The Three D’s: Discover, Develop and Dedicate, according to the official website of NCAA Division III sports, specifies student athletes should be “encouraged to pursue their interests and passions beyond the classroom and field of play… to discover themselves.”
The NCAA Division III website also relays that the “emphasis on participating [in] activities outside of the classroom” is a “hallmark of the Division III experience.” Alma College athletics, on the other hand, seems to be getting this mixed up with the ultimate American philosophy: sport equals life, and coaches don’t seem to be helping.
Yes, we athletes work incredibly hard, we strive to do our very best–on the field, in the pool or on the court–but no matter how bad we wish we were; we aren’t Olympians here at Alma College.
Instead, we’re students, first and foremost, trying to discover, develop and dedicate ourselves to things that will help us thrive in the rapidly approaching future of life outside a college campus. However, this has become difficult for Alma athletes as coaches have been known for cutting students for participating in other organizations, and baseball and softball are notorious for their late- night practices, all while athletes’ GPAs slip through the cracks. While coaches are notorious for using the line, “communication is key,” when explaining how athletes can approach them with any absences from practices they may need, it often feels like a cover up to distract others from what really happens.
How is communication key when some athletes are only allotted one absence throughout the duration of their season? How is communication key when coaches begin to cut athletes who join Fraternity Sorority Life (FSL) because their focus is no longer tunnel vision for their sport?
Sports cannot equal life at a Division III college–something most athletes may not want to face, and something coaches often don’t want to admit.
While FSL may get a bad rap because of the partying atmosphere associated with the organizations, the networking done through alumni and administrators makes any FSL event worth attending- -something athletics cannot provide students on the deep level that FSL does.
Coaches should be encouraging students to make connections for their careers through FSL and other activities rather than threatening cuts like what allegedly happened on the softball team.
“I think a lot of coaches here believe that their athletes being involved in other things is going to take away from their athletic commitment and drive…[but] athletes should at least get a chance to
prove that they can handle being an athlete and being involved in other things like FSL,” said Cassidy Smith (‘26), a former member of the softball team.
Furthermore, practice times matter. They matter for mental health, physical health and the ability of the athlete to function. College students are recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, but how is this possible when practices run until 11 p.m.
“Students should have ample opportunities throughout the week to prioritize school. They shouldn’t be practicing so late at night that it will impact them when they attend classes the next day… This is unacceptable,” said Raegan Stambaugh (‘23), SAAC president.
While sport equals life to coaches, a Division III school shouldn’t be allowing this emphasis; yet, it is notable to mention the team with one of, if not the highest collective team GPA has one of the worst training facilities and is not on the list of construction updates, nor will they benefit from the new athletic facility coming to campus.
A Division III school should not be blatantly ignoring the team with such a high GPA. The very value of a Division III experience is “student first,” so why aren’t we rewarding the highest achieving academic athletes?
Even on the surface level, GPA concerns are continuously seeming to be thrown to the side when athletes start to slip in the classroom. “I think it is important to address that… there are various athletic staff who are able to see athletes’ grades and yet when those students seem to be struggling there is not any follow through or any implementation of a plan,” said Stambaugh.
Yes, while student athletes can attend study tables with their teammates, it is a very lax system that does not give the student any other help than a designated, yet hardly required, study time.
“An NCAA Division III school should aim to provide a well-rounded collegiate experience that involves a balance of rigorous academics, competitive athletics and the opportunity to pursue a multitude of other co-curricular opportunities,” said Stambaugh.
And she’s exactly right as it is what we all signed up for when we athletes committed to Alma. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate whether student athletes are able to have the full Division III experience at Alma College.