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.