Being a Division II collegiate athlete was one of the best experiences of my entire life. Having the opportunity to be one of the 1.1 percent of athletes that go on to compete at the DII level is something I will forever be grateful for. My years as a college athlete taught me things that continue to play key roles in my experiences years down the road.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some aspects of being a DII athlete that were definitely not my favorite thing in the entire world, but they were definitely worth it.
What Is Life Truly Like As A DII Athlete?
I will begin with stating that every athlete has their own experience no matter which sport they play. Taking it one step further, I would say athletes on the same team each have their own unique DII experience.
As a collegiate athlete, your college experience will be different from other students. Your schedules will be more rigorous between academics, practice, lifting, and video sessions. Most programs will require a certain number of hours logged in the library, or as my coaches called it, ‘Study Tables’. We had study tables once a week on Monday’s, and if you missed them without first talking to our coach, you paid the price at practice.
As a DII volleyball player, our season was during the fall, with preseason beginning in August. Preseason consisted of two-a-days for two weeks, with breakfast and lunch being eaten together as a team. Our two-a-days consisted of morning and afternoon practices, with a strength and condition session after each morning session. Ice baths were the world's greatest gift during those two weeks!
I played in the NSIC conference, at a DII school located in Northern Minnesota. My university was a bit in the middle of nowhere, so our average bus ride was 6 hours, with the shortest being 1.5 hours, and the longest being 14 hours. We never flew to matches, we always took the bus. Whether teams fly or drive generally depends on the funding they receive. We had practice five days a week, with a pass and serve practice each morning on game day.
The offseason for DII sports looks the same for every team from a general point of view. Coaches are only allowed to spend at a maximum, 8 hours each week with their players. Going along with their allotted 8 hours, coaches are only able to have their players engage in conditioning, individual skill practice, weight training, and review of game film when required. Out of the 8 hours coaches have with their players each week, only 2 hours are allowed to be dedicated to individual skill practice, with no more than 4 players at a time.
My first season as a player I was beyond confused why the NCAA would create such intricate rules, but I quickly learned these rules were created to hold coaches accountable so they don’t overwork their athletes during the offseason. Fortunately as a DII athlete, you have a considerable amount of free time compared to athletes playing at the division I level.
What Are Some Of The Pros Of Being A DII Athlete?
When I was considering what level I wanted to play at the college level, one key aspect that drew me towards division II was the high level of competition, but an overall more balanced life between academics and sports. Being a DII athlete will also give you a larger chance of being able to have a starting spot on the court all four years. As quoted by an athlete from NCSA Sports: “I would rather be a big fish in a smaller pond.” The year round time commitment is considerably less rigorous than those who play at the DI level.
As a DII athlete, you will get to travel. A lot! You will be able to see parts of the country you might not have seen before. However, being in DII, your travel will be frequent, but not enough requiring you to miss a significant amount of classes. I was always very grateful for the places my team went to each season, while also still being able to attend almost 100 percent of my classes in-season. As stated by another NCAA Division II athlete, “Division II provides a healthy environment that leads to the student-athlete’s total personal development.”.
Playing in DII athletics, you still get to reap the fun benefits of new equipment each season, and a favorite for all athletes: clothes. It is important to remember that not every DII program will have access to such funding, but receiving new shoes, socks, warm-ups and on the occasion new jerseys each year was truly something special!
What Are Some Of The Cons Of Being A DII Athlete?
The largest downfall you will hear from DII athletes are the life events they miss out on throughout their college careers. For example, most fall sports athletes will miss their homecoming weekends due to their own sporting commitments that weekend. Many coaches will implement the ‘24, 48 rule’ which means players are not allowed to drink alcohol 24 hours before practice, and 48 hours before a game. This can make going out with friends on the weekends a rare occasion, and even more so throughout the week.
You will spend a lot of time on the bus. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support my previous statement that traveling is an amazing part of the DII experience, but you must be prepared to spend countless hours throughout your athletic career on a bus, studying and doing homework for the classes you are missing. Generally all coaches will require a weekly signature from your professor confirming your attendance and current grade in their class.
Many, many early morning practices. Especially in the offseason. When a sport is in their offseason, they are at the bottom of the food chain for receiving gym time, as well as time in the weight room. This is because teams that are currently in-season have the highest priority for gym time. You will spend many mornings up before the sun comes up, usually being finished with practice and showered by 8 o’clock in the morning. It is detrimental to get somewhat of a good night's sleep.
Is It Worth It To Be A DII Athlete?
The answer is simple: YES. Being a DII collegiate athlete will provide you with a plethora of opportunities you would not have had otherwise, and experiences that will last you a lifetime. Years later I am still in touch with almost all of my teammates and coaches from my college volleyball career. I would not have had access to the resources that helped me throughout college, both on and off the court if it would not have been for DII athletics.
Being a DII athlete will be the best decision you ever make.