Westminster Teams Find Optimism When Division III Rules Set Them Back
The Westminster women’s soccer team practices team building exercises. PHOTO BY MOLLY GRISHAMN.
BY KAELY FITTERLING
Westminster College student athletes compete at the Division III level, the largest division within the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Division III athletics are particularly unique because athletic scholarships are not given to student athletes. However, this division also stands out from other NCAA divisions due to its list of rules and regulations that athletes and coaches must adhere to.
These rules and regulations put pressure on athletes, particularly due to the limited time allowed with their coaches. Division III athletes are held personally accountable to motivate themselves through strength and conditioning training outside the confines of allowed scheduled practices.
Kirsten Carney, the sports information director and social media manager at Westminster, spoke about how intricate the Division III rules and regulations truly are.
“It is hard to regulate and control the rules at times,” she said.
As an alumna of Westminster, Carney has experience playing at the Division III level and coaching at University of Illinois-Springfield on the Division II level.
In fact, there are so many rules and regulations for Division III athletics that in order to find all of them, the manual must be purchased. Carney also noted that there are so many rules to talk about, that there really isn’t enough time to cover each individual one.
“[A]fter playing at Westminster, I like how Division III gives athletes the chance to dedicate their off-season to other things as well.” –soccer player Paige Townsend, ’18
With so many rules in Division III sports, violations can be difficult to track, but the NCAA shares those statistics on its website. Out-of-season athletic related activities, such as holding more practices than allowed by the NCAA, ranked as the most violated rule.
Recently, the Division III Management Council, a committee in the NCAA, set a new rule stating that pre-season two-a-days for football are prohibited, effective immediately. Only Division III football teams were affected in this decision-making.
Rules prohibiting certain types of pre- or post-season training can negatively affect a student athlete’s conditioning in the off-season.
According to Paul Pederson, author of “Contemporary Sport Management,” Division III colleges and universities are mostly small and private. This means that money may not go to athletics first, therefore there are no strength and conditioning coaches for most Division III student athletes.
Pederson also wrote in the book that the Division I level is the highest level of performance for athletics, and that several public and private universities budget for the success of their athletic programs. The student athletes of these schools are rewarded with scholarships to play their desired sport.
Paige Townsend, ’18, came to Westminster to play soccer after playing two years at Drury University.
“At Drury we continued to have two-a-day practices in the off-season,” she said. “But after playing at Westminster, I like how Division III gives athletes the chance to dedicate their off-season to other things as well.”
The money that Division I teams generate can be put toward strength and conditioning coaches, a luxury that is not found on the Division III level. Although there are some similar rules and regulations within Division III, the time spent with a strength and conditioning coach on the Division I level does not count as time with their primary coach which is stated on the NCAA website.
“While it is challenging as a coach to have such limited amount of time with our team, I appreciate the fact our student athletes are able to participate in internships and other character building opportunities as well as pursuing a heavier course load.” –Westminster Head Women’s Soccer Coach Jen Dyson
The website also specifies that Division II colleges and universities have the least amount of rules and regulations and can meet with their coach eight hours per week.
Although Division III has its setbacks, some Division III coaches remain optimistic about Westminster College’s athletic programs.
Jen Dyson, head women’s soccer coach stated, “While it is challenging as a coach to have such limited amount of time with our team, I appreciate the fact our student athletes are able to participate in internships and other character building opportunities as well as pursuing a heavier course load.”