#D3week featured student-athlete: Connor Williams, baseball

#D3week featured student-athlete: Connor Williams, baseball

Every year, NCAA Division III institutions across the country participate in Division III Week. To celebrate this week, we will bring you a new profile every day that gives a glimpse into the life of Chapman's student-athletes.

Our week-long celebrations begins with a letter from SAAC President and senior baseball student-athlete Connor Williams. Connor is a Television & Broadcast Journalism major who will graduate in the Spring. After graduation, he has decided to serve our country and has already been accepted into the ROTC program. He has applied to the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Va. for enrollment next Fall.

Today marks the start of NCAA Division III Week. This event is a time for all universities with teams participating in Division III athletics to celebrate their student-athletes for all that they accomplish, on and off the field. It's also a time that, as the current president of Chapman's Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), I want to reflect on my time as a collegiate athlete and what it means to be a student athlete in Division III.

For starters, I didn't plan on being a student athlete at Chapman. I came to Chapman to study Television Broadcast Journalism at our prestigious Dodge Film and Media School, and I think my situation perfectly explains Division III to people that don't know about it.

Yes, we are NCAA athletes (Division III has the largest number of student athletes in any Division), and we put in the same effort and passion that all collegiate athletes do; however, we aren't on athletic scholarships. That same passion, commitment, and drive to compete can be found as much in our dugout as any dugout across the nation.

Before my collegiate career could even get started, I was cut in the fall of my freshman year and it agonized me. I had been living and breathing baseball since I was young enough to swing a bat and throw a ball. For the first time in my life, I wasn't a baseball player, and although I had come to Chapman as a student, my identity as an athlete felt lost. I persisted to stick around the field and workout in the weight room with the team, and I eventually made the team just before the season started in the spring.

Looking back on my four years as a student-athlete, I'm tremendously glad I played baseball at a Division III school. I've been able to continue playing the sport I love while pursuing my other passions and setting myself up for a fulfilling career after I graduate.

Chapman, and many other Division III schools, allow and encourage their athletes to be well rounded. I got to be on the Debate Team and Chapman News team, and I got the chance to do activities off campus too, from internships to more recently practicing jiu jitsu twice a week. I am grateful for these opportunities that could only have happened at the Division III level.

There are certain things that all college athletes, regardless of Division, will complain about: not having the same time to study or do homework as other students, feeling too exhausted to go out on a Saturday after a game, or wishing you didn't have practice every afternoon so you could take a class you need to graduate. I know because I've been guilty of complaining about all of these things at one time or another. 

There is also something that college athletes will never complain about: having a reason to complain about all these things. You see, even though we whine about all the commitment, stress and fatigue, we know deep down the clock is going to strike midnight on our athletic careers when we graduate. The vast majority of us, particularly at the Division III level, will never compete professionally, and we will have to leave behind a sport that has bordered on obsession for a lot of us for close to two decades. Most of us would give an arm and a leg to have just one more practice or one more bus ride with our teammates before it's all over.

I know when I take off my cleats for the last time, the emotional impact will be incredible. I know I will be reminded of the thousands of relationships I made through my sport, and the memories will flood my entire body. I also know that I am ready to move on and give up the game that I love with every inch of my soul. I'll leave knowing that I, like many before me, left everything out on the field.

Over the course of this week, you'll meet a few of our accomplished student-athletes who truly embody the spirit of Division III athletics. Their stories just scratch the surface of the amazing people who represent Chapman on the field, on the court, in the pool and in every realm of our athletics program. I am truly proud to have represented each of them, and every Chapman student-athlete, as Chapman's SAAC President. Please enjoy!