it.
Streeter is an exemplary student-athlete, spending innumerable hours on both schoolwork and practice, and accomplishing remarkable outcomes in each.
It’s what Division III athletics is all about.
Brenna Myers is a sports information intern at Monmouth College.