“I Am Only Going to Play NCAA D1! Why on Earth Would I Even Look at D2 or 3?”


Wow, does that title resonate with me! I heard the exact thing for many years during my son’s junior tennis journey. That said, I am a recent convert to life outside of Division I tennis! The more I experience and learn, the more I realize that, for most junior players, looking at the other divisions is probably a good move. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a D1 option out there if you want it. It simply means that the other divisions offer great options, too, so please do take a look at them.

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.

This is Part 1 of a 2-part series. I will post Part 2 when it becomes available. Be sure to check out my podcast on D3 tennis here.


(PART 1 OF 2)

Looking for a Full Ride? by: Coach Renee LopezThese statements have been made by coaches and parents across numerous playing fields, courts, and pools across the country. Many student-athletes take an approach in the college recruiting process that NCAA Division I is the only level they want to compete for in college. However, it is important for student-athletes to find the right fit for themselves academically, athletically, and socially. And finding the right fit may include looking into other programs beyond Division I.

Having deeply researched the recruiting process by interviewing 40 college coaches over the past year for my upcoming book, Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide, and having been a college coach for 14 years across all NCAA divisions, I believe there are 3 reasons you should look at other levels:

  1. It is easier to find the balance of being a student, an athlete, and still be involved in other campus activities at a DII or DIII program.
  2. While being a DI student-athlete, you may not be able to pursue the academic major you wish and graduate in four years.
  3. Most importantly, while some elite athletes do receive full athletic offers at the DI level, a much larger number of student-athletes only receive partial scholarships in some sports (beyond football and basketball). You may find better overall financial packages at a smaller school when you combine academic and athletic scholarships.


“Having coached in both NCAA DI and DII, I think it is important to look beyond the recognizable name of a school and conference. Division II and III schools offer a unique balance enabling student-athletes to have a well-rounded college experience.

They get the best of both worlds: 1) They are student-athletes, 2) but they are allotted time to be students while still enjoying college activities and organizations outside of their sport. Academics should also play a strategic role in choosing a school and many DII and III schools are located at phenomenal academic institutions!”

Jaye Loyd
Assistant Women’s Volleyball Coach
UC San Diego

“The division matters much less than your priorities. Your first priority should be in seeing if a strong academic program is available. And then your second priority should be if you have an opportunity to compete, and not just be on the roster.”

Dr. Sue Nyhus
Head Women’s Golf Coach
Utah Valley University

“Athletes should look beyond just NCAA DI. Many DI programs won’t allow student-athletes to choose a very demanding of major. I have 6 girls who are nursing majors. I even have one who transferred from a DI to play here for us because she figured out she can’t balance the demanding curriculum level and DI athletics.”

“DII programs also allow professors to really get to know the student-athlete. Professors know their names and are not afraid call me if there is an academic issue. The professors are hands-on. You just don’t get that at the bigger universities! DII really is very close-knit community experience.”

Daven Bond
Head Women’s Softball Coach
Regis University (Colorado)

“An athlete should consider NCAA Division III as it is an environment that provides balance for the student-athlete. They will enjoy college for many reasons: school, their sport, social life and many other things. Division III athletics provides a good template for balancing multiple roles in life which all of us as adults need to do!”

Erin Coppernoll
Head Women’s Soccer Coach
UW Oshkosh

Photo credits: UC San Diego, Utah Valley University, Regis University, & UW Oshkosh

2 Comments on ““I Am Only Going to Play NCAA D1! Why on Earth Would I Even Look at D2 or 3?””

  1. Your ability will usually make this decision for you. And keep in mind that one most people say, “I will only play D1 tennis,” what they really mean is, “I will only play Pac-12, SEC, BIG-10, Big-12, ACC, Ivy” tennis. D1 tennis is much bigger than D1 football but you have to look outside the usual suspects to find it.

  2. Also realize that close to have of the spots on power 5 conferences are taken up by mostly older foreign players, and many of those spots are taken by Americans who are already at the school who were 4 stars, and are already in the line-up. Do the math, there are not many spots available for US incoming freshmen at power 5 conferences. There is also a stat that if a player does not crack the top 6 in his freshmen year, he usually does not during his 4 year career. Would you be happier at a lower tier D1, D2, or D3 school where you can play, or at a more prestigious D1 school as a walk on, where you will likely never make team, or never see action in dual match?

    There are a lot of great D1 schools that are not power 5 or Ivy that US kids have a chance to crack line up, and are great schools (a few California examples: Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, USF, Santa Clara, St. Mary’s, UC Davis), these are all mid major type programs with potential to be in top 70, competitive schedules, and great schools.

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