Swim Mom Musings: Why D3 Swimming Deserves Great Recognition

Courtesy: Donna Hale

One of the greatest moments an athlete whose been swimming for 15 years can experience is when they realize they are living the best part of their journey. Blessed that after many thousands of hours of training, injury and a decision to initially swim in D2 that was not a good fit, my daughter is there – Thanks to the special nature of D3 swimming. She was lucky to be recruited by D1, D2 D3, and NAIA colleges.  And there is no doubt that there are great opportunities in all. College swimming is incredible.

But there is something profoundly special about D3 swimming.  If you are in the recruitment process, consider what you want carefully.  The athletic scholarships are certainly nice, but with solid academics you just might find that D3 schools have great academic money and a balanced college life every athlete deserves. Here are a few of the joys and benefits of being not only a D3 swimmer but a D3 athlete.

1. D3 schools walk the talk when they say you are a student-athlete. Unless you’re a future Olympian, there is a great NCAA commercial, about how most college athletes go pro in something other than their chosen sport. Academics reign at D3.  Balance is ever present in D3 swimming.

2. D3 athletes are there because they love swimming.  There is plenty of competition and amazing coaching too.  But there is a special bond on these squads that is fun to watch and even better to experience.  Passion unleashed that comes from the heart.   Everything is better when it comes from the heart.

3. Team spirit is strong in D3 swimming. Of course it is there elsewhere as well at every level in many schools.  It has given my daughter what she always longed for: a culture that celebrates every swimmer and the comfort of knowing that you have over 30 teammates who have got your back. They greet you with big hugs, high fives, and beaming smiles.  It is simply put:  Awesome.  This culture of support is what has kept her dedicated all these years. Now she sees her friends on deck at college meets.

4. D3 Swimming is fun.  My daughter’s team attends church together, has picnics, fuels up before the big meets on campus or at local favorites. They are friends brought together by a forever love.  My daughter coined the phrase:  “Swimming is my forever love.” But there is an off season in D3. That does not mean the best athletes don’t still swim and stay in shape.

5. D3 athletes across all sports support each other. The swimmers attend basketball games, track and field, soccer games and so much more.   They cheer like crazy.  They bring posters.  And the other athletic teams fill the stands at their meets.  It is great to watch athletes support each other.

6. D3 Swimming is about embracing the journey — every single moment. Most D3 athletes know that these moments are fleeting. Most likely there will be a last meet and a last race. They live this journey so when it’s over, they can know on that last turn and final race to the wall they can smile and glance one final time at the clock. They can smile knowing that they gave their dreams everything they had.

Donna Hale is a 16 year swim mom whose daughter is a member of The Lynchburg Hornets.  She swam in PVS for the Potomac Marlins.

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Linda K. Gooch
3 years ago

I loved this article! I swam at a junior college and then at a university. Both experiences were some of the best times of my life!

3 years ago

I swam D3 my freshman year at a school that is not highly regarded for either athletics or academics and actually transferred and rowed for a year at a Big 10 school. After that year I decided that rowing wasn’t my passion and I wanted to explore other interests but the year I spent rowing was by far the most balanced that I had had since before high school as far as being able to explore other interests.
My family didn’t get anything from FAFSA but I had a great scholarship my freshman year that brought the price down to close to an in state price. Having had both experiences i would say that it definitely comes down to… Read more »

3 years ago

My D1 swimmer has the SAME experiences and offended by the suggestion only D3 teams focus on academics. The rigorous class schedule and academic support my son receives is outstanding. You must do well in your classes or you are off the travel team.

Oh my
Reply to  Swimmomforlife
3 years ago

Read above. Article is praising D3 and not saying anything bad about others

3 years ago

I was reading this and saying “this is the same at my sons D1 program”, I was kind of offended thinking this mom only believes D3 swimmers have this experience.

Oh my
Reply to  Swimmomforlife
3 years ago

I believe it says there are good programs at all levels. This is just about D3. Not saying others are bad

Nathan Smith
3 years ago

D3 has a lot of diversity. The University of Wisconsin state system schools are in D3. There are also schools like University of Mary Washington or St. Mary’s College of Maryland that offer in-state tuitions because they’re public. I think California also has some state tuition schools in D3 but I’m not as familiar with west coast. Then you have the rich NESCAC, UAA, and to a lesser extent NCAC schools. These schools tout that they will give you 100% of your financial need based on FAFSA, but let’s be honest, FAFSA is ridiculous in it’s evaluations of what families can afford and part of the evaluation will be student loans if you get anything.

There are extremely perverse… Read more »

3 years ago

I mean like tbh, I think most d1 swimmers are also swimming bc they truely love the sport. It shouldn’t only apply for d3 swimmers.

3 years ago

Every bullet point can be replaced with “DII” (in the case of our school), and it would fit for our student-athletes.

I get where you’re trying to go with this, and I’m glad your daughter found a fit for herself eventually, but the over-generalization isn’t the best argument to be made here. It really is about the fit for the individual (which should absolutely start with academics first prior to any other considerations).

3 years ago

D1 Mid-major is also a nice option to consider. You can do a search on the College Swimming website to find the schools in this category. A little less pressure than the top D1 schools, but still great competition among some great academic schools!

Reply to  SwimMom
3 years ago

Based on swimming at a NESCAC school and coaching at an Ivy, they were very different commitments, even with the Ivy’s later start date than the rest of D1

Reply to  DIIIer
3 years ago

Sounds snobby