Editor’s Column: Why We Left Division I Sports

The Division I arena is a different animal. Playing a varsity sport in college is not a hobby, it is a job. The average Colgate varsity athlete commits approximately 400 hours a school year to his or her respective sport. These 400 hours spent in practice, lift, conditioning, film and game travel does not include extra time spent outside the coach’s eye, playing wall ball, running extra sprints or practicing agility. It also does not factor in the mental time commitment spent anticipating run tests, worrying about a poor practice, fearing your coaches’ opinions on your play and contemplating sacrifice. It’s not easy, but with passion, sacrifice is what drives athletes to the next level. 

Lacrosse was my first passion. The echo of throwing the lacrosse ball against our garage door rang throughout my entire house. I was never going to make it to Division I being from Pittsburgh though. Sick of playing with people who couldn’t catch and playing in tournaments with no college scout exposure led me elsewhere. After reinforcement from a top program coach saying I did, in fact, have DI potential, I contacted a nationally recognized club program in Baltimore, the Mecca of lacrosse, tried out and made it. It was not a comfortable transition playing for a team with incredibly talented girls who were trained by the best. Even more testing was the four hour commute for practice twice a week, homework on the road and losing time with friends and family. It was all worth it however, because I achieved my goal, I got recruited.

I arrived with an intense drive, passion and hunger to make a big difference for the Raiders. I was always the first and last one on the field, I watched film in my free time, scheduled individuals, and never once questioned my place on the team. I rarely went out; I ate, slept, studied and played lacrosse, committing my mind, body and soul to the team and to my individual improvement. After my first fall my coach told me she hadn’t seen a player improve each day like I had. 

My downfall began when my field time waned and I felt undercompensated for my work. The summer to follow was riddled with emails and texts from my best friends, my teammates, telling me that they were leaving lacrosse. By December the following year, fourteen players had quit. 

Sophomore fall was a dark time as my devotion for lacrosse atrophied. Losing touch with an integral part of my identity threw me into limbo. Countless tear-filled phone calls to my parents were received with the same answer, “We are not a family of quitters.” My coaches addressed my loss of attention and detachment at the end of the fall with a firm expectation for a changed attitude come pre-season. After a lot of soul searching over winter break I decided to approach, what could possibly be my last season, with a good attitude. I tackled my demons and worked hard. It paid off, and I closed out the season as a starter. 

While happy and proud of my accomplishment, my passion for lacrosse had still not fully regenerated. My internship that summer served as a ten week sampler of life after college. It made me realize I wanted to spend my last years of freedom exploring new things, meeting new people and being happy. Convincing my parents was no easy feat, due to my athletic scholarship and the role lacrosse had come to play in their lives. My commitment to see the season through with good spirits allowed them to take a chance on me.     

I am not alone. Others Raiders have made the same difficult and emotional decision and I reached out to hear their perspectives. One respondent said, “athletes make up a huge part of Colgate and it’s awesome being part of the Colgate athletics family, but also there is so much more to offer that [athletes] just aren’t aware of when [they] are on a team.” The intensity and commitment DI athletics requires naturally creates a close-knit and isolated team atmosphere, but at a small school this bubble is easily burst because, “athletes and non-athletes mix a lot more than in other DI schools where athletes are mainly only friends with athletes.” This intermixing exposes athletes to, “hear more about the advantages of being a non-athlete,” and another respondent adds that, “especially if they are not receiving significant playing time or scholarship money, [athletes] start to realize that there are more enjoyable and beneficial ways to spend their time here or just ways that would make them happier.” 

With under 3,000 students, Colgate is not and will never be a big sports school like Michigan State or Penn State where “athletes are like celebrities” and have the funding for lavish amenities. In this respect Colgate student-athletes have less to lose. As a nationally respected institution devoted to academic excellence, athletes are treated just like normal students and granted no special treatment in the classroom. To be a student-athlete at Colgate is not easy. I understand it first-hand, and that is why I revere four-year CU athletes with a great deal of respect and awe.

Contact Charlotte Redican at [email protected].