Whether you're a top player in your sport, or you simply want to
participate in team sports while at college, you should find plenty of options
at virtually any school. Official teams are just one way to play. Less formal
clubs and intramural teams are also popular choices.
is a student and athlete at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. She
plays ice hockey and softball. "What division to play on [had] a huge role
in my decision of where to go to school," she says.
Ice hockey is
most important to her, but since there aren't many Division II college hockey
teams, she had to pick between Division I and Division III schools. "I settled
on Division III because I would be able to play two sports, which would have
been nearly impossible at a Division I school. Also, at the Division III level
I was able to come in as a freshman and see a significant amount of playing
time in both sports, something I would have had to wait until later for [at
the Division I level]," Phillips says.
Don Johnson, a high school
senior in Brookfield, Illinois, knew when he started researching colleges
that he wanted to play football. At first he was looking at Division I schools.
"I was thinking [University of] Michigan or [University of Wisconsin] Madison,
but wanted a school where I'd have more chances to play."
Johnson considered other divisions before making Sacred Heart University in
Fairfield, Connecticut, his top choice. Sacred Heart is a Division I AA school.
Another factor student athletes must consider is their eligibility
for athletic scholarships. A Division I school, Binghamton University offers
13 full basketball scholarships for men and 13 full basketball scholarships
for women. Binghamton's coaches recruit most players.
"Our two most
popular sports are men's and women's basketball," says Cheryl Brown, director
of undergraduate admissions at Binghamton University. "In other sports the
coaches have a certain amount of [scholarship] money they can spend, so they
allocate that per student. Student A might be the best lacrosse player, but
they might only give him or her a half-scholarship so they can give somebody
else a half-scholarship. That's up to the coaches."
decided to attend a Division III school, she knew that an athletic scholarship
was off the table. "Division III schools aren't allowed to give out athletic
scholarships, so I didn't receive one. However, the coach was able to get
me money in other ways. Because I'm from Canada and go to school in the U.S.,
I was offered a scholarship because of my international student status," Phillips
Division I athletes have responsibilities nearly equal to full-time
jobs. They also face high expectations from fans and coaches.
I athlete has to be prepared to live the life of an athlete," Brown says.
"Sometimes three hours a day of working out, maybe giving up vacations. I
know our basketball team played games the entire winter break, so while their
friends were home sleeping late -- or maybe having jobs -- the athletes were
here practicing and playing."
Keep in mind that the National Collegiate
Athletic Association (NCAA) ensures that student athletes don't ignore the
academic side of college life.
"The NCAA has rules that do not allow
all of a student's time to be taken up by sports, [but] it is up to the student
to be able to balance the demands of athletics and academics," says Jennifer
Smith, associate athletic director for compliance at Michigan State University.
Michigan State is a "Big Ten" Division I school, offering scholarships in
24 varsity sports.
While the NCAA allows 20 hours a week for practice,
Smith says, "There is additional mandatory study hall, training room, competitions
and meetings each week."
"Division I sports add a tremendous amount
to school spirit," Brown says. Club and intramural teams also boost school
spirit by allowing more students to play. Club sports are supported by the
school, but are less rigorous than Division I level play. Intramural teams
play one another on campus. "The kids can do them more like a recreational
activity," she says.
Club teams include fencing, swimming, diving,
golf, rowing, rugby and lacrosse. Binghamton even offers a roller hockey team.
"There are a lot of options," Brown says, "At Binghamton we have co-recreational
sports where men and women play on the same teams. It's very popular. About
85 percent of our students play some kind of recreational sport.
students find creative ways to blow off steam, and sports is a way to relieve
stress, to relax, to get your endorphins pumped, to have lots of fun with
your friends, colleagues and peers," Brown says.
"As stressful as
sports can be at times, I feel that playing sports is really enhancing my
college experience," Phillips says. "Also, playing a sport is a nice release
from the stresses of school by allowing you to do something you love with
people who share your passion."
"We find that very strong students
are frequently involved in some kind of sport," Brown says.
it's on a Division I, II or III team, on a club team, or at the intramural
level, participating in sports can benefit students in hidden ways.
gain a great sense of competition, time management, camaraderie, leadership
and sportsmanship," Smith says. "Athletic participation also helps develop
a wide variety of life skills, such as goal-setting, teamwork, cooperation,
accountability and responsibility."
Phillips has made many friends
through sports. Playing in a national championship hockey tournament was
also a memorable experience for her. "We got to fly on our own chartered commercial
plane with camera crews following us," she says. "We were treated like royalty
the entire time. It was quite the experience."
The only downside Phillips
has found so far? "It's hard to have a job and earn some extra spending money,
especially during the season."