NEW LONDON, Conn. - As we celebrate Division III week this week, we will feature a pair of accomplished cadet-athletes that are excelling in the Division III environment.
Senior Susan West was the only senior on the women's volleyball team this past year, leading them to a 17-12 record. She finished her career as one of only 11 athletes in program history with over 1000 kills (1032) tying her for ninth all time.
She also finished her career with 768 digs and 227 blocks.
West, a native of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, did not only want to compete at a high athletic level in college but also wanted to be challenged academically as well.
"What separates Division III athletics from Division I and Division II is it acknowledges that your academics and future career are important to you versus a sport or scholarship being your primary interest for attending a certain college," said West. "Members of the Division III athletic teams still are passionate about their sport and devote their time to come to practices and compete at their highest level during games, still getting the full college athletics experience."
West also appreciated the balance a Division III athlete is afforded to not only play at a high level but also find a balance between academics, sports and extracurriculars.
"Division III athletics respects student athletes in a sense that it allows individuals to be diverse and develop other qualities such as academics or extracurricular interests," added West."
West valued her time as an athlete at the Academy, not only for being able to play sport she loves, but also the life long lessons she learned.
"Having the opportunity to be an athlete in college is equally as important, as you experience priceless opportunities such as leadership, overcoming adversity, dedication, a sense of community, and interpersonal skills," said West "These experiences translate to life outside athletics and beyond college; be it in your career or personal life."
The life of a cadet athlete is different than other student athletes as they not only balance academic and athletic obligations but also have to include their military requirements. As a freshman it was a lot for West to take in at once, but she found comfort and solace in being able to play volleyball, helping her with the transition.
"Coming into the Academy was a major life transition," continued West. "Nothing was familiar, you're battling through swab summer, and it is most likely your first time away from home. Playing volleyball was one of the only things familiar to me. Freshman year it became a huge stress relief and something to take pride in as it is special to you. As time went on into my junior and senior year, it continues to be what is unique to you. You reflect upon these experiences feeling like you have contributed to a program and now have joined the alumni that came before you who worked to establish the credibility of the team."
West will graduate with a degree in Civil Engineering and will serve as a deck watch officer aboard the USCGC Valiant out of Jacksonville, Florida.
In Division III, we realize that the classroom is the primary setting for preparing student-athletes. However, Division III also understands that academics are more than just GPAs, test scores and majors; it is a comprehensive learning experience that develops successful leaders and professionals. Work with your FAR and faculty to highlight the academic success of your student-athletes.
Passion and sportsmanship are attributes of the "athlete" in the Division III "student-athlete" paradigm. The "athlete" plays for the love of the game, strives for excellence in all facets of life and perseveres through adversity. So, during Division III Week, celebrate the athletic component of our identity – a true homage to the symbiotic relationship of athletics and higher education- by hosting a banquet for your student-athletes or a clinic for local youth teams.
Citizenship and responsibility are Division III attributes. Student-athletes "giving back" not only adds to the comprehensive learning component of Division III, but also provides a venue for passion and service. While Division III institutions are encouraged to engage in a Special Olympics activity during Division III Week, other possible activations include: organizing a leadership symposium; scheduling a motivational speaker; or engaging with another community service partner or charity.