Be Careful of Stigmas – Always Prioritize Fit Over Level of Play

It’s easy to fall into the “stigma” trap where people tell you that Division I is “where it’s at.” There is a stigma about the other college divisions and levels of play, as if they were “less than.” 

You see lots of Division-I sports on TV. You see Division-I sports in the news more than than the other divisions, especially for football and men’s sports. So many athletes grow up thinking this is the only college level they should seek.

Sometimes, friends, family, coaches, and others tell you that you should only play Division I. People tell you that if you can play Division I, you should go for it. Other’s tell you that playing anything but Division I is beneath you.

Below is a shortlist of some things you may hear from others.

Division I is the only level: 

Softball player wearing a red helmet swinging and hitting a ground ball

It is easy to read these statements and believe them as the absolute truth.

Therefore, many athletes decide to go Division-I early in their recruiting process and hold off all other college choices until every D-I college is exhausted. Though this decision may work for some, it will not work for all.

There have been numerous Division I athletes who, after attending a D-I college, later transferred to a Division III, Division II, NAIA, or junior college because the Division-I option (or at least the Division I college chosen) was not the right fit. This is a very common occurrence in college athletics.

In many of these situations, finding the right fit eventually becomes more important when things begin to feel less than perfect during the first year or two of college.

If you had the ability to look ahead in time, using a hypothetical crystal ball, and could envision the college choice that was the best fit for you (where you were a thriving student-athlete who was happy), you would choose that choice every time.

You would put down all the other factors that cloud your decision-making process, and you would choose that college over and over and over again.

The challenge for you is to prioritize “fit” over “level of play.”  When you find fit, level-of-play takes care of itself.

Instead of focusing on colleges solely because they are Division I, throwing out all other options in your process, search for the right fit for you instead.

Because the real truth is:

  • you can find money at all divisions and levels.
  • finding the right fit is what makes college fun.
  • all levels have great competition.
  • professional athletes have come from all levels.
  • NIL is not level-specific; it’s all about your brand.
  • all college athletes are esteemed individuals who put a lot of time and energy into their sport.

It’s all about how much time you are willing to put into understanding yourself and researching the colleges you are truly interested in.

In prioritizing this way, your final college choice may or may not be at the level you first anticipated, but it could also be the choice that results in you achieving the happiest moments of your life in all aspects of your college experience.

The good news is the choice is yours to make. Own it.

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