The profound opening line of the NCAA Division III positioning statement captures the essence of intercollegiate athletics at Heidelberg while also answering an important question that every student-athlete at the 440-plus Division III institutions across the country asks. Why Division III?
“There are no monetary incentives for our student-athletes. They are here because they love what they do,” said assistant track and field coach C.J. Potter.
And Potter should know. He is one of a growing number of coaches at Heidelberg that said yes to Division III twice – first as a student and again as a coach. Across the sports, 27 of the 37 head coaches, assistant coaches and graduate assistants received their undergraduate degree from a Division III school. “I get to be on the front lines of an amazing transformation that includes life-changing academic, athletic, and social growth for each student-athlete,” said Potter, who is finishing up a master’s degree in clinical counseling at Heidelberg.
“I chose a D3 school because my dream was always to win a national championship,” said track and field graduate assistant Joe Yoder. “When you’re a national champion, it doesn’t matter what division you are in. You will always be a national champion.” Yoder, a 2012 ‘Berg graduate, never won the title he coveted but he earned All-American honors four times. Now, as a coach, he continues to develop his passion for track and field. “I get to work with my athletes one-on-one,” said Yoder. “It’s more about development of the student-athlete than a business.”
When Heidelberg senior Nate Davis cleared the bar on what became his national title-winning high jump at the 2013 Indoor Track & Field Championships last month, Yoder can be spotted on the film leaping with excitement. “To watch Nate clear that height and win a title was awesome,” said Yoder. “Nate is such a naturally-talented person. He fits the Division III mold perfectly.”
Davis, who is planning to pursue a career in the music industry following his graduation in May, is a two-sport standout for the Student Princes. In the winter sports season, he was tabbed as an All-OAC First Team selection for basketball before claiming the national title in the high jump. While national champions like Davis are few and far between, Division III affords all student-athletes an opportunity to compete and evolve.
As high school seniors are contemplating whether or not to follow their passions at the Division III level, Potter couldn’t be happier with the decision he has made.
“We continually work hard to become better in all phases of our lives -- academically, athletically and socially. In D3, you have the perfect balance between all three,” said Potter. “I chose Division III because I’m passionate about people, and at this level, the people are passionate about what they do.”