What is Motivating Div. III Athletes?

by Jack Jajewski

At a Division One level, the enticing scholarships, fame on campus, large crowds and special privileges academically, among other benefits, can lure any athlete into playing for their school. But for those athletes grinding everyday at a Division Three school, what keeps them going?

“It’s probably because of my pure love for the sport. Tennis is my life,” said junior tennis player Gino Inzerillo.

The dedication required to balance athletics and academics at a school like Chapman is often born from that kind of love. There will never be 2000 students at a baseball game, but for student athletes like junior infielder Greg Dillon, being on the field with some of the people that he cares most about is motivation enough.

“I love playing baseball, and there is nothing like competing with my teammates,” said Dillon. “I enjoy every day where I get to go play the game that I enjoy so much and do it with thirty of my closest friends.”

Frequently, athletes at Chapman have to make difficult decisions in prioritizing either their athletics or academics. While some coaches make it clear that the classroom is supposed to be the main focus of college, certain athletes still have a hard time giving up valuable training time.

“I might not go the gym during a certain hour because I have to study for a midterm. It’s mainly sacrifices for basketball,” said junior guard Colin Zavrsnick.

For many athletes at a Division One or Division Two level, money can play a large factor in their decision to play sports in college. Athletic scholarships don’t exist at the Division Three level. Furthermore, it is rare for Division Three athletes to continue on to play at a professional or semi professional level after college. However, the dedication to the sports is just as strong, if not stronger, than any Division One athlete.

 Junior infielder Greg Dillion sprints towards first base. Photo courtesy of Chapman Athletics.
Junior infielder Greg Dillion sprints towards first base. Photo courtesy of Chapman Athletics.
“The fact that your playing time is finite motivates you even more to compete with all you have,” said senior Chris Darling.  “Everyone on the soccer team coming to practice everyday and putting in the work is doing so because they love to play.”

Fans are not always out in force at Chapman, which can take away from the atmosphere that many athletes at bigger schools get to enjoy. Having a rowdy student section can occasionally provide that extra motivational boost that an athlete needs to take their performance to the next level.

Especially for certain sports that are more popular on a societal level such as football, basketball, or soccer, playing in front of a sparse crowd can sometimes feel a little disheartening for athletes. However, athletes at Chapman tend to focus on the positive experiences they have with fan support.

“Even though there’s not very much interest in women’s water polo from the students, there’s definitely a lot of support from the other sports,” said junior goalie Jordan Gilmore.

Zavrsnick discussed the upside of a crowded arena for the basketball team.

“The crowd does help a lot. When it’s a packed gym it feels more alive. There’s always a buzz in the air. When the gym erupts it’s a lot more fun to play,” said Zavrsnick.

Photo credit to the Chapman athletics website.
Junior running back Jeremiah McKibbins takes a handoff versus Puget Sound in 2012. Photo courtesy of Chapman Athletics.

Chapman and other Division Three athletes go out on a daily basis and put everything on the line purely for their love of the game. There will be no headlines in national newspapers, no Sports Center top ten play mentions, and no professional contracts. Social and academic sacrifices are made on a daily basis in order to balance the strenuous life of a college athlete, but it is a joy for others around them to see that kind of passion.

“[Playing tennis] keeps me regimented, keeps me organized, and keeps me productive. It has given me so much in return that’s how I stay motivated to keep going. I not only give a lot to tennis, but I get a lot from it,” said Inzerillo.

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