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Keeping an Eye on the Ball and the Bald Spot: Varsity Athletics at Carleton

Jancyn discusses the pros to being a Division III athlete.

Jancyn discusses the pros to being a Division III athlete.

At Carleton, students are always on the go both inside and outside of the classroom. Sure, the grind may never stop, but when it comes to varsity athletics at Carleton, you did indeed come to “play school.” Carleton has 20 varsity athletic teams, 10 for both men and women. You can check us out here! Games are not only free to attend at home but can be live-streamed when we’re on the road.

The Knight logo, our mascot for athletics!

What’s the time commitment like?

This varies between sports, but being a varsity athlete is certainly a time commitment. Fall athletes report for preseason a month before the school year begins, winter athletes stay on campus and train during our winter break, and spring athletes’ seasons run right through the end of the spring term. However, when your heart is dedicated to the sport, it’s all work you’re willing to put in. 

Does varsity athletics interrupt schoolwork?

There’s a strong emphasis on academic excellence within the athletic programs. From dozens of CoSIDA Academic All-American selections and my team (volleyball) earning our 14th consecutive AVCA Team Academic Award, school is unequivocally the top priority. If it means missing practice for a lab, or a game for a test, that sometimes happens! It all comes down to communicating with your coaches and teammates. Personally, I remember only missing 1 full school day during my freshman season (my sophomore season was canceled due to the pandemic). The MIAC conference we are in means most of our competition is less than 80 minutes away. So even after a 7 pm game day, we’re usually home by 10:30 pm.

AVCA Award
Knights net their 14th consecutive AVCA Team Academic Award.

Why participate in Division III athletics?

In my opinion, Division III provides the best avenue for a healthy work-life balance. I get to compete in the sport I love at a high level while attending an academically rigorous institution, and I still have time to rest, socialize, and do other activities. I really liked the liberal arts approach to learning and the small school environment, and most small liberal arts schools tend to be Division III. The myth is that Division III isn’t competitive or annoyingly I’ve heard it be referred to as the “JV team of the NCAA,” but the biggest difference between levels, in the NCAA specifically, are the financial incentives.

BSAC 2020
The Black Student-Athletes of Carleton (BSAC) photoshoot 2020.

For example, Division III athletes cannot receive any financial aid, compensation, or scholarships from the school for athletics. Meaning if your friend committed and got a “full-ride athletic scholarship” to a Division III school, they’re pulling your leg. However, even with athletic scholarships off the table, many Division III schools have large endowments and competitive financial aid programs.

Full disclosure—I’m a very middle-income student, and affording college was at the forefront of the discussion. I certainly wasn’t in the position to go Division I college where those large athletic scholarships are available (and like 2% of college athletes get), so finding a school like Carleton that guaranteed meeting 100% of my family’s demonstrated financial need was huge. While at Carleton I founded the Black Student-Athletes of Carleton, serve on the Student Senate, work full-time in the Admissions Office, coach men’s club volleyball, and still have time to waste my life away on TikTok. In summary, Division III allows you to get a great education and play the sport you love while allowing you the time and flexibility to participate in other activities.

Is it beneficial to play a varsity sport in college?

This is totally up to you. If you want to dedicate a larger part of your schedule and compete at a higher level, then yes! If not, try a club sport. Nearly 73% of Carleton students engage in athletics and club sports are the largest chunk of that percentage. They’re a great way to stay active but are not as strict of a time commitment. I love being a varsity athlete, and I’ve loved coaching club sports and watching my players develop a love for a sport many had never tried before. On another note, club sports are a great way to knock out your PE requirement.

What’s student support/school spirit like?

Fans watch a soccer game at Bell Field
Students enjoying a soccer game on Bell Field.

Carleton students love supporting each other, and that’s where that phrase “Carls support Carls” comes from. I think game attendance really depends on general interest in the sport. We have a very global campus, and as a result, soccer is usually our most attended sporting event. I will say though, as I’ve developed more friendships, connections with peers, faculty, and staff, and engaged more with the campus, more people have attended my games. Part of the job of being in an academic community like Carleton is connecting with people. The more people you connect with, the more support you will have. Additionally, Carleton Spirit Club was officially chartered this past spring, so I’m excited to see some more face paint and noisemakers in the crowd!

Jancyn is a rising junior from Kansas City, MO. She is a Political Science/IR major and has minors in Public Policy and Spanish. Outside of class, Jancyn serves as a senator on CSA (student senate), plays women’s varsity volleyball, coaches men’s club volleyball, serves as president/founder of the Black Student-Athletes of Carleton, participates in a number of Black student orgs, and works for the Admissions Office! Meet the other Bloggers!