In Compliment of Div III Athletics

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Source:   —  April 08, 2016, at 1:47 AM

It'south also a time set aside to recognize the philosophy and educational values underlying the division. Div III was established in one thousand nine hundred seventy-third to be something different from big-time college athletics.

In Compliment of Div III Athletics

This week--April 4-10--is NCAA Div III Week, a celebration of the 190.000 student-athletes who represent about four hundred fifty DIII colleges and universities. It'south also a time set aside to recognize the philosophy and educational values underlying the division.

Div III was established in one thousand nine hundred seventy-third to be something different from big-time college athletics. The founding philosophy asserted that athletics was portion of the educational process and that student-athletes should be treated in a manner similar to other students. The intention was to balance the tensions between athletics and academics by prohibiting athletics scholarships, and by requiring shorter practice and playing seasons to reduce the time spent far from studies.

But because of the power and prominence of sports in our culture, I discover we're constantly working to defend this ground. We necessity to be vigilant in ensuring we're shielding our student-athletes and coaches from the excesses of a hyper-competitive environment.

Susquehanna University, where I serve as president, is a pleased founding member of NCAA Div III. More than five hundred seventy student-athletes represent Susquehanna on twenty-third intercollegiate teams--more than twenty-five % of our learner body. Love many of our fellow DIII member institutions, we support intercollegiate athletics because we cost it as a wealthy and necessary portion of co-curricular life. Still, we should recollect that it'south just one part.

Each week, I sit with our students for a meal. Among the questions I ask them is, "If you were the president of the university, what'd you change?" Many years ago, I brought a magic wand into these encounters and shared it with the learner to whom I was posing the question. As the vice chair of the NCAA'south Div III President'south Council, and in the spirit of DIII week, if I could wave a magic wand, here'south what I wish for all of us.

Support the Whole Student

Div III, the largest grouping in the NCAA'south membership, aspires to be the purist form of intercollegiate athletic competition. As there are number athletic scholarships, all athletes compete for the like of sport. In fact, the Div III philosophy states that our colleges and universities space the highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience and on successful completion of the student'south academic program.

I perceive we could live this ideal better by encouraging our student-athletes to be engaged in more in campus life beyond the classroom and the playing field. Student-athletes should be able to partake in study-away opportunities, as these are profoundly necessary learning experiences that assistance our students gain cross-cultural information and understanding of difference. Their athletic training shouldn't hinder their skill to get an internship, partake in a service-learning project, connect a club or organization, serve in learner government, carry out with a vocal or musical ensemble, or be in a theatre production.

Our division'south philosophy statement charges us with supporting our student-athletes in efforts to be engaged in in meaningful participation in nonathletic pursuits in order to enhance their overall educational experience. While the participation rates of Div III student-athletes in these opportunities lead the NCAA, I believe we can, and should, do better.

Resist a Powerful Sports Culture

The youth sports culture in American society is powerful. It leads to unrealistic expectations and excesses that chase athletes and their parents into intercollegiate play. Years before college, youthful athletes--particularly those in the center and upper-middle classes--are increasingly pressured to specialize in a single sport in order to expand their opportunity to play college athletics and get an athletics scholarship. They connect year-round, sport-specific organizations requiring season after season of demanding participation (and significant financial commitment) in order to stay in the player-development pipeline. Parents devote their lives to taking their kids to practices and tournaments year-round in the trust that athletics provides a likely vehicle to fund their child'south college education.

The facts simply don't support this assumption. Only six % of all high school athletes will partake at any level in the NCAA. The largest percentage of those who do participate, approximately forty percent, will partake in Div III. Of those that partake in the NCAA'south other divisions, slightly more than half get any quantity of athletics funding (fifty-three % in DI and fifty-six % in DII). Sports other than football and basketball rarely allow a "full ride." In reality, there is distant more academic funding available in higher education (approximately $50B) than athletics scholarships (approximately $2.5B).

And a second, maybe more troubling aspect of the youth sport culture exists. A recent NCAA study found that many--even most--student-athletes began specializing in their sports at what experts consider a very early age (before age twelve). Many of these athletes reported that from a very youthful age, there were high family expectations that they play at a college, professional or Olympic level.

One might expect that at the Div I level, but there was remarkably tiny disagreement between the divisions when it came to early sport specialization. In men'south soccer, for example, sixty-eight % of DI athletes specialized by age twelve. So did sixty-one % of DIII men'south soccer athletes.

Research has found that youthful athletes who specialize in a single sport are up to ninety-three % more likely to be injured than children who played multiple sports. Single-sport specialization also has been associated with greater risk of burnout, decreased motivation and lack of enjoyment.

Div III gives some student-athletes an opportunity to compete in multiple sports. And without athletic scholarship dollars at stake, there is nothing that obligates DIII student-athletes to partake in their chosen sport. They're playing primarily because they're passionate about their sport(s).

Despite these facts, the youth sports culture continues to evolve. We should recognize that our Div III student-athletes, and their parents, are increasingly products of that culture. In particular, the excesses of the culture affect expectations about athletics time commitments that are at odds with the DIII philosophy. We should resist and, when necessary, combat the mindset that "more is necessary," or "more is better." We should distinguish what the Div III competitive model has to proposal and why, in the long run, it's superior to the troubling trend evolving in youth sports.

Uphold the Ideals of Div III Athletics

In addition to its promise to space the highest priority on the educational experience of the student-athlete, Div III also pledges to encourage sportsmanship and integrity among its students, coaches, administrators and fans, and to ensure that the actions of our coaches and staff are fair, open and honest.

That said, I worry that in Div III we're sometimes a tiny too self-satisfied about our "purity," implying that we're over the scandals and problems that are more frequently associated with big-time college athletics. You don't hear as much about DIII scandals, but it'south not because we're free of them. While Div III athletics don't generate income and enormous media attention, that doesn't ensure that our division isn't subject to competitive pressures. The desire to "win" is present also in Div III and can lead our institutions to seek to gain competitive advantage in ways that are antithetical to our philosophy. We should pay attention and guard against these pressures, and it falls to leaders on our campuses to intervene if there are problems that should be confronted.

It's number coincidence that Div III is the NCAA'south largest grouping of member schools, conferences and student-athletes. Div III athletics is portion of a well-rounded educational experience. It's served student-athletes and institutions well for more than forty years. In this week where we celebrate what makes DIII unique, let us encourage the development of the whole student, let us resist the excesses of the youth sports culture coming to our campuses, and let us resist the desire to win at all costs that can lead any of our institutions astray.

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