NCAA Division I teams get the most publicity, but what other options are there for playing college sports, and what are the advantages and disadvantages to those?
Playing Division 1 definitely has it’s Pro’s and Con’s and this decision should ultimately be based on your personal preferences. Compared to D2 and D3, playing a Division 1 sport is like having a full-time job with the time commitment being far more significant than the other divisions. Although the NCAA regulates weekly practice hours, the 20-hour limit does not take into account other team responsibilities (meeting with athletic trainers before and after practice, physical therapy sessions, film, and meetings with coaches), all of which extend beyond the 20-hour cap.
Because of this, athletes sometimes find it more challenging to balance being both a student and an athlete. Also, since each sport is so demanding, D1 athletes are less likely to play multiple varsity sports, opposed to other divisions where they can often compete in more than one sport.
That being said, there are definite benefits to being a Division 1 athlete. D1 schools have more financial backing, better facilities, higher-paid coaches, and more scholarship money, D1 schools also commonly have state-of-the-art athletic facilities, including well-kept fields, high-tech equipment, and the most advanced sports medicine tools, nutritionists, physical therapists, doctors, surgeons, etc. Additionally, D1 coaches typically have more enticing salaries, which suggests that D1 coaches can be of a higher caliber than say D2 or D3 coaches. It is not uncommon for D3 coaches to hold other jobs on campus, although this is not always the case, and also depends upon the sport and school.
If you want to play there is somewhere for you - but be honest / realistic about your skills and best fit
Yes- there is almost always a place for you to play. You may need to consider being a part of a team versus academics and playing time,as well as scholarship opportunities, but there is almost always a place to play.
Many consider starting at a JUCO school and then moving up. Most D2 schools only offer partial scholarships, and D3 schools do not offer athletic scholarships. Unlike these others, D1 schools can offer full or partial scholarships. Division 1 scholarships are determined by sport and allocated by the coaching staff, yet they must abide by Title IX regulations that aim to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex. Title IX therefore requires that female and male student-athletes receive proportional athletic scholarships based on their participation. Some key elements to keep in mind when deciding are:
Skill level - There are skilled athletes at every level. Oftentimes, athletes who are looking to develop more athletically and/or academically will choose to play at a junior college before moving onto a four-year program.
Overall goals- When deciding where to play in college, it is important that athletes weigh their overarching goals in the decision-making process and consider what they want as players and people.
Campus environment- Campus environment is extremely important and should be evaluated in addition to athletic division. Each campus will have its own unique feel and athletes should visit each school they are considering attending to ensure they would feel comfortable playing and living there.
Financial need- There are financial aid options at every institution. NCAA DI and DII schools offer athletic scholarships along with most schools that participate in the NAIA, NWAC, and NJCAA. While NCAA DIII programs don’t offer athletic scholarships, they do offer competitive academic scholarships and other financial aid packages to student-athletes.
Summary of Scholarships (athletic / academic), time commitment, skill development
DIVISION 1 SPORTS:
According to NCAA, Division I athletes spend 6 hours on academics, 5.7 hours on athletic events such as practices and games, 3.3 hours of a social life and 7 hours of sleeping. That only leaves 2 hours left in a single day. Not including time for eating, employment, or extra curricular activities.
Playing a Division 1 sport is time-consuming and takes significant dedication; however, D1 programs are stacked with extensive resources. From the recruiting standpoint, coaches at Division 1 schools have more pull in the admissions process.
All of the major sports conferences, including the SEC, Big 10, Pac 12, and ACC are composed of Division I schools.
Ivy League Institutions are Division I, but they don't offer athletic scholarships. The Ivy League schools are Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale.
To get recruited to play in Division I sports, there is a recruiting calendar that gives a timeline for the recruiting process. Division I sports have the most detailed calendars, so it is crucial to stay on top of important dates and times. More information about the recruiting calendars
DIVISION 2 SPORTS:
DIVISION 3 SPORTS:
Division III is the largest of all of the NCAA divisions. In Division III, there are 444 institutions and more than 170,000 student-athletes.
A key difference in Division III is that there are no athletic scholarships. However, a majority of the athletes are on some form of academic or need-based aid. Also, there are shorter practice hours and less travel for games in D III.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or the NAIA, has about 300 member institutions. NAIA schools are smaller and have relatively low athletic department budgets, roughly on par with Division III schools.
However, unlike NCAA Division III, NAIA schools do offer athletic scholarships. Examples of NAIA schools include Morningside College, Mayville State University, and Florida Memorial University. The NAIA doesn't have the prestige of the NCAA, but it offers an alternative for smaller schools that want to compete.
The NAIA is similar to the NCAA Division II in terms of size and play but consists of more private schools and fewer regulations than the NCAA. Similarly to NCAA Division II, these institutions offer mostly partial scholarships and only some full scholarships.
The National Junior College Athletics Association, or NJCAA, is the governing board for sports at two year colleges. Members of the NJCAA can also offer athletic scholarships.
Compared to NAIA and NCAA, the junior and community college conferences are much smaller. These programs are only two years, offering athletes the ability to study and play for two years and then transfer to a four-year NAIA or NCAA program.
Besides signing up for the NCAA Eligibility Center, what should a student-athlete be doing? Should they start contacting coaches, and is there a best way to do this?
Consider contacting coaches as soon as you have identified their school and program as a place that you are interested in. You can reach out, email, call or visit programs as soon as you like. It is recommended for various sports that this can start anywhere from 8th grade through Freshman year. Do not expect to be getting scholarship offers when you first contact a coach; rather think of this as an opportunity to introduce yourself and the first step in a long recruiting process.
It is a common misconception that athletes cannot contact a college coach first or that it is a violation of NCAA rules. As an athlete you can contact a coach anytime you want, but coaches are restricted in when they can contact you.
A side note from Harvard (although applicable to all coaches):
“Who should contact Harvard?
We expect the prospective student-athlete to lead the communication process. Any prospect who is interested in the possibility of attending Harvard and playing golf should contact us. Keep in mind that golf is a division one sport at Harvard and requires significant desire and commitment.
Occasionally, parents, coaches, and scouting services will contact us on a prospect’s behalf. While it is great to have people who are supporting, encouraging, and mentoring prospects throughout this process, we prefer to work directly with prospects for a number of reasons:
● We want to get to know the prospect personally and we want the prospect to get to know us.
● Outreach is a good opportunity for prospects to demonstrate initiative and self-advocacy. These are two skills that show the level of maturity we like to see our prospective team members
● Outreach by the student indicates that they are interested and deeply engaged. Gaining admission to a selective school such as Harvard is far more likely to happen if the student demonstrates these qualities.
We prefer to see student-athletes take initiative and contact us directly. Self-advocacy is an important learned skill and shows the level of maturity we like to see our prospective team members. Additionally, such outreach by the student indicates that they are interested. Gaining admission to a selective school such as Harvard is far more likely to happen if the student is deeply engaged. “
Each sport is different, some have structured showcases, others are direct contact with coaches, etc. How do I research schools and learn about the schools and their programs? What next steps do those schools want you to take, Eg attend showcase / camps, send video, fill out recruiting form? Do I need to contact coaches, or will they find me? Can you reach out to schools/coaches directly?
Rules of contact - when can you contact coaches, when can coaches contact you
The proposal for most sports would allow communication — either from or to a coach — June 15 after the sophomore year of high school and would allow visits beginning Aug. 1 before the junior year of high school.
Evaluation period- During an evaluation period a college coach may watch college-bound student-athletes compete, visit their high schools, and write or telephone student-athletes or their parents. However, a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents off the college’s campus during an evaluation period.
Contact period- During a contact period a college coach may have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, watch student-athletes compete and visit their high schools, and write or telephone student-athletes or their parents.
Can you send unsolicited video/stat reels to coaches?
Yes, and you should! Ask your coach about Hudl videos, and any other videos which they may have recorded.
Remember, this is about making it as easy as possible for the coach to evaluate the player. For example, you’re wasting the coach’s time if you don’t cut out all of the time a batter is waiting at the plate for the pitch. All of a player’s at bats in a single game should come in under two minutes. With a video editing program, it should be easy to add the player’s information as text at the beginning and end. This helps the coach since it’s easier to copy text, if he needs to, rather than listen to the information and then write it down.
Download a free video editor iMovie or Windows Movie Maker.
Cut as much dead time as possible, length should be between 2 to 5 minutes.
Eliminate the sound.
Do not add music.
Include an introduction with the player’s name, class, and positions.
End with the same information and an internet link for more information.
Online recruiting sites
Many out there! You need to decide if you want to pay, how much you can pay. Good to have profiles at the places that allow you to make free profiles as almost all of them are searched. Consider being able to use these sites and your own tools before paying for larger ones (NCSA). Most just submit your profile to the recruit form.