Thinking Beyond DI
The following article was written by Renee Lopez and posted on her website, https://rlopezcoaching.com. It is reprinted below with her permission. Be sure to sign up for Renee’s enewsletter here. You can find Renee on Facebook here.
In an effort to help high school student-athletes in their pursuit of college sports scholarships, I often come across students who believe being recruited to play NCAA Division I is the only answer. Last week, we discussed the practical reasons to look at DII and DIII schools in our blog “I Am ONLY Going To Play NCAA D1! Why On Earth Would I Even Look At D2 or 3?”
In part 2 of this series, we want to present a unique perspective from an ACC basketball standout turned professional athlete. She eventually stepped into being a successful coach in both NCAA DII and DIII. In doing research for my upcoming book, “Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide,” I have had the privilege of interviewing over 40 coaches about college recruiting. In all of these interviews, I have never met an athlete or coach quite like we are going to feature this week. You are in for a real treat!
I had the honor of meeting Missy West as we both are certified speakers and trainers for the Positive Coaching Alliance. Our paths have crossed quite a bit recently as we both have been featured on the same ESPN Radio station and Sports Mastery Podcast. What I have realized in all of my interactions with her is that in her having seen all levels of play, she has great insight on the role of sports and how student-athletes should evaluate the right college fit for them during the recruiting process.
In this blog, we will take a different format and switch to a question and answer format, so you can get to know Missy. I believe that anyone who spends just a few minutes with her, will feel her charisma and excitement for youth, college, and professional sports. Read her full biography at the bottom of this post.
Coach Renee Lopez:
Having been a NCAA DI basketball student-athlete at Duke University, what was your experience of playing in the ACC?
Lots of hard work!! The talent was incredible at this level and it’s the best conference in the country. There was no time for letting down. If you weren’t prepared for each and every game, you got beat. It made every competition fun and exciting, but it involved an incredible amount of commitment to improving yourself and team. It was an expectation we had for ourselves and if you didn’t step up to the plate, you were left behind.
It takes a special kind of person to be able to play at a top Division I school who is ready to commit, sacrifice, and dedicate their lives to both their education and their sport. There isn’t a lot of time for anything else. I love the ACC!
Coach Renee Lopez:
Since you spent 2 years coaching NCAA DII and 10 years coaching DIII, why should high school athletes research these levels of programs?
Personally, I loved coaching at the DIII level. There are a lot of DIII schools that can and do beat the DII and DI. Certainly, there are financial benefits in regards to playing DI and DII (and this may be a need for your family).
HOWEVER, when it comes to your 4 years of happiness, you can’t put a price tag on your experience. As a coach, I have seen too many times families making a decision to go to a college based solely on the fact they will get an athletic scholarship. For many unfortunate kids, this athletic scholarship completely overshadows the most important aspects of the college experience and education. They commit and then are “praying” everything will work out for the best. Sadly, this very rarely happens and every year thousands of kids drop out or transfer from colleges.
Coach Renee Lopez:
What suggestions would you give to those who are being recruited in making a decision?
First, write down 3 of the top qualities in a school that matter most to you if you were not able to play your sport (i.e. academic programs, school size, student/teacher ratio, location, social environment, distance from home, etc.) These should be top priority!
Then, write down what type of sports program is important to you. Be specific! What qualities are you looking for in a coach, your teammates, and team’s overall mission? Prioritize these answers. Remember, we need to rely on our education first, as less than 1% go pro!!
Coach Renee Lopez:
Why do you think DII/DIII programs might be a better “fit” for some kids?
I love DIII programs because it’s simple – they play because they LOVE the game! Most DIII Programs also put education first and are required to give athletes off seasons without any type of mandatory team practices or events. This allows for a more balanced college experience. You not only experience athletics, but also have opportunity to have a social life, experience holidays with your family or friends, etc.
When it comes to DII, anytime there is an athletic scholarship attached to your college education, priorities somewhat shift. In many schools, they run their athletic programs as if scholarships equal a job. There is a higher commitment level and expected sacrifices that must be made as you represent the university. It may not be the same level of commitment as DI, but NCAA Compliance allows DII coaches much more time with teams than in DIII.
Coach Renee Lopez:
Beyond basketball and getting a degree, what did you learn from being a college athlete?
EVERYTHING! The beautiful thing about sport is it teaches us all the essential skills we need in order to carry out our lives:
- Resiliency and how to remain confident amongst adversity,
- How to compete fairly and take pride in playing with integrity, and
- How to treat people with respect- my teammates, coaches, opponents, and referees.
Overall it taught me how to stand up and be proud of the woman I am today as we still try to step into the light of a male dominated work force. Through the lessons I learned in sports, I feel capable of standing up for what I believe in, regardless if it’s not what others want to hear, and to be confident in leadership roles.
Coach Renee Lopez: What other words of wisdom do you have for those in the college recruiting process?
Don’t forget why colleges and universities were originally created – for education!!!! I cannot express to you how vital your education is for the rest of your life! Find a college that fits you as a person first, not the college that fits your parents or your coaches!
Take responsibility of your future, prioritize your needs and wants from a school, and do your research to find those that meet those needs. If scholarship dollars are a necessity for you to attend a school, I would recommend to start doing your research early. Reach out to different schools early, so they have an opportunity to see you play which may lead to more opportunities.
Don’t sit back and wait for the colleges to come to you! Your future is your responsibility, not your parents or coaches! If you don’t do your own work, don’t expect happiness to be a part of your experience…and the only fault to blame for that will be your own. “Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail.” I want you to succeed!
ABOUT MISSY WEST
Missy West was a three-sport star out of Franklin Academy High School in Malone in the mid-1990s, setting numerous records in basketball, softball and soccer. In basketball, she averaged 29 points per game and was named Miss Basketball in New York as a senior. She scored 2,605 points and helped her team to the NYSPHSAA Section 10 title. In softball, she won 64 games and pitched 15 no-hitters and two perfect games and led her team to the New York state championship. She was selected Softball Player of the Year in New York and was chosen on the All-American team. She was a standout on the soccer field as well, scoring 63 goals and contributing 15 assists during her high school career. Missy played basketball at Duke University and was an integral member of the Blue Devils’ 1999 NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship team. She played professional basketball in Germany for three years winning a German National Championship both as a player and as a youth coach.
She then began a 12-year stint of collegiate coaching at the Division III and II levels earning three conference coach of the year awards as well as the Eastern Region Coach of the year and was one of 8 nominees up for National Coach of the Year in 2013.
She was inducted most recently in July to the National High School Hall of Fame in Providence, RI and has also been inducted into the NY State Hall of Fame, The New York State Softball Hall of Fame, The North Country Hall of Fame and the Franklin Academy Hall of Fame.
She currently is a trainer for the Positive Coaching Alliance, a motivational speaker and a NSCA personal trainer. She has completed 2 full Ironman’s with goals to complete many more. You can reach Missy on Twitter: @missywest25 Instagram: miswest25