D3 in athletics, A1 in academics

It’s 5:30 in the morning and freshman biochemistry major Chloe Garcia gets out of bed with the anticipation of submerging herself into the Allred Olympic Pool for water polo practice.

“It’s a lot of dedication. It’s a lot of commitment… And it’s a lot of time management,” she said.

For her, and many other student athletes, attending a Division III school gave her the opportunity to focus on her schoolwork while still doing what she loves.

“It’s a commitment I have to make to the team but it’s not so big where I have to give up studying or going to classes. My coach understands that if we need to do something for school, we should do it,” said Garcia. “And even for work, he understands because it’s going towards my tuition. He’s always willing to work it out with me— it’s like a give-and-take.”

Garcia is a field player on the women’s water polo team at Chapman. As a freshman who is also balancing a part-time job, she was hesitant at first to take on the responsibility.

“It requires a lot of dedication for the team because there’s a lot of seniors who have played from their freshman year to their senior year and they kind of expect it,” said Garcia.

Head Coach Eric Ploessel talks to the team during a game against Concordia on Feb. 24, 2017. Photo courtesy of Larry Newman.

The women’s water polo team at Chapman has practice six days out of the week, with one day off under the compliance of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Additionally, now that the season has started up, they have 2-3 games every week.

However, even with this demanding schedule, it’s not the coach that Garcia doesn’t want to disappoint.

It’s her teammates.

“[The team] is like a little family and they take care of you so well,” said Garcia. “For example, during spring break, the caf isn’t gonna be open, so all the seniors and all the upperclassmen living on campus scheduled for us to come and eat at their houses just so that we have a place to eat every day.”

The practices and games aren’t just for competition; the time spent together also allows for the team to get closer.

“Our first few games were against D1 schools so it was kinda crushing… It was just very heartbreaking. But our coach really focuses on our effort and what we did well,” said Garcia. “He scheduled us to play higher division teams just to get a feel of what they’re like and so that when we play D3 schools, it’s not as difficult.”

Team selfie with Head Coach Eric Ploessel. Courtesy of Alissa Caltagirone.

While both Division I and Division II schools have rigorous practice schedules and scholarships that create added pressure on students, Division III schools like Chapman have something else to offer.

“D3 is basically all heart,” said Garcia.

While junior health science major and women’s golf team member Brittany Bilek agrees that having passion for the sport is what drives others to stay on the team, she feels that the team’s practice schedule could improve.

“We all go in individually even when there isn’t a scheduled practice,” said Bilek. “We’ll go in on those days because we do what we do and we don’t stop golfing until we drop.”

The women’s golf team has a only a few scheduled practices but the coach encourages the student athletes to create their academic schedule first and then figure out how to work the practices around their classes.

“Personally, I like having a scheduled practice because I’m a structured person and I like having the coach there every time,” said Bilek. “It’s nice because you can work on whatever you want when you go in individually, but it’s also nice to have someone there to watch and help you too.”

Regardless of the Division, one thing is for certain: Being a part of team teaches discipline,  which is a lesson learned by both Garcia and Bilek.

Although practices begin before the sun rises, the women’s water polo team typically play  games later in the day. Check out https://www.chapmanathletics.com/sports/wwaterpolo/index for more information on their schedule.

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