Over the past year I've learned a lot, and rightfully so after completing my first year having a full-time salary paying job. After finishing grad school last spring at the age of 26 I landed the job of my dreams coaching college basketball. I work at Berry College, a small division III liberal arts school in northwest Georgia that is probably well-known for a million other amazing unique facts other than basketball. A campus over 27,000 acres considered to be the largest in the world, a population of over 2,000 deer living campus, beautiful breath-taking views of fields, lakes, mountains, and one the best student work programs I've ever seen. That's Berry in a nutshell. Coaching division III basketball coming from a division I background as a player, as well as growing up watching my dad coach at high major D1 schools as truly humbled me as I have gained so much more respect for student-athletes of all sports at this level. Division III athletes are doing what they do because they love it. A common misconception that I've learned many people aren't aware of is that D3 athletes are ineligible to receive athletic scholarship aids. They are required to fully pay their own way or use scholarships funded by academics or other non-athletic related avenues. So, to put it lightly, these athletes are paying to play.
Every day I see the girls I coach balance the life of a full-time athlete, a full-time student, while many also work other jobs on campus to help with the cost of their tuition. What does that mean? That their days are long and strenuous waking up early, going to bed late, with everything else mixed in between, and also managing to have a life. Many D3 schools are high in academic, and Berry is no different. Our team GPA last year was 3.52, the highest in our athletic department, which in my world is rare for a women’s basketball team. Most of the girls on our team are studying in fields ranging from biology, chemistry, exercise science, pre-med, and anything else that you could imagine that sounds hard, they’re doing it. The amount of work, studying, tutoring, group sessions, they do to maintain well-above average grades is crazy to me. Not only that, but all while still going to practice, getting up extra shots, and working 8-10 extra hours a week on campus is something that should never go unnoticed.
So don’t get it misunderstood. Division III athletes work just as hard as the rest, if not harder. And with that being said, it’s not always where you play but rather why? It doesn't matter where you coach, or where you play but why.
I coach basketball because I love it, and the experience and memories I’m making is something that can ever be taken away from me. I may not coach at a big six (BCS) school, play on national TV, or travel on charter flights. But what I do, and where I do it means the absolute world to me. I don’t just coach at a small division III school in north Georgia. I coach at Berry College, and young ladies that will go on to one day be amazing professionals in their designated careers in each of their lives. And knowing that I once had the opportunity to coach them and help them achieve their goals and prepare them for what’s next is something that I hold dearly to my heart. To be the coach I never had to each and every one I will ever coach. To never overlook them, to listen, help, believe in, and always be there.
The biggest thing I learned this summer leading up to now, is that at this point in my life I no longer have the desire the coach division I basketball, and there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t need the well-known name, the chartered flights, and a large contracts to do what I want to do, change, inspire, and impact lives.
*Follow me on here this upcoming season as I've decided to start blogging about our season to give a different in-depth perspective on what it's like as small college basketball coach (: