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By Desirae Tongco
NCAA Division III SAAC, former swimming and rowing student-athlete at Mills College
“Homerun!” As my 14 year-old cousin Liam rounded third for home plate, I wondered if college had crossed his mind yet. Would he follow in my footsteps and become a student-athlete? If he asked my advice on which school to attend, what would I say? What experiences could I share with him?
After the game, I decided to give it a shot. As soon as I brought up the topic of playing in college, Liam’s eyes lit up.
“Playing baseball in college would be a dream come true,” he said. “But I really don’t even know the differences between schools or how to get there.”
This was my chance to help him, so not only did I distinguish the differences between Division I, II and III athletics, but I also told my student-athlete story.
First, I explained to Liam that Division III athletics allowed me to continue playing two sports that I was passionate about, but it also helped me develop other interests too. I made sure to stress that in Division III, academics were primary.
I continued with my personal testimony.
“As a Division III student-athlete, I myself was able to pursue a rigorous curriculum at Mills College alongside athletics and other extracurricular activities. I found that my swimming and rowing coaches encouraged me to excel in my academics, often working with me to figure out how to balance practice, races and studying.”
Suddenly intrigued, Liam exclaimed: “Wow, that seems like a lot of work!”
I emphasized that through consistently communicating with my coaches about academics, I was able to learn important life skills, including balance, responsibility and time management.
Trying to better illustrate my story, I then proceeded to tell Liam about a typical day at Mills.
“I remember running from practices – wet hair and all – to meetings for other extracurricular activities. Student-athletes were often the presidents, vice-presidents, and co-founders of school organizations at Mills, while other student-athletes volunteered and mentored outside of school while juggling on- and off-campus jobs.”
I continued, “Still, despite this hectic schedule, these student-athletes proudly dedicated themselves to their sports. They felt grateful for the Division III experience since they had the chance to learn more about themselves and each other. It was through the development of other interests that these student-athletes could cultivate the skills and networks needed for post-college life.”
Bright-eyed, Liam then said, “That’s what I want someday. I want to go to a school where I can do all of that.”
As I hugged him goodbye, I told him: “All three divisions are great, but I would not trade my experience as a Division III student-athlete for the world. I loved that I could develop myself as a swimmer and coxswain/rower while discovering new avenues to give back to communities and pursue social justice. The hard work involved in being a college athlete revealed an inner dedication that I apply in law school.”
As I drove away from the fields, I smiled. I was proud to help Liam take his first steps in thinking about college. Even more, I realized that in sharing my story, I had accomplished so much during my undergraduate experience – all due to the fulfillment of a well-rounded Division III student-athlete experience.Last Updated: Jan 24, 2013