Why playing D3 volleyball might just be the best decision I've ever made.
I started playing volleyball at the age of 12. At that point in my life, I was tall, lanky, and far from good at the sport. You might not believe that now as you encounter all of my 5’4” figure, but despite the drastic change in my stature, one thing as never changed. No matter how bad I was at the sport in the beginning, no matter how many times I was told I was too short to compete with my taller counterparts, I have never stopped loving the game. Now, I play at Chapman University for a Division 3 volleyball program. No, we don’t get athletic scholarships, fame, professional contracts, private tutors. Heck, sometimes our teachers don’t even give us slack for having to miss class for a game. So why, you might ask, would we work so hard, dedicating up to 30 hours a week to sports-related activities, for seemingly no benefits? And why would I highly recommend that anyone considering playing D3 sports to do it? Well, here are my reasons. Here is why I consider this sport and this team absolutely integral to who I am and to my college experience.
I get to continue playing the sport I love at a high, competitive level
Like I said, I love the game. It kept me active, out of trouble, and helped me learn to time manage all through my early years. As an athlete, and by nature, an extremely competitive person, I want to play as long as I possibly can at the highest level I possibly can. Playing D3 allows me to continue to compete for titles as well, which throws in extra pressure and adrenaline that I miss playing recreationally or even in an intramural setting.
Teammates have become best friends due to similar interests and values
These girls have become more than emotional support during hell week or even study partners on the bus. They’re the ones I FaceTime over the summer if I haven’t already made a trip to see them in their hometown, share funny videos with over Instagram, and overall make the effort to see even though we spend almost all of our hours together during season. Because all of us chose to play D3, we are all playing for the same reason- because we love the game. We’re all self-motivated, especially in the realm of fitness, fiercely loyal, and competitive which make our relationships something special. Bonus: Sara and I were teammates first and look at us now!
I have a life- academically, socially, etc.
During season, we are all definitely busy. We’re traveling 1-2 times per week, practicing on other days, and definitely have to mentally and physically prepare through watching film and eating right. Still, we have time to focus on academics and our social lives. Because we have an independent off-season with only one month of official practice, many of our girls are in sororities, clubs and volunteer organizations. There are plenty of pre-health and business majors despite the fact that these can be the most time-consuming and challenging majors to take on. We’ve all been playing sports our entire lives and honestly, when not in season, our lives feel incredibly empty.
We travel, but not enough to compromise school work
As I mentioned, we do travel but most of it is locally- 3 hours away at the maximum by bus. At Chapman, we have one tournament per year and every other year we travel far for that tournament. This year we will spend a few days in Atlanta, Georgia which will result in some missed classes. Still, the make-up work is manageable and we get the full competitive experience of playing both home and away games- sleeping on bus rides, studying on bus rides, hostile away crowds. It’s a great balance that doesn’t compromise schoolwork for athletics.
Perks- automatic friends and early registration
As a freshman coming in, it’s easy to be nervous not knowing anyone. Especially as a fall sport, volleyball was a quick way for me to meet people who automatically have at least one thing in common. Though not everyone finds best friends, I would consider my closest friendships to have developed within my team and the community of Chapman athletes. Seriously, 3 of my roommates are athletes. Another perk is the early registration. During season, most athletes are allowed to pick classes earlier in order to work around practice and game schedules. This makes the scholar athlete balance a bit easier.
Even at this level, people look at you as a role model
When I committed to playing volleyball at Chapman, I didn’t opt into a huge signing ceremony. Honestly, I didn’t find it to be a huge deal. And sure, we don’t pack the stands but I’ve been surprised and humbled by the unexpected impact of my collegiate career. Family friends, relatives, and girls who play at my former volleyball club have told me they are inspired by me, particularly those of shorter stature. To them, the NCAA division doesn’t matter. All they see is a girl who loves her sport and worked hard enough to play at the college of her dreams.
Life skills through sports and student athlete opportunity
This could be one of the most meaningful perks in the long run and is a huge reason I say playing D3 has changed me for the better. We learn skills that we don’t think about as athletes because they come second nature. We know how to adapt and think on our toes, set goals and work to reach them, take initiative and work efficiently in a team setting, when to lead and when to follow. There are countless studies and articles about the merits of hiring a student-athlete in the workplace. As a part of Chapman’s program Playbook for Life, another perk created for athletes only, we learned to market ourselves as athletes, as special and worth the investment in a work environment. Athletics, particularly at the collegiate level, aren’t just an extracurricular activity, they’re a lifestyle.
So if you’re considering playing a D3 sport, do it. I’m thankful to be part of such an amazing community of athletes who aren’t just “jocks”. D3 is made of individuals who are strong, mentally and physically, intelligent, motivated. The list goes on. In fact, I’m not only thankful, I’m honored to be in such great company. The impact sports have on my body is temporary, but the people and opportunities are eternal.
Special shout out to one of my awesome teammates, Lauren, for her wonderful thoughts on the rough draft of this article! Love you, Lo.
by Kaitlyn Raymundo