- Posted March 24, 2014 by
La Crosse, Wisconsin
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Division III Athletes: Where the Heart Is
As someone who has played tennis since the age of six, I couldn’t imagine life without it. A big life question for anyone entering the final years of high school is whether or not to continue on in the hopes of playing in college. As someone who fell in love with a Division III school, I knew that playing after high school was within reach. During signing day, I watched as people signed on with big scholarships and high hopes for their future in sports.
I decided to continue with my passion for tennis late into the summer after senior year. My love and dedication outweighed the negative things I could think about being a Division III athlete. Little did I know how much more I would face once I found myself on the roster.
First, regardless of who you are, what success you’ve had in high school, and if you were already on the roster the year before, you start off with tryouts. I’m not talking about an easy and breezy ride here. Two-a-days, stadiums, sprinting, lifting, and playing turn your body into a large aching heap. If you’re lucky enough to push through the pain and make the cut, the real fun starts. I will confess that one of my most gratifying moments was when I received my uniform and was beautified for my roster picture.
After the whirlwind of tryouts and roster pictures, reality set in. Traveling, missing freshman bonding, waking up early on weekends, feeling excruciating pain while walking up a flight of stairs, this is just a brief list of things I had to get used to. As the people who went Division I and received scholarship received tutors and mopeds to get to class (the royal treatment), I walked all over the place with my nonfunctioning legs and began to realize how hard it was to balance school and tennis (no assigned tutor for me). As the weight of my new world began to crush me, I realized how valuable each and every Division III athlete is.
Some may see Division I athletes as the bread and butter of the college sports arena. In my eyes, it’s absolutely Division III athletes. We play our sports for one reason, and one reason only: because we love it. We don’t get scholarship, we don’t get tutors, we don’t get mopeds, we pay for trips, but we continue to put in at least two hours a day to practice, and that’s without lifting. The fact of the matter is the weight of the world is on our shoulders, yet our passion to represent the school in a positive matter and love of our sport becomes the driving force in what we do. We don’t have the incentive of our games or matches being televised or selling out sports arenas. We are forced to be successful in school because the hopes of becoming a professional athlete have diminished. We handle the same amount of credits as our non-athlete friends and sacrifice those social outings our roommates participate in. We sacrifice naps in the middle of the day, the opportunity to take night classes, the time to go home for a quick stay with family. We sacrifice the normal college experience to do what we love, regardless of what sport.
Division III athletes push through the excruciatingly hard expectations to be a part of the most gratifying moments. The moment our team earns the right to take pride in our success is what keeps us going. The family we gain consisting of the people who’ve been through it all with us is irreplaceable. The way you feel on the court, field, or track is what makes everything worth it. No, we don’t get scholarship, we don’t get special tutors, and we’re typically not televised, but we have more passion for what we do than any other athlete. There’s no doubt in my mind.