DIII Week Unites Varsity Athletes

Maegen Martin, Staff Reporter

The week of Apr. 1-7, 2019 celebrates DIII Week for varsity athletes in the NCAA. Specifically, it acknowledges student-athletes on campus and recognizes athletes as part of the larger community. This year, Whitman Athletics — in particular the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) — put on two events during this week. There was a study break in Penrose Library on Monday, Apr. 2, where SAAC provided various desserts, hot cider, hot chocolate and coffee. On Saturday, Apr. 6 there was a barbecue, also put on by SAAC, at the women’s lacrosse game. Hot dogs and vegetarian dogs were freshly made and served to student-athletes who came out and supported the lacrosse team as they played George Fox.

Athletes from different varsity teams have shared why they chose a DIII college. Junior cross country runner Whitney Rich said that being an athlete is just one part out of the many that shape one’s identity.

I chose a DIII college because I quickly noticed during my college search that my desires to possibly double major, study abroad and focus on academics would not be fulfilled at a DI school. My aunt is the tennis coach at Linfield College in my hometown and she encouraged me to go DIII and told me to visit Whitman,” said Rich. “I’ve been happy with my decision to balance school, sports and my many other interests by choosing to go to a DIII college. I think that being a DIII student-athlete at Whitman is very rewarding, but it doesn’t form anyone’s full identity.”

Junior swimmer Alex Izbiky chose Whitman for two reasons. “I chose to be a DIII athlete because I love my sport, and wanted to continue doing it while getting a great education, and Whitman (and DIII athletics) provided that opportunity,” said Izbiky.

Junior basketball player Lily Gustafson appreciates what basketball has given to her at the collegiate level. “I felt like it was the best fit for me in terms of basketball, life and school. Being a student-athlete at Whitman is difficult to juggle athletics and academics, but at the same time manageable because professors and my coaches are accommodating,” Gustafson said.

DIII week is also the anticipation to unite athletes, part of why Whitman’s part in celebrating this special week is an ongoing process. The input from student-athletes is what matters the most.

Rich said, “I think that DIII week unites athletes. We had a study break in the library on Monday night and it was fun to see all the many teams come together to enjoy each other’s company (and desserts!). I think that DIII week could be more than it currently is at Whitman. It would be fun to have an event that recognized all of the DIII supporters, coaches, staff, admin, etc. since they put in so much time to make our DIII experience special.”

Izbiky realizes that this comes as a cost. “I think that ideally DIII week unites athletes, but in order for that to happen it would require more buy-in from the athletic community, and more work from SAAC and the department, to put on events that excite and motivate people,” said Izbiky.

Gustafson explained, “One thing is that the percentage of the student-athlete population is bigger than populations compared to DI schools. Therefore, there are a lot of students in the same situation as you, so it feels more normal. The events that athletes participate in are put on by other athletes (SAAC) rather than the school or NCAA, which feels like there is less of a spotlight on us. It would be nice to have cool things like a media day or locker rooms for every varsity sport. But at the end of the day, it’s all about playing basketball and having fun with my teammates so when I look back at my college experience, that’s what I’m going to remember more than all of the superficial things.”

While DIII week is supposed to be a special event that honors varsity athletes, it is going to take the collaboration of Whitman’s athletic program, all of the athletes including SAAC and all of the coaches to build the reputation of varsity athletics here at Whitman.