Inside the D-III Lacrosse Experience: Opportunities Abound Beyond D-I

By Kate Hickman | @BalanceLacrosse

The Real D-III Lacrosse Experience: Opportunities Abound Beyond D-I

Jim O’Connor

When we talk about college lacrosse recruiting, the conversation too often stops at Division I. Each year, I sit down with young players, and I ask them to outline their top three priorities for their collegiate experience. Next, I ask for a list of 20 schools they think fit that framework. I’m often left with a list that doesn’t match those priorities, because their list contains only Division I programs.

Division III offers get overlooked, misinterpreted or downplayed. I chatted with Washington and Lee coach Brooke O’Brien and Dickinson coach Kim Lowry to gain some insight about the common misconceptions of Division III lacrosse.

“Division III is not competitive enough or too casual.”

Lowry: When people ask if there is a higher commitment level with Division I, I usually tell them that I believe the commitment level is just as high at the Division III level. Our student-athletes are highly motivated and committed to winning. The only difference is the requirements that Division I programs may impose on its athletes, that Division III may not.

O’Brien: The NCAA allows D-III schools 16 days over a four week period to practice during the fall season, so we typically practice four times a week over four weeks in the fall. Our spring season is a six-day a week commitment [similar to D-I], so it is a significant commitment to play D-III lacrosse as well.

“I can’t decide which sport I want to play in college, but feel that I have to choose.”

O’Brien: We encourage our student-athletes to play a second varsity sport. Our dual-sport athletes are not only our most athletic, but they just love to compete, which improves both the training and competition environment for our whole team.

Lowry: It is a huge bonus to have athletes that are dynamic and can excel in different athletic environments.

“I want to study abroad, but have heard that is very difficult to do if you play lacrosse in college. I’ve also been discouraged from studying pre-med because it would be too time-consuming if I also played lacrosse. Help!”

O’Brien: Our philosophy is that academics are the priority. Students can take any classes that they want. We often have pre-med students. Also, the ability to study abroad in the fall is a very attractive option. We only ask that they study abroad in the fall or summer and that they come back in shape and prepared for the season’s start in January.

Lowry: Currently, seven of our eight juniors are studying abroad in places like Australia, Copenhagen, Barcelona and Bologna. And our student-athletes are welcome to major in any academic area. It is up to each student-athlete to make an informed decision of what they would like to pursue academically.

“I’m interested in the full college experience and perhaps exploring Greek life, but have heard being in a sorority and playing lacrosse is not looked upon highly.”

Lowry: Whether its Greek life or an a cappella group, we do not disallow our players to do anything. The beauty of the Division III experience is the balance between academics, athletics and extracurricular activities.

O’Brien: The unique experience of the Division III student-athlete is that they have the time to pick one or two other things that they are passionate about on campus outside of lacrosse and academics. Students graduate having enjoyed a full college experience. It is important to be aware that D-III women’s lacrosse is made up of more than 260 different programs with a wide variety of experiences, ability levels and commitment required. Student-athletes should ask numerous questions to the coaches at each school as they investigate the program that will provide them with the best fit and overall college experience.

Kate Hickman is the director of the Bay Area Lacrosse Club and founder of Balance Lacrosse. This post originally appeared in her monthly column from the October 2015 edition of Lacrosse Magazine.

US Lacrosse

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