The following article was published in Race Play/Michiana, and it has been re-printed with permission from the author, Wittenberg University student-athlete Ryan Parmater, class of 2016:

As I walked out to my first fall practice as a member of the Wittenberg Tiger men’s lacrosse team, one of my best friends and roommates uttered a line that would become something of a mantra for our class: “So, this is DIII, huh?”

The field we were practicing on was more dirt than grass, the nets were tattered and the pipes rusted. Even our cones were a mixed and matched bunch, as if somebody had knocked over the cone rack at Dunham’s and tried to put them back before anyone noticed.

Such is the struggle of a Division III athlete — but, there is something about playing a sport at a DIII school that you just have to experience to truly appreciate. That experience cultivates valuable skills rarely found anywhere else — skills you can sell when applying for jobs right out of school.

Skill #1: Appeasing Your Boss
Your coach is likely to be the toughest boss you ever have. They work just as hard and even longer hours year-round than we do trying to recruit, prepare for competition, and advance our respective sport. Show up late to practice and it won’t be pretty. At a DIII school, your team is going to be small, probably as small as or smaller than your high school team, and it’s next to impossible to sneak anything by your coach. Wear the wrong color shirt under your gear, and you’ll find yourself running until your legs feel like popsicles melting off their sticks (maybe that one is just me).

Likewise, when you enter the real world, your boss will expect the same attention to detail: show up on time; be in the meeting on time; be prepared for the meeting; dress for success every day. The devil is in the details. Your coach is an extreme version of a boss — their job depends heavily on you to do your job, so take pride in it, and do it right. Hopefully your boss doesn’t make you run when you don’t have that memo in on time.

Skill #2: Diversity in the Workplace
A Division III athletic team is one of the most diverse environments you can encounter. Your teammates will come from working-class families, some whose parents have retired already at 50, and much more. You will also have diverse skill sets; no two players on your team are exactly the same, and you have to learn each other’s strengths, weaknesses and tendencies, and fast-paced, quick-thinking environment. You may even have to change your game a little bit for the sake of the team.

Working with a team of individuals from different backgrounds is something that will always be prevalent in the workforce, and having to mesh every day at practice with your teammates who may come from a totally different background hones that skill as well as anything. Additionally, this forges friendships that are deeper and more lasting than what may be found at bigger schools.

Skill #3: Self-Motivation on the Job
Imagine your coach has set up a circuit workout and the team is split up into small groups all over the field. But it’s a DIII program, and your two or three coaches can’t micromanage everyone at the same time, so it’s on you and your teammates to push each other to your limits. Self-motivation is critical not only as a small-school athlete, but on the job as well. Your supervisor won’t always be right there to check your work, so it’s on you to do your job to the best of your ability.

So this is DIII sports. It’s a close-knit, intimate world where you’ll learn and practice life skills that employers value and look for in their prospective employees. Balancing school, your sport, your social life and your sanity is no easy task, but it’s among the most rewarding experiences you can undertake and will undoubtedly pay off in the long haul.

Ryan Parmater is a senior at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. A 2012 graduate of Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., Ryan headed to Wittenberg as a member of the men’s lacrosse team and a political science major.

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