The Life of a DIII Athlete
Meredith College has ten NCAA Division III (DIII) sports teams, ranging from golf to cross country to basketball. Many students at Meredith are involved in at least one sport (some in two or even three), and because Meredith is a DIII school that by definition cannot offer athletic scholarships, students participate purely for fun. While some have reported finding camaraderie and support in their experiences on Meredith’s sports teams, others have shared a number of issues uniquely impacting Meredith student-athletes.
According to the NCAA website, DIII sports “consist of athletic programs at colleges and universities that choose not to offer athletic scholarships to their student-athletes.” These schools are usually small institutions like Meredith that can’t afford massive sports programs but allow students to continue playing the sports they love. At their core, DIII sports exist to give students the opportunity to play sports without the stress and additional commitments of DI and DIII college sports teams.
Every student that The Herald spoke with about their experiences playing DIII sports here had a number of good things to say about their experiences playing for Meredith. Kate Perko, ‘23, played basketball at Meredith and described the team as having a “positive culture.” She shared that because DIII sports are less rigorous than DI and DII programs, she’s “able to have a life outside of basketball.” Another basketball player, Piper Carriere, shared that she enjoys “getting to hang out with [her] teammates everyday and the amount of fun [they] have on and off the court” A member of Meredith’s soccer team who asked to remain anonymous shared that because DIII is less intense than other types of programs she has time to have a job and stay close with her family and friends.
Many players also shared issues they’ve had playing on Meredith’s teams. The Athletic Department only has two athletic trainers for the entire program. The NCAA’s guidelines for DIII programs state that “a model Division III athletics program shall feature an adequate number of certified athletic trainers who are able to provide for the safety and well-being of the student-athletes.” Many student-athletes at Meredith feel that the current programs do not fulfill these requirements.
Michelle Gladdis, a member of both the Track and Cross Country teams, explained that “two trainers for over 200 athletes is absurd and not okay. We can’t get time slots with the athletic trainers, not because they don’t give us enough hours, but because there are too many people with too many issues and they [the trainers] are overworked.” This presents problems for athletes who experience sudden injuries and can’t get in to see a trainer for days-weeks after injury. Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, reported that only having two athletic directors “makes me think the school doesn't care much about athletics.”
The NCAA recommends that all schools have a compliance coordinator whose job is to “oversee the institution’s compliance system, coordinate the institution’s rules and monitor rules compliance.” Meredith’s athletics department doesn’t list this position, and the role of monitoring DIII compliance falls on the Athletics director, Jackie Meyers. The Herald reached out to Meyers to discuss this but has not heard back.
Another one of the biggest concerns for student-athletes, regardless of the sport they play, is the dining hall. The limited hours and options at BDH have presented many problems for athletes, leaving them unable to properly and affordably nourish their bodies. Emilee Lewis, a member of the softball and basketball teams, told us that “during softball season [she] will come out of a class and have to go straight to practice since lunch is no longer being served” and that “during basketball season when [practices are later] dinner would be over already.”
Another student shared that “Eating disorders are so prominent in college athletes because [students] don't know how to properly fuel their bodies to compete at this higher level.” Kate Perko, a student on the basketball team, shared that she feels “it would benefit the athletic community to have more of a nutritional education about how to best fuel our bodies,” arguing that success in sports and diet “go hand in hand.” Athletes at Meredith, many of whom pay for a meal plan, end up having to buy their meals multiple times a week.
Despite the issues faced by student-athletes, Meredith’s athletic program is loved by its participants and allows students to continue playing the sports they enjoy. Being able to do so without having to sacrifice their academic, work and social commitments allows athletes to fully appreciate playing the sports they love.
By Clary Taylor, News Editor, and Grayson Morris, Podcast Co-Director