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There's More to Collegiate Sports than Division I

This time of year, the sports media attention is focused on March Madness and NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championships. A couple of months ago, it was the Bowl Season. NCAA Division I athletics have become synonymous with collegiate sports; so many student-athletes and families are raised upon DI sports and understandably feel DI is the best choice for being a collegiate athlete. Let's shine a light on why Division II, III and NAIA are also excellent options for junior volleyball athletes.

Recently, we have seen more and more families transition their mindset to consider NCAA Division II sports. As the sacrifices and significant time demands of DI athletes are becoming apparent to recruits, families are understanding that DII may allow for a better balance. In these past two years, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of families who understand that DI is not the best fit for their student athlete. Division II schools provide growth opportunities through academic achievement, high-level competition and a focus on community engagement.  Click here to learn more about Division II athletics.

While DII offers an alternative to DI, we cannot forget about the great opportunities which NCAA Division III and the NAIA can present for volleyball families.

NCAA Division III athletics does not provide athletic scholarships, but they do offer academic, merit and need based support. DIII is known as the academic division of the NCAA, with school being the clear priority within the daily life of the student athlete and the athletic department. The academics first mindset, presents the great opportunity for athletes to pursue rigorous degree programs, accept internships, enjoy non athletic clubs and organizations, while still being able to complete in college volleyball. The season is not as long, the off season is minimal, school holidays are yours and the summer vacation can truly be a vacation!

Keep in mind, that when engaging in the recruiting process, many of the academically elite DIII schools will have an early decision protocol as part of their application process and/or the limit of admitted 1st year students can be reached earlier than you may anticipate. To this end, if you decide that NCAA Division III athletics would be the bets fit for your athlete, then be prepared to at least submit applications to those schools which are of interest. Click here to learn more about Division III athletics.

The NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) is a governing body for 4 year academic institutions and they have no association with the NCAA. For Women's Volleyball, they are similar to NCAA Division II Women's Volleyball in athletic scholarship funding, the packaging of scholarship avenues, along with height and athleticism. For Men's Volleyball, NAIA schools are adding the sport and creating opportunities for men to play college volleyball.

The 'worst' part of the NAIA, is they don't have that instantly recognizable blue circle logo of the NCAA. This is because they don't enjoy the focus of the sports media, and as a result many families will overlook this opportunity. Many NAIA schools are religiously based/founded, have smaller campus populations, supportive student to teacher ratios, and with the smaller, private status, women's volleyball matches can be very well attended and receive great campus support. Click here to learn more about NAIA athletics.

As families consider their college volleyball opportunities, please broaden your horizon to include the NAIA and Division III programs. The key to any successful recruiting effort is to find that best fit of athletics, academics, location and social opportunities for your volleyball daughter or son!

For related reading on the volleyball recruiting process click here.

Matt Sonnichsen is the Director of Volleyball and National Speaker for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. Matt has over 20 years of experience coaching volleyball at the collegiate level.

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